Poems for upper elementary students
March 28, 2020 2:29 PM   Subscribe

Please recommend some poems that 9-, 10-, and 11-year-olds would understand and enjoy. They need not be specifically written for children. I would especially appreciate poems available online.

So far they've enjoyed some Pablo Neruda and would enjoy more of his poems if you have a specific recommendation. I think Wallace Stevens could work for them. And we've read Bronzeville Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks for Black History Month and they really liked it. In the past they've also enjoyed haiku if you have some of those to recommend.

I would especially appreciate poems that stem from observation and poems that do not rhyme. Also I think we might try writing villanelles again this year if you have any of those to recommend.
posted by mai to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Balloons by Sylvia Plath. Some really great observations and images here.
posted by FencingGal at 3:21 PM on March 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Shel Silverstein's Where The Sidewalk Ends; one of my favorites is

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out!
She'd scour the pots and scrape the pans,
Candy the yams and spice the hams,
And though her daddy would scream and shout,
She simply would not take the garbage out.
And so it piled up to the ceilings:
Coffee grounds, potato peelings,
Brown bananas, rotten peas,
Chunks of sour cottage cheese.
It filled the can, it covered the floor,
It cracked the window and blocked the door
With bacon rinds and chicken bones,
Drippy ends of ice cream cones,
Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel,
Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal,
Pizza crusts and withered greens,
Soggy beans and tangerines,
Crusts of black burned buttered toast,
Gristly bits of beefy roasts. . .
The garbage rolled on down the hall,
It raised the roof, it broke the wall. . .
Greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,
Globs of gooey bubble gum,
Cellophane from green baloney,
Rubbery blubbery macaroni,
Peanut butter, caked and dry,
Curdled milk and crusts of pie,
Moldy melons, dried-up mustard,
Eggshells mixed with lemon custard,
Cold french fried and rancid meat,
Yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat.
At last the garbage reached so high
That it finally touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away,
And none of her friends would come to play.
And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout said,
"OK, I'll take the garbage out!"
But then, of course, it was too late. . .
The garbage reached across the state,
From New York to the Golden Gate.
And there, in the garbage she did hate,
Poor Sarah met an awful fate,
That I cannot now relate
Because the hour is much too late.
But children, remember Sarah Stout
And always take the garbage out!

Shel Silverstein, 1974
posted by theora55 at 4:04 PM on March 28, 2020

Try Poetry 180 - a poem a day for American High school students. Includes links to the indiividual poems.

Plus I have to off this one, a special favorite of my high school student, titled Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins which is about the act of reading poetry.
posted by metahawk at 4:07 PM on March 28, 2020

The Highwayman.
posted by Melismata at 4:28 PM on March 28, 2020

Best answer: The Poetry Foundation might just be the website you're looking for. It's filled with great resources. You can find poems by Pablo Neruda, would these be a good match? 'Tis the morrow full of storm..., Old Ladies By The Sea.
They also have a YouTube channel and I've liked and used for similar ages: Monsters, To Catch a Fish.

Would you also consider Michael Rosen? I haven't met a child yet who hasn't loved him. He has a YouTube channel. Favourites include No Breathing In Class and Chocolate Cake

You can also listen to Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas read so evocatively by Richard Burton; just wonderful and a worthwhile stretch. Here's the poem in its entirety.

And I've just spotted a collection on Poems That Say Thank You and oh my goodness is this a good time to say thank you. From that collection:

A Gift
Who is that creature
and who does he want?
Me, I trust. I do not
attempt to call out his
name for fear he will
tread on me. What do
you believe, he asks.

That we all want to be
alone, I reply, except when
we do not; that the world
was open to my sorrow
and ate most of it; that
today is a gift and I am
ready to receive you.

