Spanish-Revolution-Indignados.jpgNothing stirs us emotionally like a riveting news story. After all, the stories we consider most "newsworthy" include the most uplifting of human accomplishments and the most devastating of human suffering.

For this poem, peruse the news for a story that moves you in some way. It might be a tragic story of a natural disaster, a touching story of a graduation, or a thought-provoking story about a wild animal seen in the Loop. It could be a story from any section in the paper -- the headlines, Sports, Business, or Lifestyle sections. Longer feature items tend to work better than short news clips, since they usually include more details and dialogue. If you choose a short piece, you'll just have to create more of the words and images yourself.

Determine what is the "heart" of the story: what is it saying about the human condition? Let that be your guiding principle in the poem.

Now, re-read the story you've chosen with an eye and ear for images, words, phrases, and passages that would befit a poem. Then craft the poem, using some of these sections of the article, transforming the news story into a poetic experience.... something that speaks to the universal nature of being human.

Below are two examples, one written by an anonymous poet and based on a well-known tragic story from the 1960s in Arizona. The original story can be found at the first link. The second poem is one I wrote after reading and several pieces in the news about children whose parents are in prison. (I've attached one of the shorter pieces here.)

Note the use of short lines in the poems. Use your lines effectively! Let your reader focus on one image or idea at a time.,1937970

Linda and Beauty

Linda failed to return
from the dance on Friday --
home to where she knew
parents with furrowed brows
and endless questions
would be waiting --
instead finding the arms of
an Air Force Lieutenant
Her parents,
worried sick
but also angry at
Linda's disobedience,
chose a punishment
that would end
her rebellious ways.

They took a long drive
into the desert
on Sunday after church,
Linda in the back seat
with Beauty
her only companion,
and they did not
have a picnic.

They made Linda dig
a shallow grave.
Her mother held
Beauty's head between her hands
and her father
handed Linda a loaded gun.
"Shoot your dog,"
he commanded.

Linda put the pistol
to her own head
and fired.

Police initially said
there were no charges
to file against the parents
except perhaps
cruelty to animals.

"I killed her," her father said.

Eventually, the law agreed,
sending a grieving
and broken man to jail
to pay for his sins.

It is unknown whatever happened
to Beauty.

Visiting Day

He waits, cheek resting heavily
on uplifted palm, bony elbow
planted on gray formica

Feet dangle, swinging slowly from
the molded plastic seat as
frayed tips of untied shoelaces
drag across brown linoleum
gray formica.jpg
He can no longer count the Sunday
afternoons, hours spent waiting
here outside the glass from
the missing mothers

Mothers who stole or debted
or struck or cracked or confused
themselves into this place

Cold concrete where no heart
beats, no blood flows within
white walls to warm it

Where a small child must kiss
mama through inch-thick glass
hear I love you whispered
through static phone lines

Then walk away again in
Grandma's leathered grasp
imagining a softer warmer palm
pressed to his cheek like a promise