Integrating Visual Art into the Poetry Workshop

My participation this semester in the Poetry Center's Writing the Community course presented me with the opportunity to work as a poet-in-residence at Pueblo Gardens Elementary School in South Tucson. Being that I am an educator with an emphasis in visual art, I knew that the integration of visual art and poetry was to be a focus of my curriculum. Poetry and visual art are by no means unrelated; however, I took it upon myself to see how a group of 5th grade students would form relations between these two mediums. The question then became this. How might I provide my students with a background of art history and visual art while using language to produce poetic works of art? My solution was simple; bring visual art into the classroom as a source of inspiration for the production of their poems. This was important to me for two reasons: students need to be knowledgeable about relevant works of fine art, and creating connections between multiple artistic forms requires critical thinking skills.

The lessons that I brought into the classroom were similar in form, but they varied in content. Each class meeting, I displayed a different work of abstract art for them to observe ranging from Basquiat to Frankenthaler, and a different poetic form ranging from ‘Earth Poems’ to ‘List Poems’. At the beginning of each class, students and I would discuss what we saw in the image and then write about our observations; the results were fascinating. The fact that students were unfamiliar with the images and their inhibition to writing poems allowed for spontaneous language, and imaginative interpretation. Throughout the eight sessions that I worked with the students, I observed the development of individual writing styles and trends in how they interpreted imagery into language. The inclusion of interdisciplinary methods enabled them to freely exercise creativity without limitations on form.

In working with these students, my trust in poetry as a learning tool and a catalyst for creativity were re-affirmed. My residency at Pueblo Gardens made the potential that poetry inherently assumes tangible, as well as surprised me by how students approach such methods. In my future career as an educator, I intend to expand on this experience and constantly remind myself that there need not be separation among different art forms. My time at Pueblo Gardens taught me that art influences art, regardless of structure.


by Jesse Nina-Lopez

The world is not a perfect circle
It’s more like a pair in the air
The mountain is not perfect it is crumbled
But it is still perfect in it’s own way
Looking at the mountains
Shows me how many good detail are in the picture
In the next picture
I think if the world looked like that
How would it be?
Would it change?
Or would it change at all?

Image credit: Cy Twombly

Jeff Urdang is an MA candidate in the School of Art and a current student in Writing the Community.