So thank you for asking this question; what a lovely thing to think about how we weave worlds with words.
posted by mkdirusername at 4:38 PM on March 28, 2020 [5 favorites]

Check out the book Be Glad Your Nose is On Your Face.
posted by postel's law at 5:30 PM on March 28, 2020

Best answer: The poems in the NYC MTA's Poetry in Motion series are selected to appeal to all ages; this arts program is in other cities now, too (ex. - Los Angeles).
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:59 PM on March 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Litany by Billy Collins

The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams

And the Ghosts by Graham Foust

A villanelle option maybe; just a few dictionary words for that age group:

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.
posted by gudrun at 7:02 PM on March 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Try some ballads, like those of Robert Service - The Shooting of Dan Mcgrew, or The Ballad of the Iceworm Cocktail. A little humour never hurts.
Sara Teasdale's There Will Come Soft Rains is a classic.
Often song lyrics are poetry - almost anything by Paul Simon: Sound of Silence; I am a Rock; Under African Skies.
Longfellow is out of favour, but The Slave's Dream might bring a tear to your eye.
There is so much. But definitely Shel Silverstein is a perfect start!
posted by Enid Lareg at 7:08 PM on March 28, 2020

Best answer: Dennis Lee, The Secret Place
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:20 PM on March 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

This Is Just To Say
By William Carlos Williams

(I have posted
the poem
the website

you were probably
of posting
posted by trig at 8:33 PM on March 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Rumi -- The Guest House

Carl Sandburg -- Fog

Robert Frost -- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Sara Teasdale -- After Love

Mary Oliver -- Of Love
posted by pdxhiker at 9:24 PM on March 28, 2020 [3 favorites]

trig’s comment reminded me of this Metafilter thread about a New Zealand teacher who got her students to write confessions in the style of WCW’s “This is Just to Say.”
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:46 PM on March 28, 2020

How about Richard Brautigan?

It's Raining in Love
Gee, You're So Beautiful That It's Starting To Rain
Romeo and Juliet

Other poems of his are perhaps less suitable, due to language or subject matter. I used to teach these poems to groups of teens who weren't really into poetry or who had certain preconceptions about 'stuffy poetry', and this often opened their eyes.

Another poem that I found useful to illustrate form and technique was The Bath-Tub by Ezra Pound.
posted by fregoli at 2:12 AM on March 29, 2020

The Scottish Poetry Library is another great resource, you can search for poems by theme and they also have pages of learning resources. Despite the name it's not at all just Scottish poets who are represented, they've a very international outlook and there's a decent selection of poetry in translation.
posted by Lluvia at 2:25 AM on March 29, 2020

trig’s comment reminded me of this Metafilter thread about a New Zealand teacher who got her students to write confessions in the style of WCW’s “This is Just to Say.”

And hurdy gurdy girl's comment reminded me of this wonderful MetaTalk thread from Ghidorah, who also commented in the New Zealand teacher post, but I wanted to give a proper shout out here as well: he asked his Japanese high school students to write their own versions based on "This is Just to Say." The thread contains (unsurprisingly) MeFites' takes...and don't miss Ghidorah's lovely update that shares a few of his students' poems.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 3:31 AM on March 29, 2020

Best answer: I love showing these two poems to my students:
Aram Saroyan's lighght

and, Tao Lin' Poem Written By a Bear

I like both poems because they make me smile, and students always have an emotional reaction to them. That's what poetry ought to do IMO.
posted by robotot at 4:17 AM on March 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

"The Skater of Ghost Lake" by William Rose Benet
I loved it at that age.
posted by mermayd at 5:57 AM on March 29, 2020

Elizabeth Bishop - The Moose, First Death In Nova Scotia, In the Waiting Room. Moose piss, dead kid, and cannibalism and "horrifying" breasts in a National Geographic. Get their attention.

But maybe start with an Introduction to Poetry. [Oh, I see this one is already mentioned. Well, I agree.]
posted by pracowity at 12:05 PM on March 29, 2020

« Older who knows anything about effectiveness of UV...   |   How do we deal with our new(ish) nipping... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.