Writing Mini-Lessons: Passionate Pontification, the Poetry of Fervent Voice

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."

~ William Wordsworth

“Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper.”

~Ray Bradbury

One of writing’s secrets, and amongst its greatest gifts, is that the act of writing is one of revelation. Through writing we explore and grow, learning to see ourselves and the world differently, and in return revealing ourselves and our discoveries. Author Virginia Woolf once sad that "every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works." In a sense, writing is a different way of thinking, and so writers use writing as a way of exploring and understanding their own lives and those of others.

When asked to provide writing tips to others, many authors provide advice similar to that of Wordsworth and Bradbury: to write about those things that inspire deep passion within you. If a topic evokes a strong emotional response from you, the writer, you will be passionate about evoking a similar response from your reader. Often, when we discuss our passions, we reference things we love. However, passion is fiery and can be equally well felt regarding things we loathe.

Today’s poetry is that of passionate voice, of fervent feeling—the rant poem. Just as poets have long waxed poetic about love and nature, poets have also always written about life’s vexations. The practice of ranting in poetic verse dates back to at least Ancient Greece, where Homer catches Zeus complaining in The Odyssey: "Mortal men have always put the blame upon us gods!"

Rant poetry comes in all shapes and sizes, but it is most often a free-verse prose poem written about an exasperating subject. A note here, though: you can also rant about something you adore since to rant is speak or shout at length in a wild, impassioned way.

Follow the steps below to craft your poem of passionate pontification about anything that aggravates, pesters, vexes, or otherwise drives you batty—or that makes you ecstatic, rapturous, euphoric, or fervently filled with joy.

Samples:

“Texting:  A Rant Poem”



I hate texting more than you will ever know

It’s impersonal, time consuming, and disruptive

You don’t hear the other person

You don’t see the other person

All you get is a terrible end product filled with “LOLZ”

I hate it. I HATE it. I HATE IT.

I’m having a nice conversation their phone vibrates

A finger goes up “just give me a minute”

I’m here.

Flesh and blood before your eyes

And you’re talking to that improper idiot

Who seems capable of only one word replies

It’s crazy how people subject themselves to this,

These twisted rules that comprise of

When to use a smiley

How long to wait to respond

Lack of proper punctuation

Mandatory mutilation of the English language

It’s insanity

A waste of time

Taking five minutes to try to word

Tweak, modify, re-word

Something that could have been said in 20 seconds

It actually confuses me

I will concede

Texting has a time and place

During class, in a restaurant, when parents are around

It’s perfectly acceptable when trying to be discrete

But when I’m with you

And we’ve both taken a seat

Please be considerate

*buzz buzz*

brb just give me a minute

What Teachers Make

He says the problem with teachers is

What’s a kid going to learn

from someone who decided his best option in life

was to become a teacher?


He reminds the other dinner guests that it’s true

what they say about teachers:

Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his

and resist the temptation to remind the dinner guests

that it’s also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we’re eating, after all, and this is polite conversation.

I mean, you’re a teacher, Taylor.

Be honest. What do you make?

And I wish he hadn’t done that— asked me to be honest—

because, you see, I have this policy about honesty and keister-­‐kicking:

if you ask for it, then I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional Medal of Honor

and an A-­‐ feel like a slap in the face.

How dare you waste my time

with anything less than your very best.


I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall

in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.

No, you may not ask a question.

Why won’t I let you go to the bathroom?

Because you’re bored.

And you don’t really have to go to the bathroom, do you?


I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:

Hi. This is Mr. Mali. I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,

I just wanted to talk to you about something your son said today.

To the biggest bully in the grade, he said,

“Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?

It’s no big deal.”

And that was noblest act of courage I have ever seen.


I make parents see their children for who they are

and what they can be.

You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder,

I make them question.

I make them criticize.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them write.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful

over and over and over again until they will never misspell

either one of those words again.

I make them show all their work in math

and hide it on their final drafts in English.

I make them understand that if you’ve got this,

then you follow this,

and if someone ever tries to judge you

by what you make, you give them this.

Here, let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:

Teachers work to make a difference! Now what about you?

~ Taylor Mali

Growing Up:  A Rant

Growing up is hard to do

that’s why when I was 12 years old

I said I would never do it

because it is full

of heartache and hatred,

trouble and lies,

what is the point of leading

such an unfulfilled life?

