When students walk into the room I have "Moose" and "Angel" written on the board. I begin class by asking the students, "What is a metaphysical conceit?" After a week of studying the topic they are quick to answer, "It's the comparison of two unlike objects or ideas to get readers thinking about complex problems or concepts."
"How do you write a poem using a metaphysical conceit?" I ask.
"Start with two unlike objects or ideas?" asks a students, unsure.
I point to the board. "I've given you an example here to start with, but I'd like you to add to my list. Write down as many examples of unlike pairings as you can."
I give them about five minutes to do this while I walk around the room observing their lists. Proximity is a good way to get students writing.
Once most of the students have a list of unlike comparisons, I ask them to share a few of their ideas out loud. Then I ask them to think about where and when these comparisons might happen. One of the students wrote on his paper: Snowmobile and Elk.
"Great pairings", I tell him. Now try to think where you might be if you were making this comparison. For example, where would John Donne have most likely seen a flea?"
"In his clothes", says one student.
"In his bed", says another. The light-bulb comes on for some of the students. Writing a metaphysical conceit doesn't seem so hard now.
I allow them to free write for five minutes. Then I ask them to choose a comparison they really like and to make a T-chart comparing and contrasting their ideas.
I use the Moose and the Angel on the board as an example.
Under Moose I write: Big, Antlers, Quiet, Rare, Corporeal, Calm, Scary, Protective
Under Angel I write: Big, Halo, Quiet, Rare, Spiritual, Calm, Peaceful, Protective
I ask the students to do the same.
"Now take what you have and start writing about it. You know the setting, you know the context, start writing and see what happens. Don't worry about spelling or punctuation or whether or not it sounds 'poetic'; just write."
I set the timer for ten minutes and the room goes surprisingly quiet. As I walk around I see some students writing while others are adding to their comparison charts.
If a student is sitting there doing nothing, I quietly point to something on their chart to see if it will get them writing, often it does.
Next I ask students to circle phrases and parts of their writing that they like or want to work more on.
Then I write four words on the board: alliteration, rhyme, assonance, & consonance.
We begin with alliteration: How does alliteration add to the mood of a piece of writing? What sounds scary; or harsh; or soothing; or natural?
Next we discuss rhyme: How does rhyme add to the meaning a poem?
Finally: we discuss assonance and consonance.
Now students do a final free write "revising" what they have already written or adding to it, or adding alliteration, rhyme, assonance, or consonance.