The exercise was to write a poem that expresses gratitude. This group of middle school students had 20 minutes. What came out of the session was amazing because educator and poet BJ Ward encourages and reinforces students seeing themselves as artists.
By way of counsel and encouragement BJ says, "Don't know where you're going? That's OK. The plot is secondary. Poetry's all about the relationship of words to words. TS Eliot said 'The plot is the bit of bacon thieves throw to the dog as they leave.'"
He leans over to consult with one of the young poets, then stands back. "Are your verbs doing all they can do? Often a lackluster piece of writing can be turned around by looking at the verbs. Look at the verbs."
The poems that were read were witty, clever, beautiful, and heartbreaking. All the ones I saw were by boys and the depth of expression, vocabulary, and use of language was extraordinary. At the end of the readings, before the class broke, a very satisfied BJ looked around the room and said, "We've just had several very different bowls of poetry served to us. Yes, they were different, but all were rich with delights."