Headline poetry: At a loss for words? Let the words find you

This is a detail of my coffee table last night where I started a new headline poem. I’ve collected about 75 words so far. I need about 25 more before I start arranging into lines of poetry.

Ever feel that words don’t exist to describe summer 2020?

Ever feel as if words simply don’t exist to describe the summer of 2020? Here’s an idea: search through magazines, newspapers, mail, anything, and…

let the words find you.

I started this headline poem last night. I’m on step 1… searching and clipping. I have about 75 words clipped so far. I’ve found my words in a pre-lockdown New Yorker, the July 2020 issue of Better Homes and Gardens, the January 1948 issue of Children’s Activities, and the September 1940 Woman’s Home Companion.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be refining this, and by “refining” I mean all these things:

  • looking for meaning
  • letting a theme rise to the surface
  • noticing new metaphors
  • interesting word choices
  • finding fresh expressions

When you can’t find the words to describe current times and turmoils, try a headline poem. I’ll be posting my progress on this poem over the next week or two.

In the meantime, read Headline Poetry is So Much Fun! and Headline Poetry for High School, for how I’ve used headline poetry in my middle school and high school ELA classes. Make no mistake, blackout poetry is awesome (and I want to try some of that later this fall with the social impact novels my juniors will be reading), but make sure to explore the possibilities of headline poetry as well. It just may surprise you!


Thanks for reading! Check in next Tuesday when I’ll be sharing with you my unit plan for Frederick Douglass’ narrative. It’s one of my favorite nonfiction books and with every reading, I learn something revelatory and new from whom I believe to be the United States’ most unsung hero.

Published by marilynyung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

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