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Lesson: Violi

Paul Violi’s “Finish these Sentences”

Level: High School & College

Paul Violi’s “Finish these Sentences” provides a wonderful introduction to the ways in which readers are expected to interact with poetry. While the form of this poem holds little relation to a node poem’s spatiality, the overall concept of Violi’s piece provokes readers to engage in the creative process of completing the work. This is similar to reading a node poem, as the nodes ask the reader to navigate through a pre-set solution.

By assigning “Finish these Sentences,” and the subsequent activity, students become familiar with a poem that provokes a reader’s participation, without being concerned with the spatiality of a node poem. In addition, the assignment helps your students create pre-writing material for their own node work. For the most effective presentation, first present a more canonical work where the interaction is shrouded.

Task List

  1. Call on volunteers to read the poem aloud. If time is available, it is useful to read it two or three times.
  2. Distribute one worksheet to each student.
  3. Give students 15 minutes to answer Part One of the worksheet.
  4. Once students have completed the first part, have them share their answers with the class.
  5. After discussing Violi’s poem, tell your students to move on to Part Two. Give them 15-20 minutes to finish this section of the assignment.


Name:

Worksheet: “Finish these Sentences”

Part One

Silently read “Finish these Sentences,” clarifying any diction with which you may not be familiar. After researching unknown words or phrases, read the poem aloud. Once finished, answer the following questions:

  1. From the material in the poem, create a character sketch of the speaker. Who is this person? What does he or she do? What is his or her first thought in the morning?
  2. According to this speaker, why doesn’t it seem frivolous to “scoff / at questions like how many angels can dance on a pinhead?”

Part Two

As the title commands, complete the sentences in the poem on a separate piece of paper. Please use at least half the amount of syllables as the original sentence that you are completing.

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