Today, our 5th grade students had an incredible poetry session with Coleman Barks. Mr. Barks is a leading translator of Rumi poetry. His grandson attends our school, and we were fortunate enough to have him come in and speak with our 5th grade.
Coleman spent about 45 minutes sharing poetry, reflections on poetry, and inspirations for writing poetry. When he reads, he takes his time and savors and considers each word as it is spoken into the air. He asked us to just listen to each word and how the sound of the word “is what it is”. As a boy, Coleman kept a black notebook of writing. He collected words that were interesting to him. With our 5th grade, he shared some lists of words and had them consider why the words were put together or how the words just sounded like what they were.
At the conclusion of his talk, Coleman invited students to take what inspired them and write free verse poetry. He even offered a prompt of writing praises about something: praises of the computer or praises of peanut butter or praises of scissors. One teacher shared with me after school that her students immediately went back to class and wrote thank you’s to Mr. Barks. Their thank you’s where in the form of poems.
If you ever have a chance to listen to Coleman Barks share poetry, I highly encourage you to do so. He will make you look at words, their arrangement, and their sounds in a whole new way. You can also listen to him on Youtube here and here.