What Makes a Poem?

Ms. Widman

High School Creative Writing


Week 1: What Makes a Poem?


For our first class together, Ms. Widman’s creative writing class read “Questions” by Rachel Richardson. We discussed the big question: what is poetry? The students brainstormed for a few minutes generating their own lists of questions they had about poetry, themselves, the world, everything. For their first poetry prompt, they were to pick three questions from their brainstorm and answer the questions within the stanza. The students had tender, insightful, harsh and powerful questions about poetry and the world. I am so excited to see what they generate next. I am delighted to publish two students below whose work made me gasp and cackle. It is amazing how these poems were created in ten minutes. 

How Is Fish Oil Made

by Asher D.


Do they only choose one type of fish

like sardines for their greasy meat and livers

or are nets of scales and teeth dragged up from the ocean floor 

and shaken into a rendering pot?

Do fish oil CEOs stand over tanks of salmon and sturgeon sipping champagne 

and picking at olives while bidding on the gilled captives?

Are there afterparties where a goldfish is tossed into a compressor while billionaires cheer for the new bottles of supplements about to fill into the shelves?

How do I take the bus down to Whole Foods?

I’ve only given fish oil to my dog for her receding hair.

But how important are the production lines for the fish brew, for dogs to keep their hair, and for parents to force gross medicine on their children? How important is my job

canning olives or brewing champagne for billionaires to make more fish oil,

or mine more gas for my bus to run, or to decide where the next Whole Foods will go

to sell more fish oil.  



[The Japanese cherry blossom trees]

by Brian P.


The Japanese cherry blossom trees:

how those pink shards glide side to side

rhythmically down and cover the water

in scales, how do you only last a month?

How do you bloom once a blue moon?

Can the petals fall ever so gently?

Dance in the wind, there life

was: teeth of God, tigers. 



“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.