Poetry Issue 16

   Issue #16 : January-June 2012

      Methodology: “Adolescence” by Frank Bidart

      Description. Participants are encouraged to use found material as a springboard for writing a poem.

      Objective. To use erasure in rendering a scene.

      Materials. Printouts of erotic/explicit materials from various web sources.


      1. Before session begins, inform participants that materials used will be sensitive, and that they should keep an open mind when going through the activity.

      2. Distribute copies of “Adolescence” and discuss the poem using the following guide questions.

        1. What is going on in the poem? What is the dynamic between the two characters?
        2. Can you tell what the “he” is doing? Why is it important that the reader is not told what the action is?
        3. Even if you weren’t told what the action is, how do you get a sense of what is going on? Point out words or phrases which suggest the action.
        4. Discuss possible reasons for the poet choosing understatement as a way of rendering the action.

      3. After the discussion, distribute copies of the found material that has explicit language. Ask the participants to black out the explicit words. Before the writing exercise, the facilitator may lead discussion on erasure and understatement using the following guide questions.

        1. What is the difference between using subtle, as opposed to explicit, language in rendering sensitive scenes? Discuss how withholding material paradoxically makes the work more forceful.
        2. Discuss the use of erasure in writing one’s poetry. How does erasure transform the source material? What are some of your justifications for keeping certain words and erasing the others?

      4. The facilitator may now proceed with the writing exercise. Ask the participants to write a poem using the remaining words.

      Note to the instructor. This module touches on a variety of elements and rhetorical devices, namely: tone, description, enjambment, and understatement, and erasure. Instructor will choose the found material prior to the session, and ensure that participants are prepared for the ethical and aesthetic implications generated by the discussion. If possible, prior to the session, instructor should discuss the process with a fellow instructor and anticipate potential difficulties in the discussion. Instructor might also ask the participation of fellow teachers during the session itself.

      Time allotment. One hour and a half, broken down into one hour for discussing the Bidart poem and the found material and 30 minutes for writing.

      For the copy of the poem ADOLESCENCE, please click here.