Now at only 17, I am being catapulted

into a world full of lifelong choices,

where one wrong move—

one stupid mistake—

can ruin my existence.

Yet I have so much resistance

because I cling to this notion that I

will never grow old.

“Responsibility is for grownups!”

I would shout then…and even now…

but the difference is, today I am on the brink

of taking five standardized tests in two weeks

and visiting a big brick building

that will feed my mind

and prepare me for "life"—

as if I am not already alive.

What is "the real world?”

Is it not what I have been

experiencing since birth?

Why does reality only hit when you’re 18

and starving for attention?

Silly me, I was under the impression

that I am a human being,

having experiences and learning lessons

that will fill my soul,

but that’s not true after all;

I will only be useful

when I have a successful career

and a child at my hip.

Forget these rules of society.

I am a human, a person, an adult.

But not because I chose to be one,

I was forced into this role

that has deteriorated my mind

and thrown me into raging fits

of anxiety and depression.

Yes, my time in high school

has been the greatest of my life—

if by "great" you mean emotionally damaging;

if by “great” you mean having to be

someone other than the me I am meant to be.

No, the greatest time of my life

is yet to come!

Worst Poetry

Without question, you are the worst thing that ever happened to my poetry. And I’m serious, I’ve heard about writer’s block but this—is ridiculous. My poetic fluidity has dried up faster than a woman hitting menopause to the point where this dry spells got me praying for some inspirational discharge to leak from the folds of grey matter in my brain and…shoot! 



See what I mean? I’ve been thinking for far too long with my heart instead of my head, and I think people may be starting to notice and I’ve got a reputation to uphold man! And no, it’s not my time of the month, so don’t ask. It’s my time of the day, or what used to be, when I could sit down and write a really gritty angry poem, one that just seethed with angst- but now I can’t! Because I’m just too darn happy! Or should I say sappy?



Because I used to watch Face the Nation for international news, then West Wing for international hope, turn out great political satire ripe with biting wit and sarcasm… but I can’t do it anymore!

You know why? Because I don’t watch those shows anymore, because you’ve got me watching the stars—and I don’t mean Brad Angelina, no—I mean those stars. You’ve got me watching them, thinking about whether you’re watching the same ones as me and—maybe that would make a good poem? And, and, and… this is garbage!



Like a slap across the face of my muse who’s had to withstand so much abuse she’s threatened to leave my side, leave my mind! I try to tell her: please, it’s just not a good time, but she leaves me with my please and really bad rhymes and—I can’t do this!



I refuse to let my words sink to such levels of atrocity, refuse to submit to “Roses are red, violets are blue, my poetry stinks and it’s all thanks to you!” But you turn my brain to mush and it’s so hard not to let my thoughts run off in moments of ridiculous romanticism and irrelevant metaphors like—dipping my tongue and hands into the paint can of my mind, I splatter gooey gobs of thought onto the wall, then watching as the rest of the world tries to make sense of my lovesick babble, they—come with black sharpies and try to connect the dots, forming man-made constellations with my nonsensical thoughts…



And this has to stop! Because writing in abstract metaphors so that you think I have a more poetic view on the world than you is against my poetic ethics, which, rhymes with ethnics, which, incidentally is one more poem topic you have rendered useless.  Because I’m a hoppa, means I’m a mixed blood, which means I never fit inside the check-mark box, always fall between the cracks, and always write about finding my culture, where I belong.



But those poems have fallen to the wayside as I find I belong up against your chest, your arms around my back, my head under your chin, eyes closed. I sit down to write a poem, and the only thing in my head is you—and I don’t understand why you’re the worst thing that ever happened to my poetry, if you’re the best that ever happened to me.

~ Sarah Kay

Black Pepper Corns

Those little, ugly,

horrible-tasting,

black pepper corns.

They taste so awful

when they explode

in your mouth

with excruciating flavor.

The worst part

is they expand

to every single one

of your taste buds

in many directions!

Every time I see

those peppercorns

with my majestic,

hazel eyes,

I get a horrible feeling,

a feeling that makes

my tummy rumble

with disgust!

Oh, how atrocious

those peppercorns are,

always giving people

a dreadful time!

They never let you go

until that ten-minute

mark is over.

Those little peppercorns

are always hiding

beneath your food

and in your food.

Each peppercorn is

like a diminutive detective

hiding in the abyss

trying to pop out

at the right time

ready to put

a bad taste

in your mouth

when you least

suspect it.