When I was a child, I loved watching TV programs such as “In Search Of…” and “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” Each one tantalized me with stories of impossibility. While I wasn’t entirely sure that I believed in, say, the Loch Ness Monster or ghosts, the very idea of these creatures ignited my imagination. In fact, I wrote an embarrassing number of unicorn poems when I was in junior high.
I find that many children share that fascination with the mysterious, carrying on the age-old tradition of swapping ghost stories at slumber parties or daring each other to summon Bloody Mary in the bathroom mirror.
Recently, I decided to capitalize on this interest in improbable creatures by asking my students to write poems from the point of view of a being or creature that most people say does not exist. Students suggested a great list of possible subjects they could speak for, including ghosts, Bigfoot, mermaids, elves and La Llorona.
The idea of writing from another being’s point of view is intriguing; you must convincingly capture the voice and ideas of someone or something completely outside your normal range of experience. I emphasized to my students that these poems must be a way for these beings to help us humans understand their lives. These could be greatly detailed, such as descriptions of the lengths a rather annoyed Bigfoot must go in order to keep away odious humans that want to pester him, or simple, such as Margaret Atwood’s “This is a Photograph of Me,” written from the point of view of what seems to be a ghost.
Here is one student’s response to the assigment:
why must people be scared
why can’t they see me
maybe because I’m just made of sand
I will walk till I find out what’s wrong
the Mars Rover will someday be found
I will be known
I will be found
I will meet the people at last
they will know about me
I will meet the water the Earthlings have
I will not just be sand and dust
I will be water and life
by Caroline, 3rd grade
[“ghost” photo by Daniel Schwabe via flickr]
posted by Tria Wood, Writers in the Schools