About the Blog

RULES OF THE BLOG: Form & Content

A poem is like a bottle of juice. The content (or contents in the case of the juice) is important — but without form, the content(s) will just spill all over the place. When it comes to this blog, I’ve created a simple form: Entries must be written in ten minutes or less. I then allow another ten minutes for editing and posting. Of course, every poet knows that once you master the rules sometimes you need to break them. — We’ll see.



Don’t Call it Poetry might seem a strange name for a blog by a poetry teacher — especially since it’s my job to teach people who might never otherwise have considered reading or writing a poem to love poetry. I want them to have no fear of poetry; to see poetry everywhere. But the truth of the matter is I find myself saying those words: “Just don’t call it poetry,” more often than just about anything else. It’s become my classroom mantra. “But Miss,” one student complains, “I don’t write poetry.” Or “I can’t write poetry,” or some variation on the theme of “I won’t write poetry!” At first I tried to coax, cajole, beg, explain, persuade: “Sure you can,” I’d say. Or, “It’s really not hard.” Or, “Don’t worry about rhyming … poems come in all shapes and sizes, you can do it.” But the most successful approach seems to be to trick them into it. “Don’t call it poetry. Call it talking on paper. You can even call it ‘Late for Dinner’ for all I care … just write.”  The truth is it doesn’t matter what you call it. The magic is that given a writing prompt, a little encouragement and twenty minutes, my students often come up with pieces of writing (okay, poems) that are more moving, thought-provoking, original and natural than half of what I read in literary journals. Then again, maybe the people who write for or edit literary poetry journals wouldn’t consider my students’ poems poetry at all. Well then, back to the original premise: Don’t call it poetry.  

Then again, if it makes you cry, think, laugh or reconsider, maybe it was.



When I leave the house each morning, I try not to say, “I’m going to work.” Instead I say something like, “I’m going to spread poetry to the masses.” That’s what I do for a living. I’m a poetry teacher at a school for teen mothers. My students call me The Poetry Lady. This blog will be about the poetry lessons I teach my students and the lessons poetry — and my students — teach me. 

I am also a poet and author in my own right. You can visit me at my web site.  Or, pick up a copy of my book about teaching poetry to teen moms.




All of the art on my blog is by Aja Riggs. She also designed my poetry chapbook, Dream House.It’s a handbound, limited edition book of poetry on the theme of home.  

3 thoughts on “About the Blog

  1. Dear Tzivia –
    Thanks for the wonderful blog. As both a poet and a teacher I can relate to your Five Ways To Look at a Poetry Class. Simultaneously frustrating and rewarding!
    Your explanation of the blog’s name also just inspired me to write a piece on why, as a poet, I would keep a photo-journal on Japan!

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