Finding a poem in your free writing paragraph

If you have finished your five minutes of free writing on one of several topics, then you are ready to look for a poem in your free written paragraph. Here is an example of how to find a poem in your free writing . First, I will show you the unedited free writing that I generated on the topic a childhood memory.

Free writing: Topic-A childhood memory (5 minutes):
" Go home Janet Barnes" the words stung me like a thousand hornets, I stopped walking toward my neighbors house. Earlier my mother had quizzed me about going to the birthday party, we had an uneasy relationship with the neighbors. I don't know what it was, the size of the house we lived in or our life style. Mom had two little babies, and let us go over there freely, so jealousy may have been it. One of the sisters was kind and invited me to the party, then the other would tell me I couldn't go. I wanted to go badly, so badly that I heard only the invitation not the equivocation that was expressed. They were Armenian, had the most interesting break and cherry trees they let us climb, and the swimming pool. I could tell they didn't like my family, not buy anything said, just the general tone of voice and smile less face of the father, I remember the father's scowl. He would make comments as if I didn't exist. I never knew when I could come over. I think now it was the lack of reciprocity or failure of it. All in all the New Jersey experience was the worst of my life. I failed second grade that year. It was cold and the snow was dirty, that was the year my brother David and I got lost trying to find a shortcut home. I remember still, walking in the slush with a pair of new shoes, my feet soaking and being rescued by the woman with the giant dog. How kind she was, then the time I had my hands in my pockets and tripped falling on my head right in front of the school. Getting dizzy, hugging a tree to keep from falling, too scared to go to school, I had wet my self in class that year and managed to keep it a secret, I was too afraid to ask to use the restroom. I couldn't read or spell, and I was not popular, I can smell the sour milk smell in my lunch box, and remember getting in trouble for picking up the little brass punch out things, that had for a moment made me popular. Only Jeff would ask me to play, and one other girl befriended me. The class knew I was a failure, even my art was not appealing to the teacher. I think this was the worst year of my childhood.

How to look for a poem in your free writing:
Now lets see where the poem is. What I do at this point is look at what I have written. I can see that my starting point was in the experience of rejection by the neighbor children. "Go home Janet Barnes", Those words were my "trigger" (something or an event that started certain emotions to surface) for some intense memories. I still get a little sick feeling when I hear the words. Do you have some "triggers"? Another example of a trigger might be a certain song, or a gift from someone special, pictures are triggers, all kinds of things can act as "triggers" projecting us back into our memories of events or people from our past.

Next, from that trigger, I have gone to expand on the many negative aspects of that year of my life. I am now going to take out the lines I like, and see what I end up with. I will do this by making the text I want bold and red if your browser recognizes red you will be able to see it that way. I am working through this exercise on the computer, and this is a new way (for me) of doing the free writing and editing. I have in the past used pencil and paper. You may want to try the pencil and paper approach first time around. Then try the computer approach, it depends on you. Since this is the first time I have done this with a word processor, I am not sure of the outcome. I love to experiment though, so here it goes.

"Go home Janet Barnes" the words stung me like a thousand hornets, I stopped walking toward my neighbors house. Earlier my mother had quizzed me about going to the birthday party, we had an uneasy relationship with the neighbors, I don't know what it was, the size of the house we lived in or our life style, mom had two little babies, and let us go over there freely, jealousy may have been it. One of the sisters was kind and had it wasn't her birthday party though invited me to the party, then the other would tell me I couldn't go. I wanted to go badly, so badly that I heard only the invitation not the equivocation that was expressed. They were Armenian, had the most interesting bread and cherry trees they let us climb, and the swimming pool. I could tell they didn't like my family, not by anything said, just the general tone of voice and smile less face of the father, I remember the fathers scowl. He would make comments as if I didn't exist. I never knew when I could come over. I think now it was the lack of reciprocity or failure of it. All in all the New Jersey experience was the worst of my life. I failed second grade that year. It was cold and snow was dirty, that was the year my brother David and I got lost trying to find a shortcut home. I remember still walking in the slush, with a pair of new shoes, my feet soaking and being rescued by the woman with the giant dog. How kind she was, then the time I had my hands in my pockets and tripped falling on my head right in front of the school. Getting dizzy, hugging a tree to keep from falling, too scared to go to school, I had wet my self in class that year and managed to keep it a secret, I was too afraid to ask to use the restroom. I couldn't read or spell, and I was not popular, I can smell the sour milk smell in my lunch box, and remember getting in trouble for picking up the little brass punch out things, that had for a moment made me popular. Before only Jeff would ask me to play, and one other girl befriended me. The class knew I was a failure, even my art was not appealing to the teacher. I think this was the worst year of my childhood.

