April 23

Intersections of poetry & improv

My friend Kim recently wrote about how she and her students were writing poems using inspiration from three words provided by the students. She describes how in the first iteration, the poems were very literal in their interpretation. Kim then worked with the students to brainstorm imagery related to the words. Finally, she challenged them (and herself) to write a poem using the three words without the poem being about any of the words. As she understates, “[t]his was much more difficult!”

Kim’s observations parallel the learning process of improv, a new-ish endeavor of mine. At the beginning of a set, the performers typically ask the audience to provide one or more words that are then used as inspiration for creating scenes and story lines. Just as Kim describes, emerging players often create scenes that stick close to the literal words, whereas more experienced players use them truly as inspiration and wander much further afield in associations and connections. As a result, their scenes are richer and more satisfying, to both the performers and the audience.

Developing any new competence takes time, practice, encouragement and constructive feedback. I’m fortunate to be learning to perform improv at a studio which swarms with supportive, encouraging instructors and fellow performers. This nurturing environment is part of the culture, fostered by the owner and artistic director.

In our schools, we have the same opportunity, and responsibility, to develop and sustain a culture which encourages students to grow into their full potential.


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Posted April 23, 2019 by inspirepassion in category Deeper Learning

About the Author

I am a process-focused leader who uses collaboration, authenticity, and mentoring as key skills to inspire passion among learners of all ages. Aggregate eclectic professional experiences have honed my ability to coach others in designing and implementing courses of study using inquiry-/project-based learning (PBL).

8 thoughts on “Intersections of poetry & improv

  1. dogtrax

    Terry’s Captcha poems always have me smiling (and sometimes, the word acrobat he does with the captcha phrase has me scratching my head).

    Someone left this here
    in the bin, a container of words
    with a strange begin … and
    an odd ending, too, set against
    a filter, a flow,
    a programmed algorithm;
    so arrive here to a pause
    and write in an unknown meter,
    a Captcha neither considers
    the space nor the reader



    I heartily recommend Stephen Nachmanovitch’s book: Free Will:Improvisation in Life and Art. He has a new book that I am dying to read. Read it together or his first one?

    antispam-improvisationality: seemed oh! (I do these improvs on Kevin’s blog on occasion. Now yours, too.)

    It seemed…oh
    how it seemed,
    but it wasn’t.
    Just seeming…oh
    it broke my heart
    so close to being
    and only seeming so.

    1. inspirepassion (Post author)

      Thanks,Terry! For the recommendation and the poem! I would be delighted to read Nachmanovitch’s new (or old) book with you. The Art of Is: Improvising as a Way of Life is what you are referring to?


        Yes. I sent an invite link for annotating privately on NowComment. Fun.

        antispami-3.14 etcetera: gopher pi

        I yelled out to my poker buddy, “Hey, we’re hungry. Can you go fer pie?”

        He shied back with, “Yeah, how many you want?”

        I smirked back, “Howsabout 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164062862089986280348253421170679821480865132823066470938446095505 of them?”


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