On the Riverwalk. Woman. Speaking. Expounding. Petitioning.
Addressing the Mississippi River. “I am better than you people.”
Woman. Green eyes. Contact lens green.
Woman. Proclaiming. “I forgive. I always forgive. That’s why Clem’s wife is alive.”
Speaking. On the Riverwalk.
Woman. Her hair mimics her words—wild, free in the wind, flame-coloured.
A flame. No. Just wild.
Water mocks speech
Speech on the rocks.
Rocks be silent. Rocks be still.
Wind kisses irony.
Words. I forgive. I always forgive.
“Me too,” the river smiles. “Me too.”
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
from his book The Katrina Papers
Used by permission of the poet.
by Laurie A. Williams
Pass a copy of the poem out to students. Heave students read the poem silently and mark which portions are scenic, which are state directions, and consider how the dialogue should be read, and if more than just the words in quotation marks should be spoken by a character or by a chorus of some kind.
Randomly choose “directors,” and have the directors decide how many actors they need to present this short piece. Randomly assign actors to directors and have them rehearse this piece for 15 or so minutes and then present the versions to the class.
At the end, have a classroom discussion about the similar and different choices the directors made. You could repeat the process the following day, if you choose, so that all students could direct their versions.
As an alternative, students could storyboard this piece, and then create a short film or voice thread or some other visual presentation.
Have students go out away from school and watch interactions between people and objects, and then have them write a poem or a short play using Dr. Ward’s poem as a model.
by Laurie A. Williams
This is a good way to start a discussion on how grammatical structures and fragments can be used in writing.
Pass out the poem to students. Depending on how comfortable and knowledgeable students are with grammatical terms and structures, either have students identify prepositional phrases, gerunds, participles, subject, verb, complement, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, or take your students through the poem line by line and identify the grammatical structure. If you would prefer, you can just look at the difference between fragments and clauses.
In the first seven lines of the poem, the grammatical structures are chopped apart by periods for the most part. How does that affect the reading of those individual words and phrases?
How does the change in flow of grammatical structures in the last six lines of the poem affect the reading of those lines?
Have students write the poem out in complete sentences. Have students read aloud their complete sentence versions. How does that detract or enhance the meaning.
Take a text that students are currently reading in class or have just finished and assign a specific page in that text. Have students go through that page and circle grammatical structures (clauses and phrases) as well as individual words.
Using the words and structures from that page, have students write a 10 line found poem using Dr. Ward’s poem as a model.