Draft 1:

They had cherry trees,
a swimming pool
and they
didn't like my family
On the day of the party
I walked to the edge of the hill,
towel over my shoulder
bathing suit already on
The birthday girl's
taunting voice
told
before the words
that stung like a thousand hornets
struck

"Go home Janet Barnes!"

Frozen in the heat of summer,
I stopped walking
toward them
But not retreating
just watching
I might have pitifully called out
"Can I come over now?"
I had seen them in the pool and was waiting
for them
to call me over, that was the plan
I thought ?
The party goers' voices
Combined in chorus

"Go home Janet Barnes!"
Mother
Rescued
me

Discussion:
What do you think?, I am not sure if I like this poem. I didn't show you all the steps I went through to get to the first draft poem because there were so many changes. As you can see I didn't use all of the lines I bold faced. I actually have another poem in this free writing, it is going to be about education, and will be a compare and contrast of the year in New Jersy and my first year in Indonesia. I have been imagining this poem for some time now. I do that, think about poems that I want to write for a long time before I actually site down and write them.

Using ideas as a "trigger:"
I used a technique similar to word association to come up with the new lines and words and the "trigger" (in this use of the term, refers to an idea which generates another idea). We will practice this when we write our two word poems. In practice then, one line would trigger another, or one word would trigger another word, just whatever popped into my head and sounded good to me based on the line or word that came before it. The words and lines I crossed out, or added, and how I chose this theme instead of the other theme in the free writing paragraph was simply a matter of preference. I tell my students just to pick some interesting words or ideas that you liked. Kids are good at this, they just jump in and pick out what they like, you should try and do the same, let your instincts guide you. Don't over think the task.

My Personal Experience with this poem:
I don't feel good about the poem. I am actually feeling some of the pain of the experience, I think. I find myself thinking, how did this experience shape my life, or who I am? Some of my personal "issues" may have grown from this, and I seem to be expressing them through this poem. I am not finished with this poem yet. In many ways, I am still working out the issue of belonging, of being a part of a social group. In terms of personal growth, this poem may be significant for me. I will share as I explore these ideas. I am tired from the writing now. (Dec 5, 1998)

Take a Break and Come Back to Edit:
Time to tighten it up, editing is an enjoyable task, for me. I enjoy getting at the essence of the poem, reading it and rereading it until I know what to leave in and what to take out. Already I have done this extensively to this poem, but I did it while I was creating it. I have let it sit now for some time. I also printed off a copy of it. Read it to myself, to my son, and now I am ready to cut it down a little. It needs a title too, not sure about that yet. The bold words are words I have added. You can see the strikethoughs are words I have taken out. Compare this version to the final poem. What do you notice? Is it effective to repeat the lines I have chosen to repeat. Repetition of lines can often strengthen an idea in a poem, or bring out the theme.

Draft 2:

On Growing Up

I watched
them for a half-hour
from
the kitchen window
I had seen them in the pool and was
waiting for
them to call
me over,
that was the plan I thought
They had cherry trees, a swimming pool
and they
didn't like my family
On the day of the
Birthday party
I walked to the edge of the hill,
Where I could see and hear
Them laughing, splashing
, jumping And they saw
me
towel over my shoulder
bathing suit already on
The birthday girl's

taunting voice
told
before the words
that stung
like a thousand hornets
stinging senselessly
struck

"Go,
home!
"Go home!

"Go home Janet Barnes!"

Frozen in the heat of summer, I stopped walking
toward them
But not retreating
just watching
I might have pitifully called
cried out
"Can I come over now?"
I watched
them for a half-hour
from the kitchen window
I had seen them in the pool and was
waiting for
them to call
me over,
that was the plan I thought
The party girls' shrieked
Their chorales voices
Combined in
"Go home Janet Barnes!"
They chided one last time
Before
Mother rescued me
-----------------------------------

Final Version:

A Birthday Lesson
I watched
them for a half-hour
from
the kitchen window
waiting for
them to call
me over,
that was the plan I thought.
They had cherry trees, a swimming pool.
I walked to the edge of the hill,
Where I could see and hear
Them laughing, splashing, And they saw
me
The birthday girl's
taunting voice
told
like a thousand hornets
stinging senselessly.

"Go,
home!
"Go home!
"Go home Janet Barnes!"

Frozen in the heat of summer, I stopped.
I might have pitifully cried out
"Can I come over now?"
I watched
them for a half-hour
from the kitchen window
waiting for
them to call
me over,
that was the plan I thought.
"Go home Janet Barnes!"
They chided one last time
Before
Mother rescued me