Friday, April 1, 2011

Writing Tip / Celebrate Poetry Month with Leslie Bulion

Four Poetry Writing Tips from Leslie Bulion

1.       Read reams of poems. Learn which ones move your heart, tickle your funny bone, or sing in your ear. Do you like rhyme? Meter? Certain rhythms? Free verse? Shape poems? Your most successful poems will be those you’d love to read.
2.       If you’re working with a known form of poetry, learn the rules (see Tip #1). Be strict with yourself as you practice working within the rules. Once you fully understand how that particular poetry form works, you’ll know how to bend the rules (whee!) without compromising the integrity of the poem. For example, check out this great description of my favorite form, the double dactyl: then try one yourself—they’re addictive, tricksy fun! How to be sure your six-syllable double dactylic word in line 6 has never been used in another double dactyl? (See Tip #3.)
3.       Make up words! If you’re writing funny poetry, have at it—play with your language. How often have you read a clever article or poem where the author’s invention of a word adds juice, humor and new meaning to the writing? I might have had my fill of ice storms,  but I thoroughly enjoyed all of the “snowcabulary” invented in honor of the winter of 2011. Of course, there is a caveat to making up words and it is this: every single reader has to be able to infer exactly what your word means on first read.
4.       Read your poem out loud at least a million times. How does it sound? Do you trip over your tongue? Do you have to hurry to fit a word into your established meter? Does your free verse pause and flow at the places you want it to? Do your rhymes rhyme? Now give your poem to a million friends and ask them to read it out loud. Did each friend put the emPHAasis on the  right syLLAbles? If the answer is yes, then BRAVO! Your poem is done!
 ABOUT AT THE SEA FLOOR CAFE Odd Ocean Critter Poems:

This clever collection of poems describes the devious and sometimes surprising methods ocean denizens use to forage for food, capture prey, trick predators, and protect their young. The poems swim effortlessly from page to page, leading us from the snail shell home of the jeweled anemone crab on the ocean floor to a violet snail hanging upside down in its bubble house on the sea’s surface. At the Sea Floor Cafe includes science notes with details about each animal's behavior, a glossary, and an appendix explaining the forms of poetry that appear on each spread. Striking linoleum prints round out this title, which can be used across the curriculum.


Leslie Bulion teams a life-long love of poetry and her oceanography background in At the Sea Floor Café (Peachtree 2011), her second collection of science poetry. The first, Hey There, Stink Bug! (Charlesbridge 2006), is an award-winning book of gruesomely humorous insect poems. Leslie’s other books include the Bank Street Best Books 2007 middle-grade novel Uncharted Waters (Peachtree 2006), The Trouble With Rules (Peachtree 2008), and the Children’s Africana Book Award Best Picture Book winner, Fatuma’s New Cloth (Moon Mountain 2002). A former school social worker, Leslie has written and edited books in the education market and has been a regular contributing writer in national magazines and on the Internet. She gives writing workshops and presentations to students, educators and writers throughout the US. Visit Leslie’s website at
At the Sea Floor Café
ISBN: 978-1-56145-565-2
Total Pages: 48
Author: Leslie Bulion
Illustrator: Leslie Evans
Peachtree Publishers
April 1, 2011

In honor of National Poetry Month, Peachtree Publishers is inviting educators to post students' poetry on their facebook page. At the end of the month, Peachtree will hold a drawing. One winner will receive a skype visit with me, and five others will win a copy of AT THE SEA FLOOR CAFE.
Here's a link to the contest rules:


  1. lovely post - I've been meaning to read and review this book and haven't yet. Maybe I can get Leslie to stop by Imagination Soup, too?


  2. I'd love to, Melissa! Thanks for the visit, Lynne Marie!