Thursday, September 11, 2008

Forbidden Words Accordion Book

When I was doing a poetry project with middle school kids last spring, I came across a poem with the word nice in it and cringed. I remembered that one of my children's teachers banned the use of the word in her classroom. While life would be way too exhausting if we always had to come with a creative and appropriate word every time we wanted to give a little positive acknowledgment, we certainly should avoid nice and other neutral and nondescript words in writing. This month's project is a book to keep track of forbidden words and come up with alternatives.

I made my book with just four pages instead of the 8 in the directions. I used one half of the side panel of a grocery bag for the accordion and pieces cut from a pancake mix box for the cards. I wanted to use the design on the box as a border so I wrote the words on cut pieces of paper (with writing on the other side) and glued them to the cards. You could also make a longer book to hang in the classroom with each student contributing a word.


Word choice advice for writers: Forbidden words
Advice about avoiding overly used words in writing.

Wordy Wise
One teacher's take on forbidden words plus other ideas to expand vocabulary.

Online Thesaurus

The Library/John Greenleaf Whittier

I am working on an installation for the Tenth Outdoor Sculpure Show at Maudslay State Park. I am using lines from the poems of John Greenleaf Whittier. I've read lots of his poems online at Project Gutenberg. I liked this poem written on the dedication of the Haverhill Library in because it describes some of the earlier forms of books.


Sung at the opening of the Haverhill Library, November 11, 1875.

"Let there be light!" God spake of old,
And over chaos dark and cold,
And through the dead and formless frame
Of nature, life and order came.

Faint was the light at first that shone
On giant fern and mastodon,
On half-formed plant and beast of prey,
And man as rude and wild as they.

Age after age, like waves, o'erran
The earth, uplifting brute and man;
And mind, at length, in symbols dark
Its meanings traced on stone and bark.

On leaf of palm, on sedge-wrought roll,
On plastic clay and leathern scroll,
Man wrote his thoughts; the ages passed,
And to! the Press was found at last!

Then dead souls woke; the thoughts of men
Whose bones were dust revived again;
The cloister's silence found a tongue,
Old prophets spake, old poets sung.

And here, to-day, the dead look down,
The kings of mind again we crown;
We hear the voices lost so long,
The sage's word, the sibyl's song.

Here Greek and Roman find themselves
Alive along these crowded shelves;
And Shakespeare treads again his stage,
And Chaucer paints anew his age.

As if some Pantheon's marbles broke
Their stony trance, and lived and spoke,
Life thrills along the alcoved hall,
The lords of thought await our call!