One style of poem I enjoy reading is the persona poem. See the word person in persona? That’s the key to the meaning. Persona poems are about people. They can be written from the first (I, We) or third person (he, she, or the person’s name) point of view.
My poems in Backpack Blues: Ignite the Fire Within are written from the first person point of view. Notice the word I. I used the word I to give voice to the teenage characters. Each young person tells his/her own story. As an actor pretends to be a character, the poet pretends to be the subject of the poem, taking on that voice.
The song “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles is an example of a persona poem put to music. Lyrics are poems. Songwriters are poets.
Edgar Lee Masters wrote Spoon River Anthology as a collection of persona poems. Masters gave voice to the people of the fictional valley of the Spoon in his collection. I give voice to a composite of the teenagers I taught in my collection.
Put yourself in the place of the homeless man on the street or the elderly man or woman in the nursing home or the teen being bullied. Or share what it’s like to be you or one of your friends stuck in your house during the time of the Coronavirus. How are you feeling about not being able to go to the prom or graduation?
What do you think doctors, nurses, health care workers, teachers, grocers, old people set apart from their families, or small business people in your community would like to say? Say it for the person’s point of view. Give the character voice. Life’s a matter of perspective. Capture the voice of the people you know or have met.
Have you heard of the term personification? Personification is a type of figurative language. See the word person in personification? Personification is the giving of human characteristics to non-human objects. For example, the wind whistled my name. Challenge yourself. Write a persona poem. Use personification someplace in the poem.
For parents or teachers using Backpack Blues: Ignite the Fire Within in the classroom, I’ve provided a lesson plan helps below:
OBJECTIVES AND OUTCOMES:
The student will be able to identify with characters from the book and write their own persona poems.
Copies of Backpack Blues: Ignite the Fire Within.
Parent or teacher, if you wish, you may choose to omit poems you do not feel are about a theme or subject matter appropriate for your tween or teen. A very few of the poems may be about edgy topics, but they are handled in a manner which will enable you to discuss the theme as you would like to address it.
OPENING OF LESSON:
Teacher/parent will define personification and persona poem. Teacher or student will read a few sample poems.
Teacher/parent will tell students the play is about a group of seniors in a rural high school in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains or allow students to read a few of the poems and determine the setting for themselves.
Students will read the selected poems and discuss whether they can identify with any of the characters, and why they identify with or see the character in a friend. Teacher/parent will ask if students in cities could relate to any of the same issues.
Students will write one or more persona poems about themselves, a friend, or someone living through the pandemic, giving voice to the character.
Students will read Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, note the similarity in the persona poems to Backpack Blues poems, and discuss similarity of themes and issues to current issues. When was it written? Is it a classic? Do they think Backpack Blues: Ignite the Fire Within has classic themes?
More lesson plans will follow in days to come.