Friday, February 13, 2015

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Developing Your English through Poetry (guest post by Allan Kennedy)

Here are two poems I wrote. The first poem is called 'My Love for Dreams' and the second poem is called 'Breathless'.

My Love for Dreams

My love for dreams is so great,
my heart melts for them 'til the dusk of day.
The night runs when they're away,
helps, loses 'til day's dawn.

Their beauty is so great,
Wondering mind 'til they see,
ending is all I do,
While waiting for the moment, for them to say "I do."


in the evening
waiting in the rain

at the station
running for the train

when I see you

when you leave

You're all I ever dream of and
you're all I ever need and
You're all I ever think of and
you’re all I ever


To tell the truth, I told a 'white' lie (meaning a small lie); really I only wrote one of the poems. For the other poem I simply thought of a few key words and then used a poetry generator. All I did was choose a noun, a pronoun and four verbs (one end 'ing') and the poetry generator wrote 'my' poem.

For example:

Poetry generators are a useful and fun way of introducing English language and literature students to poetry – that is both reading and writing poetry – and for helping English foreign language students improve their English in a number of ways.

Put very simply, poetry helps us to:

a) organise our thinking
b) choose exactly the right word for the right occasion
c) increase our vocabulary
d) to play with metaphors and figurative speech
e) to play with rhyme
f) to think about the sound of a word as much as its meaning or part of speech (verb, noun, adjective and so on)
g) to play with synonyms (words with similar meanings) and antonyms (words with opposite meanings) – and even homonyms (words that sound like each other but are different).
h) to say more with less (being concise)
i) and much more...for example, (The Four Benefits of Poetry, What Use is Poetry?)

So let's write a poem. At the moment in the northern hemisphere it’s winter and in the southern hemisphere it’s summer. Here in the north we're looking forward to the spring. In the south, autumn (or 'fall' in American English) isn't far away. So let's write a poem about the seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Four Seasons by Haluk Ozcan

To get us going here's part of a poem about the seasons by poet Arlene Smith.

Springtime filled with baby's breath,
stretching forth, rising tall.
Unconfined from east to west,
breaking free from every fall.

Summer's heat can't be denied;
playful and unencumbered.
Passion swells as ocean tide;
basking tho days be numbered.

Now let's write (or create) a poem using a poetry generator. For this exercise I'm choosing Spring, so the poem is called 'Here Comes Spring'. I'm using the poetic forms generator found at this site: (for more opportunities to make poems, take a look at other topics on their list -

There are just three stages:

For the first one, I chose “Budding trees, April showers”
For the second, I chose “New leaves, May flowers”
For the third, I chose “Energised, hopeful”

And here’s the poem:

Here comes spring,
Here comes spring,
Budding trees, April showers
Here comes spring,
Here comes spring,
New leaves, May flowers
Here comes spring,
Here comes spring-
Energised, hopeful there it goes

Okay, it’s not Shakespeare, it looks fairly simple and to a certain extent it is. But even in this very quick example there’s quite a lot going on. Here are a few questions for you to think about.

Question 1: In what season does it seem that this poem has been written?

Question 2: What are the obvious relationships between ‘trees’, ‘leaves’, ‘showers’ and ‘flowers’?

Question 3: Why did the poet chose the words ‘energised’ and hopeful’ to finish the poem?

Question 4: Identify one particular feature of this poem?

Think about these questions and then scroll down to see the answers below...













Answer 1: Winter – the poem starts “Here comes spring,” which means spring hasn’t arrived yet, but that ‘it’s just around the corner’ (meaning it is coming very soon). However, at the moment it’s winter.

Answer 2:
  1. There’s a physical relationship (trees have leaves and showers are rain and flowers and trees/leaves need rain)
  2. There’s also a rhyming relationship in that the words sound similar: trees/leaves, showers/flowers
Answer 3: These words identify some of the poet’s feelings at the time of writing, about how spring with the ideas of new birth and creation can fill people with both energy and hope for the rest of the year and beyond.

Answer: Repetition. The phrase ‘Here comes spring’ is repeated six times. This is a very familiar poetic device which in this case gives the poem the feel of a song, straight away I'm reminded of George Harrison’s ‘Here come the comes the sun... an’ it’s all right...'

Repetition is only one of many, many poetic devices. A few other examples could be:

a) alliteration – where the same sound is repeated at the beginning of words,

e.g. she sells sea shells on the seashore

b) hyperbole - extreme exaggeration,

e.g. a thousand wild horses could not move hungry I could eat a horse...

c) personification – human/personal characteristics to animals or objects,

e.g. The sea had climbed the mountain peaks, and shouted to the stars o come to play: and down they came splashing in happy waves

For those of you who want to find out more about poetic devices here’s a useful pdf list:

So if you’re an EFL student or a teacher and you are interested in poetry, ‘give it a go’ (meaning ‘try it’); you won’t be disappointed. All aspects of your language learning/teaching will be better for the experience – listening, speaking, reading and writing, improving grammar, extending vocabulary and, importantly, thinking and expressing yourself clearly.

Here’s a little poem to finish. Oh, and if you’re wondering which of the two poems at the start of this article was actually mine, well, take a guess.


You are friendly, kind and caring
Sensitive, loyal and understanding
Humorous, fun, secure and true
Always there... yes that's you.

Special, accepting, exciting and wise
Truthful and helpful, with honest blue eyes
Confiding, forgiving, cheerful and bright
Yes that's you... not one bit of spite.

You're one of a kind, different from others
Generous, charming, but not one that smothers
Optimistic, thoughtful, happy and game
But not just another... in the long chain.

Appreciative, warm and precious like gold
Our friendship won't tarnish or ever grow old
You'll always be there, I know that is true
I'll always be here... always for you.


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