Wednesday, October 5, 2011

word-pictures and poems

word-pictures and poems

I love the excitement and anticipation that those two connected words create! I’d put them in the same category as the words surprise and serendipity!

But sometimes, word-pictures need a little teasing-out!

I prefer to read poetry to children without first showing the illustration or displaying it as I read from the magazine or book.

I want the children to listen to the poem.

Afterwards I have several questions.

Did this poem remind you of anything?

What were your thoughts as I read the poem?

What word-pictures came into your mind?

During a recent school visit, I read a published poem of mine, called Dancing Cat.

I held back from showing the picture, explaining that the illustration is only one person’s way of seeing the picture. I wanted the children to appreciate the fact that their own word-pictures were equally valid before offering another image. However, I also added that an illustration could also expand thoughts and ideas as well as displaying different media or techniques.

When I asked about word-pictures, one boy said he imagined a cat leaping in the air – which happens in the poem. It was a bald comment, without much detail. By gently questioning further, I was able to encourage the boy to offer more information. In the end, he said the cat had long brown-and white fur that swished and swayed as it leapt. Beautiful!

I heaped praise on the boy’s expanded comments, suggesting that now I could see the idea of his imagined cat, because of the word-pictures he gave back to me.

By now there were plenty of hands in the air. Here’s a few of mind-pictures from others in the class.

A pure white cat in a tutu leaping from a brick wall.

A brown cat in a pirate’s outfit.

A cat with fluffy black fur and eyes like stars.

It excited me to see how much richer the children’s mind-pictures were when they allowed themselves to offer extra details.

The teasing-out had paid off!



  1. Love your strategy to get the kids involved- what wonderful answers and that illustration- gorgeous!

    x Lorraine

  2. Thanks Lorraine. Love and appreciate that coming from you - my friend and wonderful poet!


  3. Thanks Annie! It was triggered by a moment when I was watching our cat, Shonti.

  4. Sounds like you could now write an entertaining cat picture book as well with all the wonderful cat descriptions from the children!

  5. Cats are wonderful subjects for poems. They are poetry in motion. I will send you one of mine, if you like... poem, not cat. Although...

  6. You're right there, Katrina! Isn't it amazing what springs to mind - story ideas from rich word-pictures! Thanks, Janeen.

  7. Hi Jeffery,

    a cat poem would be great. Love to see it. Janeen.