“Love is a Gentle Earthquake”: The Young Writers Craft Haiku, Odes, and List Poems

The second day of the 2022 Young Writers’ Workshop dawned a little louder, a little more energetic, and a little spookier (thanks to our morning music, the Stranger Things soundtrack). Today’s first question was: If you could live in one fictional world, which one would it be? Though Hogwarts was a popular choice, some of our young writers would prefer to consort with the dragons from How to Train Your Dragon and the Wings of Fire series.

Our first writing activity focused on haiku about place. After familiarizing the young writers with the basics of what makes a haiku, David led us outside to draw sensory inspiration from nature, as is traditional with haiku. Then, we returned to the Beach Museum and gathered around a frenetic mixed media painting that elicited even more highly imaginative haiku from the young writers.

Next, visiting writer Megan Kaminski, an associate professor at the University of Kansas and author of the poetry collection Gentlewomen, joined us to delve into more nature-inspired poetry. First, she led the young writers through breathing exercises intended to ground them to the earth and open them up to energy from the sun. After a discussion of sensory experience and its importance to the craft of writing, she took us outside once again in order to facilitate interactions between the young writers and the nonhuman world.

After lunch, Riley led the young writers in an activity involving UNO cards in which color was used as a source of inspiration for sensory detail. Then, they worked on personifying each color by assigning it a job, a favorite food, and a pet. Finally, the young writers each composed an ode to a celebrate a color, turning their initial observations into poetry.

After completing their odes, the young writers participated in a discussion facilitated by Kathrine Schlageck, Beach Museum’s Associate Curator of Education, who taught us about Visual Thinking Strategies for analyzing art. Together, we examined specific aspects of artistic technique, such as light and color, to find and create meaning within each piece.

Finally, Traci led the young writers through a whirlwind activity which started with feeling and ended with metaphor. First, everyone closed their eyes, and then they received an interesting object which they were allowed to examine only by feel as they described it to a partner. The adjectives generated were paired with nouns to create unusual or surprising combinations. The young writers then made big concepts and feelings relatable by creating similes such as “Love is a gentle earthquake.” Using their own and each other’s similes, they crafted list-format poems.

Today’s final prompt was a sentence starter: Home is like… The young writers compared their homes to everything from a wolf’s den to an oven to a pirate’s hideout. A personal favorite: “Home is like being rich without a thick wallet.”

Tomorrow is sure to be another productive and engaging day for our dedicated young writers. The days are flying by!

— Adrien Sdao, Program Assistant

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