Albany Poetry 
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Mme. Matisse Mme. Matisse: Madras Rouge
Henri Matisse

Note to Educators

This lesson satisfies 3.5 for Reading, Grade 4. English-Language Arts Content Standards for California Public Schools.

Formal lesson plan for this exercise is available for download in the Teachers' Guide.

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In our first three exercises, we wrote a poem that began with a central image, metaphor, or simile as the genesis for the writing.

As we found, simile and metaphor are more than window dressing; they may form the essential root of the poem, from which the poem grows.

A poem of personification may begin in much the same way. To start, please print a copy the Character Web worksheet, and have it nearby. There are five shapes on the sheet: a central square, with four surrounding ovals. Feel free to write around the margins of the shapes if the areas are not large enough.


Let's begin by filling in the square in the center of your Character Web.

What do you like? What is your favorite sport? Your hobby? Do you draw or play a musical instrument? What do you like to do? Single word responses work best, such as: soccer, music, painting, cooking, and dance.

Now let's get specific. What are the names of some of the tools used in those activities? For example: soccer-net; music-guitar; cooking-salsa; dance-shoes. Think of some thing or activity that you like BEST and write a single noun in the center square. The noun you write must be a tool used in that activity -- not the activity itself.

The name of the tool that you write will be the subject of your poem. It will be what you personify in your poem.

Consider that our emotions are what make us most human: love, joy, anger, sadness, jealousy, and so on. If we say that a thing has some kind of emotion, we are on our way to making a personification.


To complete your first oval, ask yourself this: if the word written in the square were to fall in love, with whom would it be in love? Possible answers: "The Net loves the Goalie." "Guitar is angry at Piano." "Salsa is jealous of Avocado." Write a single word (person or thing) in one of the surrounding ovals.

Given that your statement is true (Salsa, jealous of the Avocado?), ask yourself why. Why would Salsa be jealous of Avocado, or why would the Net love the Goalie? Notice now that we are using capital letters for our subject: this is to signify personhood. Write a complete sentence in the oval that explains why the subject (in the square) has some emotion for the object (in the oval). Write your answer in the oval.

Now let's give some more details.

In the three remaining ovals, pick any three of the following questions, and write in complete sentences your answers in and around the remaining ovals.

1. Were the word inside your square to have a brother or sister, who would it be, and what would they do together?

2. What does your object smell like? (give details)

3. What is your object afraid of and why?

4. More than anything, what does your object want?

5. Were your object to be come jealous, of whom/what, and why?

6. What makes your object the happiest? When?

7. Were you to touch your object, describe its physical sensation.

8. Were your object to lose or find something (Lost & Found), what would lose or find?

9. Were your object to make some sort of magic, what would it do? (Harry Potter makes himself invisible.)

10. What kind of mischief would your object create?

Putting it all together.

Look over the complete sentences you have written. Which do you find most engaging? On a separate sheet of paper, copy this sentence as your starter line.

Now go back to your Character Web and look for the sentence that you think fits best below the first line.

Continue adding sentences in this fashion until you have used all your sentences from the Character Web on your separate sheet.

Add and subtract where you are most drawn into the poem. If you really like the idea of your object having a brother or sister, you may wish to base your ENTIRE poem on that idea alone.


To complete the poem, consider this -- YOU are the object in the center square.

In this manner, you create a metaphor for yourself, and you have made a personification of that metaphor. Let's say that you have a family member for whom you have certain strong feelings. Your entire poem may now become coded language for your personal relationship with that family member or friend. You can write a poem directly about someone without them knowing that your poem is about them!

Why is Salsa jealous of the Avocado?

Here is a beginning draft of personification:


Piano gets lonely
when there are no vibrations
on her stings.
She feels the smoothness
of her keys.
She feels herself
getting embarrassed
when a bad chord is played.
She is in love with F#m.
Her joy is when her
singer sings along.

Write your personification poem of no longer than fifteen lines, and submit for consideration on the APW Forum/Guests' Pages. Email subject line: Personification Poem.


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