It happens when I least expect it. I’ll be getting some ice for a nice, cool drink, and I see a flash of black in the ice tray. I dig to the bottom, and discover a word. Sometimes I take it as some sort of sign. Sometimes it’s just a pain in the butt to fish it out of the ice tray. You see, I have poetry magnets covering the front of my fridge, and a bottom freezer. Occasionally, a shift in gravity allows a word magnet to fall into the ice tray when it’s open, usually unnoticed at the time it happens.
I became fascinated with the concept of poetry magnets when they first became the craze, back in the 90’s. First of all, I love magnets of any kind. Second, I love words. So these little gems, which combine magnets and words could hardly disappoint this girl. I remember getting my first set, and how I couldn’t wait to break them apart and distribute them on the fridge. I would fiddle with them, making obtuse streams of words. I started adding sets of magnets as I found them, and people started giving me sets as gifts. Soon the fridge was covered with words.
When I lived in Maryland, my husband and I had a big party on Memorial Day every year. We started to keep a composition notebook near the fridge, with instructions to our guests to make poems with the magnets, and then we’d record their creations. It was quite funny! Especially since there was alcohol involved.
Soon, my fridge full of magnets was not enough. As with all crazes I latch onto, I was obsessed. I was teaching middle school language arts at the time, and I found that they made all sorts of magnetic poetry sets with various themes, many of them lending themselves nicely to my poetry unit. I started to purchase sets for my classroom. I brought some of mine from home. I was fortunate to be teaching in a room in which all of the walls, floor to ceiling, were made of metallic chalkboard surface! I set up poetry spots all around the room, and let the kids go nuts. I was in word heaven!
I realized that it wasn’t only fun, and satisfying my own magnetic poetry obsession, but it was actually helping my students write poetry. When you ask a middle schooler to take a blank piece of paper and come up with a poem, it usually creates a block, and brings on much frustration. Who can decide which words, out of all the zillions of words we use, need to be on that page? And in what order? And to say what? I have the same problem sometimes.
But with the magnets, the words were right in front of them. All they had to do was move them around for a while, and soon they had a poem. Before I knew it, they were filling their notebooks with poems they’d created at the wall. And the best part is that they were having fun, and begged to work on poetry! If you’ve ever taught middle school, you know that any time your students love something, you have success. So when I find that occasional word in my ice, I have to chuckle at the thought of what poem it might complete.