Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: Entries into Poetry

Poetry is weird and hard. It’s confusing and vague and boring. Unless it’s not.  Here are five easy entries to poetry for teens, in honor of National Poetry Month.

1. After The Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy

It looks like realistic romantic teen fiction, it moves like realistic romantic teen fiction, it IS realistic romantic teen fiction, but GOTCHA! It’s a novel in verse.  The reason I picked this over the many many other novels in verse out there is that this one really works. The characters write poetry, poetry plays into the plotline, and each voice (and his or her poetic style) is distinctive and fits the character perfectly. Also, like some readers, the characters sometimes struggle with form, meter, and style, working hard to make their words work in a poetic structure.

2. Magnetic Poetry

It doesn’t even have to be magnetic – it could be single words printed on card stock with sticky tack on the back. Make a poetry wall in your teen area and encourage kids to combine words in awkward and funny and wonderful ways.

3. United States of Poetry

This miniseries and companion book reveal poetry in images and sound, bringing modern poetry to a whole new audience. Johnny Depp reads Kerouac, a drag queen performs Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and performances by the now late Alan Ginsberg, Czelaw Milosz, Amiri Baraka, Lou Reed, and Maggie Estep (among many other still living poets) can work to bring to life what is sometimes awkward, difficult and hard to access.

4. Record-A-Poem or other poetry on Soundcloud

The Poetry Foundation has an interactive project going on, inviting people to record their favorite poems. It began last year and there are well over two thousand pieces recorded for folks to browse or be inspired by. But don’t stop there, search Soundcloud for poetry and you’ll find all kinds of projects and new ways to connect with poems, like this version of a well known Emily Dickinson poem set to music.

5. Where I’m From poems

This is a simple, personal poetic structure that leads to some truly lovely results, and the best part is that it all comes from the writer’s own personal experience. If you’re looking to incorporate poetry writing into a teen program, consider working with a Where I’m From poem. Your teens will surprise themselves!

TPiB: Poetry Crafts!

Like a lot of Middle and High School students, I started writing angsty teenage poetry with the best of them.  And I love doing National Poetry Month (April) activities with my tweens and teens.  Actually, you can read some of my poetry as I wrote a few poems as part of the awareness campaign for Hyperemesis Gravidarum, a pregnancy disease I suffered 3 times.  As someone who loves poetry, I love doing poetry related activities with my tweens and teens at the library.

 For my tweens and teens, all it takes is a canvas of open sidewalk and some sidewalk chalk to make some amazing poetry.  But I like to step it up a notch and give them something they can take home, as well. You can do simple things with the sidewalk chalk poetry, like take Instagram pics and do any number of Instagram crafts to create poetry keepsakes. (Links to the Instagram crafts appear at the end of this post.)

However, one of my favorite craft activities is to make your own Magnetic Poetry Kits.  Magnetic poetry kits were all the rage at one time, but I like to invite teens to create personalizes ones.  It’s an easy craft, great for sitting around and talking while you are working on it in a group setting.


  • An old tin of some sort.  Used Altoid and other types of mint tins work well for this.
  • Discarded magazines, especially teen ones (look, a great Earth Day craft as well!)
  • Blank magnets of various sizes.  These are quickly and easily purchased at any craft store.  I do, however, recommend that you don’t buy the rolls as they seem not to have quite as much sticking power and they are harder to flatten.
  • Scissors
  • Glue or, my favorite, one of those scrapbooking tools that you can feed things through that turns things into stickers. (Xyron, for example, makes a line of these in various sizes)
  • If you want to decorate your tin, you can use acrylic paints or scrapbooking paper to give it a unique look.

Have teens go through the magazines to find a variety – and I mean a lot – of words that mean something to them.  They can be short, long, creative, embellished, whatever.  As they find the words, have them cut them out and put them aside.

Once they have the words they want, you can begin putting them onto the magnets.  For a cleaner look, they will want to cut the magnets down to size.  You can use glue, which is messier, or the sticker machine to adhere the words to the magnets.

It really is that simple! You can decorate your tin if you would like.  But the best part about using a tin is that when you open it, the lid can become your portable poetry canvas. Tutorial: Altered Altoid Tin

Bookspine Poetry

Set up a Bookspine Poetry table in your room.  All you need is a wide variety of titles on a table and teens can go and create some bookspine poems at their leisure.  I recommend taking pictures as the poems are created so you can share them on your social media sites and, again, you could also do a variety of Instagram crafts of the poems or create these Instagram bookmarks. 

Blackout Poetry Canvas

A canvas (new or used)
Discarded newspaper
Black markers
Mod Podge
Black paint

Step 1: Prep your canvas

I think the picture looks better with a black edge, but this is debatable.  If you pre-purchase canvases, there are some black ones available.  If you don’t, you can easily spray paint your canvas before beginning.  Or, you can use a sponge brush and black paint to paint the exposed edges after you put your final project together.

Step 2: Write your poem

 Blackout Poetry is the practice of blacking out most of the words on a newspaper page while the remaining words that are visible become your poem.  Check out the Newspaper Blackout website and book for more information.  Cut a piece of newspaper the size of your canvas, and begin creating your poem using your black marker and newspaper page.

Here’s a fun alternative: You can use pages from discarded teen magazines.  So a fan of One Direction can use a page with a One Directon picture and use this technique and the words on the page to write their own orginal poem about 1D and create some awesome 1D fan art. Also, book pages work well too.

Step 3: Mod Podge away

Glue your page to the canvas and give t a little time to set and dry.  Then, use Mod Podge over the top of the entire page to seal it all in.  Now you have some awesome wall art for any teenage room, totally unique and original.

Some YA titles inspired by poetry

Variations on a “Poem in My Pocket”

The Cootie Catcher Poem
Cootie Catchers, or Fortune Tellers, are back in style thanks in no small part to our friend Origami Yoda.  This is also a fun way to have teens create poems with their friends.  Fold your cootie catcher, then have teens write words or lines of poetry into each fold.  As teens go through the motions of the game with their friends, they will be writing short, fun poems together.  This is a fun variation on the Poem in My Pocket activity.  Also, this is a fun variation on the Exquisite Corpse project, which you can learn more about at Poets.orghttp://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5619.

The Duct Tape Pocket
You can use this cell phone duct tape case pattern to create a duct tape “pocket” for teens to carry their poems in.

More Poetry on TLT:
TPiB: Poetically Speaking
Freeing Your Life with Words

Instagram Crafts
Instagram Bookmarks