‘When the Ocean Talks-after Frank O’Hara’: Lyric Poems by Middle Schoolers

A lesson on Personification, giving human qualities to something non-human via the poem: A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island.  We looked at Frank O’ Hara’s touching and somewhat mystifying poem.  Among the illuminating things that happen in this text, our speaker engages in a conversation with the Sun. The Sun imparts opinions and wisdom to the speaker. It is a Lyric poem that reflects some of the poet’s feelings. Over the years, many have discussed its meaning.

Lesson Note: To help spark imaginations, each student was given an image and invited to create a Lyric poem using Personification, to create voices/speakers/situations. This exercise is partly based on The Poetry Center’s ‘Poet’s Look At Pictures’ call for submissions, where local writers were asked to respond to an image through poetry. Students were also encouraged to go with any other ideas that might be sparked during the creation process.   Writer Nick Flynn is quoted as saying: ‘A poet’s job is not to play fast and loose with the facts of this world. [But rather to] imagine.”

Mrs. McClain, 7th Grade

by Sophia C.

The “No Parking” sign woke me up this morning.
It’s words yelling at me loudly
“I know I get it, no parking, no parking.”
I say, mocking the annoying sign.
“I’m here for a reason, don’t be so mean.”
the “NO PARKING” sign yelled back
“What?” All you do is yell and yell all
day long at everybody!”
The No Parking Sign stopped.
“I’ll give you some advice, and listen close…”
I got up from my bed and opened
the window to take a better look.
“My purpose is to warn others I stop people
like you in your tracks; I’m not useless.”
“Maybe you just woke up on the
wrong side of your bed.”
Said the “No Parking” sign dearly.
“Uh, I guess I’m always a little angry
in the morning… waking up is hard.”
“I can tell; maybe something to eat
will help!”
“You know you’re not that bad.”
I said slowly.
” I know I am, but remember, NO PARKING.”

Guitar Alwrm…Or Is it?
by Marko M.

My guitar woke me up this morning
looking shiny and bright, sounding
warm and relating, asking, “Awake yet?!”
in a musical tone.

I replied, still half asleep
“When are we leaving for the studio?”
I asked the guitar.
I wanted to fall asleep
to the guitar’s warm music. I was
tired, but not tired enough to skip a
day at the studio.

Mrs. McClain, 8th Grade

The Shadow
by John B.

One day I noticed that a shadow always
follows me.
I know that objects don’t talk back
but I said: “Why do you follow me? Why do you show up
in the day? And why don’t you say anything?”

The shadow said: “I follow you because that
way, I can be here to protect you. “Why don’t you say anything during
the day?”
“I am here to say anything during the day. I am there secretly to protect you
and give you comfort, and when you’re old, you won’t be alone.”

Lighthouse and I
after Frank O’Hara

The lighthouse showed light down bright
“What are you doing? I shout.
“My work is to bring light.”

The lighthouse seems even depleted.
“How long must you stand so tall” I wonder
“Until the sun shines,” answers the lighthouse.
“I wish I could stand so tall.”
“No, you don’t”
The lighthouse seemed exhausted, but I want
so I asked one final question
“Will boats thank you?”
“No,” that saddened me deeply. The Lighthouse
felt sad tool
“Lighthouse,” I asked.
“Ye.” “Thank you”
and the sun rose as the light went off.

Mrs. McClain, 8th Grade

La Chica y las Zapatillas
by Sophia B.

Las zapatos me hablan
no podia creerio,
deseaban ser escuchadas
desde chica amo el ballet
cuando bailaba me sentia
yo misma.

Cuando uso las zapatillas
y bailo ballet,
desconecto del mundo
ellas me dijieron
oye tu puede lograsio baila
solo baila, no tengas mieda
estamos contigo.

despues de la competencia
les hable y les agradeci
sin ustedes no lo hubiesse logsado
estamos para ti somo uno
y siempre te acompanaremos.

-after Frank O’Hara
by Christopher V.

The car woke me
this morning, beeping
and honking. Saying “Wake
up let’s have some fun!”

“If I could crash into the
wall, I would to wake you up”
Wow, don’t you think that’s a little dramatic?

“I’m sorry, but it’s better
to explore and live life than
sleep and rot away.”

You do have a point, but sleeping
is important to the human body.
“OK then, if you think that I shall
leave,” No, don’t leave. I was joking.

“I’m sorry, friend. I’ll leave something
behind so you can remember me”

OK then, so long and be safe.

Mrs. McClain, 7th Grade

When the Ocean Talks
by Simone S.

The first time the ocean talked to me,
it took me by surprise.
“Hey, how are you?”
I heard from somewhere
in the distance.
Despite hearing the voice
very clearly,
I decided to ignore it.
After processing that the ocean had
“Hey, u good?” The ocean asked me.
“Um, yeah,” I replied.
“Maybe you were the wrong pick.”
said the ocean.
I was very confused at this point in time.
“So, basically,” the ocean explained,
“Every year, I choose one human
to give a gift.”
“Ohhhh,” I replied.
“What’s the gift?”
I didn’t think advice was the best gift, but I decided
not to mention that to such a powerful force
“If I were to randomly stop making waves, what would everyone think?”
The ocean asked me.
“Well, they would think that there’s
something wrong with you.”
“And…?” The ocean prompted.
“And that you had stopped trying?”
I guessed.
“Exactly! Never stop trying” the ocean
said as I got pulled underwater.

Speaking to a Shoe
by Mateo M.

I was awakened by my shoe while taking
a nap. I heard “Hey there!
you really are a deep sleeper!
Why so tired?”
“I had a really long day at work

“You have been like this
for a bit, you sure you’re ok?”
The shoe said.
“Well, people judge me because I
am old and slow.”

I don’t think that.
you should not let people
bring you down. Ignore them.
I think you are quiet decent
at it.

Keep on going and don’t
worry about those thiings.”

“Thank you.” He said and
got back to bed.



“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.