Modeling “Incident” Poems for Students

As part of a mini-unit on the Harlem Rennaisance, I had students encounter the poem Incident by Countee Cullen, in which the author remembers a seemingly minor incident in his childhood that impacts him for the rest of his life.

As part of our study, we discuss the theme of being deeply impacted by a small incident, and as part of the lesson, I asked students to write their own “incident” poem.

Now, whenever possible teachers should try to model composition for their students for various reasons, among them being the viewing of the process, the example from an adult they know, and the assurance that their teacher is in on the “adventure” with them.

So here’s a little something I came up with, a poem about a time when my family was on vacation in Arizona.  One day I waited in the car to look at the desert while my family went inside a store.  A very small, insignificant event happened, but for some reason I still remember it.

Arizona Day

I sat in the car and waited
Admiring the day
An odd old man approached me
He had something to say
He gave a friendly greeting
And asked about the day
I spoke of all the weather
For I knew not what to say
He spoke also of weather
And of the coming day
And soon enough we finished
With nothing left to say
At once my dad returned
To drive us round all day
I told him of the lonely man
And all that we did say
I said it was nothing much
He said I might have made his day
And when this thought occurred to me
I knew not what to say

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