All About Animals
“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
—Anatole France, French Poet
“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own
and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.”
—John Muir, Scottish-American Naturalist
Animals are our companions, our workers, our eyes and ears, and our food. We have domesticated some of them, while others remain wild and are sometimes endangered by our activities. Animals play an important role in many people’s lives. In addition to such “occupations” as seeing-eye dogs and dogs that can be trained to detect seizures, animals can also be used in occupational therapy, speech therapy, or physical rehabilitation to help patients recover. Aside from these designated therapeutic roles, animals are also valued as companions, which can affect the quality of our lives in so many positive ways.
For me, it's always been about dogs and cats (since the 1970s, Yorkshire Terriers), but I once had a horse named Shamrock, a stray pup named Missy that followed me home one day, and many cats. Have animals figured in your life in any special ways? Even if you've never had a pet, you can still write about the feelings you have for animals.
Things to Think & Write about:
1. Have you ever had a special pet or pets? Write a poem about a beloved pet.
2. Are you concerned about the preservation of endangered species and animal rights? Do you believe that animals are not ours to experiment on, use for entertainment, or otherwise abuse? Write a related poem.
3. Is there a particular kind of animal (wild or domestic) that you consider a favorite? Write about your favorite species or breed.
4. Have you ever tried to see things as an animal might? Animals offer us unique opportunities to see beyond the boundaries of human perspectives. Write a persona poem from the perspective of an animal.
5. Have you ever heard that people sometimes resemble their pets? Write a poem in which you compare yourself (or someone you know) to an animal. Think about common characteristics.
6. Do animal antics make you smile? Write a humorous or whimsical animal poem.
7. Have you ever mourned the loss of a beloved pet? Think about this quote for a few moments and then write a poem about a pet you have lost: “We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way.” (Irving Townsend)
8. Has loving a pet taught you anything about what it means to be human? Write a poem about what you’ve learned from a beloved pet.
9. If you've never had a pet, think about what kind of pet you might like to have and write a poem about that animal. Or, alternatively, write a poem about why you've never had a pet.
10. Is there an endangered wild animal that touches your heart? Write a poem about that animal's endangerment and how you feel about it.
1. Avoid the passive voice.
2. Eliminate “ing” endings wherever you can.
3. Limit use of adjectives.
4. Avoid prepositional phrases when you can.
5. Get rid of articles (a, an, the) as much as possible.
6. Create images that are unique and memorable.
7. Avoid overstatement and too many details—show, don’t tell.
8. Stay away from clichés, abstractions, and sentimentality.
9. Create layers of meaning—point toward something bigger than the body of the poem.
10. Work on form and format (syntax, line breaks, and stanzas).
11. Leave your reader something to reflect upon.
12. Create a new resonance for your readers, a lit spark that doesn’t go out when the poem is “over.” Don’t close the door on your poem with a “tidy” ending—leave the door slightly ajar.
By way of sharing, here’s a poem I wrote in memory of Yeats, my second Yorkshire Terrier.
(In Memory of Yeatsy, January 5, 1993 - July 6, 2008)
The way his head slips from
my hand as I lay him down,
his eyes still open (though I
try to close them), the same
warmth still in his small body.
It is this: death, a skill learned
by those who observe it; grief
what we keep – and memory
always, at least in part, about
forgetting. I cross his paws the
way he crossed them in sleep.
Like all deaths that summer
remembers, I walk his home.
A patch of sun climbs the stairs
without him; white moths,
like snowflakes, span the sky.
From The American Voice in Poetry: The Legacy of Whitman, Williams, and Ginsberg (Copyright © 2010 by The Poetry Center, Passaic County Community College. All rights reserved). Also published in from What Matters, Welcome Rain Publishers (Copyright © 2011 by Adele Kenny. All rights reserved).
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