Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 4, 2011

Poetry, Picture Books, and P*Tag

Teachers, sometimes feeling awkward, sometimes blasé, ask our students to do things we find impossible. In my writing for children class, we cover a form every week, so students leap between writing parts of novels and chapter books to poetry and picture book manuscripts. Sometimes I remind them to be kind to themselves by remembering that the picture book they write and revise in a week may not be as strong as they hope. Maurice Sendak said, “I’ve never spent less than two years on the text of one of my picture books, even though each of them is approximately 380 words long.” And Dr. Seuss, who spent about a year writing The Cat in the Hat said, “I know my stuff all looks like it was rattled off in twenty-three seconds, but every word is a struggle.”

These words are consolation to someone who writes slowly as I do. Still, I give my students due dates, and they often come up with treasures. And sometimes I give myself a push, too. It’s good to know your process, but also to switch it up now and then, which was what I did playing Poetry Tag. I was honored to contribute to this digital poetry anthology for teens compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, which includes poems from many poets I admire. We were asked to choose from some photos she’d taken, take a few words from another poet’s work, and compose within 48 hours before tagging another poet. The results are in this cool book available for $2.99  as a Kindle download, P*Tag for teens.

You can enjoy reading the array of poems – on your phone! on your computer!  — or play along, challenging yourself to write fast and from your ever-present teenage heart.

For the Poetry Friday roundup, please visit Laura Salas’s blog, Writing the World for Kids.


  1. I just reread and loved again your beautiful poem in p*tag, “Broken.” Today, my favorite lines are the ending:

    What we piece together with shiny
    or rage will never be quiet,

    and always be whole.


  2. Thanks so much, Laura! (it’s not even we get sighs).

  3. I have enjoyed the anthology and the poems and shared and read and then shared again. It’s so appropriate that you make the contact with teens through electronics, isn’t it? I have played ‘tag’ with my students before. An experience of thought and just fun.

    • Thanks for writing here, Linda, and for playing tag with your students: wonderful when thought and fun come together! And re connecting with teens through e-books, I think that was part of the creators’ intention: along with the small size of poems fitting well on screens.

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