Albany Poetry 
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Note to Educators

This lesson satisfies 2.2 for Writing: Writing Applications, Grade 3. 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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Imagery and the Five Senses


In this exercise, you will write a poem which includes images of all the five senses:

For inspiration, let's look for a painting for you to work with, a painting that inspires you to write.

Follow this link to the Van Gogh Gallery, and from there, look for a favorite painting that you already know, or browse the catalog and find a painting that you find interesting. Once you find a painting, bookmark it, and return here.

Look carefully at your painting now, its textures, shapes, tones and emotions; observe the various objects in its composition.

In this exercise, you will learn how a poem can be saturated with images.

Please imagine that you are some thing in the painting. When you begin to write, speak in your poem as though you have become that thing in the painting. Step inside the painting and imagine that you are actually there, standing, observing, smelling, and tasting the things around you in the painting.


Let's start by making a list of images -- your image bank. If you like, you may print the Five Senses Chart, and write on it during this exercise. Or, if you prefer, start your word processor, and switch back and forth between it and your Van Gogh painting.

Look at your painting, and then write a two- or three-word phrase that describes something you see in the painting. Write this phrase on your Five Senses Chart or in your wordprocessor. When you step inside the painting, what do you see? Now write a second phrase describing what you see in the painting before you move on to the next sense -- the sense of sound.

An image is a phrase of two or three words that shows what you see, smell, hear, touch, and taste. When you have written two phrases for the sense of sight, skip down a few lines and write two phrases for the sense of sound. Avoid using single words in your image bank.

To make this part easy, you may write "I see ...", "I smell..." etc. in your image bank, but in the final draft, try to remove those phrases.

The sense of taste sometimes causes people to ask, How can I taste something in a painting? For the sense of taste, think of how your own sense of taste works. You touch an ice cream cone to your tongue; the sense of cold and sweet registers in your brain.

To apply this to the writing of a poem, consider that the sense of taste can be transmitted from one object to an object that it touches in the painting. Look at your painting. Look for objects that touch one another. These objects may be said to "taste" one another.

The upturned glass touches the tablecloth: the glass tastes the linen. Or, the ladder touches the haystack: the ladder tastes the musky hay. Or, the sail of the boat touches the wind: the sail tastes the salty wind. And so on.


To bring the sense of taste to an even more exciting level, consider the emotions: love, joy, anger, sadness, jealousy, etc. Now look again at the painting for two objects that touch one another. When you find them, you may insert one of the words of emotion next to the verb: the glass tastes the joy of the linen. Or, the ladder tastes the anger of the haystack. Or, the sail tastes the jealousy of the boat.

When you have made a list of two phrases in your wordprocessor or Senses Chart for each of the five senses, save the file. This is your image bank.


Now your task is to pull all the phrases together. Which image do you like best? The phrase for the sense of smell? Of touch? Pick one, and use it in a complete sentence. Write it in your file, below your image bank, and then look up to your image bank at the top of the page. Which image catches your eye next? Use that image now, and write it in a complete sentence below your first line just written below.

Add or delete phrases as you like. Fill in some of the "story" to connect the images of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell.

Continue in this manner until you have used all of the images in your image bank.


In your poem's final lines, use a word of emotion, such as love, anger, sadness, jealousy, hate. Use that word to make a statement about or a reflection upon the lines that have come before. How does the thing you have become in the painting feel about the objects around it?

Edit and revise your draft.

Using images of all five senses, write a poem of fifteen lines or fewer, and submit it for consideration on the APW Forum/Guests' Pages. Email subject line: Five Senses Poem.


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