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Create a Catalog Poem

Page history last edited by VRBurton 10 years, 7 months ago

Woman Workhttp://my.hrw.com/la/eolit05/nsmedia/icons/diamond.gifDaily



Skills Focus
Literary Skills: Analyze the characteristics of catalog poems

Writing Skills: Write a catalog poem.


Make the Connection


Make a list of the things that you do during an ordinary day. What is the first thing you do in the morning? What is the last thing you do before bed? What is your favorite part of the day? The following two poems tell about the things that people do every day. As you read, think about your list. How does it compare with the poems?

Literary Focus

Catalog Poem

You’ve probably seen the kind of catalogs that come from stores, filled with pictures of almost anything in the world you’d want to buy. Like those catalogs, a catalog poem brings together many different images and presents them for your attention. Unlike a retail catalog, though, a poem does not want you to part with your money; it wants you only to enter the poem and, with your imagination, share an experience with the speaker.

The repetition of images in a catalog poem creates a rolling rhythm when the poem is read aloud. Try reading the two poems that follow aloud, and see how the piling up of images creates the poems’ rhythmic beat.


The Grinder (1924) by Diego Rivera. Encaustic on canvas. Painting of woman making tortillas.


Woman Work by Maya Angelou

I've got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
Then the chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I've got shirts to press
The tots to dress
The cane to be cut
I gotta clean up this hut
Then see about the sick
And the cotton to pick.

Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.

Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
'Til I can rest again.

Fall gently, snowflakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.

Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You're all that I can call my own



Daily by Naomi Shihab Nye


These shriveled seeds we plant,
corn kernel, dried bean,
poke into loosened soil,
cover over with measured fingertips


These T-shirts we fold into
perfect white squares


These tortillas we slice and fry to crisp strips
This rich egg scrambled in a gray clay bowl


This bed whose covers I straighten
smoothing edges till blue quilt fits brown blanket
and nothing hangs out


This envelope I address
so the name balances like a cloud
in the center of sky


This page I type and retype
This table I dust till the scarred wood shines
This bundle of clothes I wash and hang and wash again
like flags we share, a country so close
no one needs to name it


The days are nouns:  touch them
The hands are churches that worship the world



Reading Check

1.              Name five activities listed by the speaker of “Woman Work.”

2.              Name five activities listed by the speaker of “Daily.”

Thinking Critically

3.              What does the catalog of images in “Woman Work” tell you about the life of the speaker? Where do you think she lives? What do you learn from the images in “Daily” about the life of its speaker?

4.              Both catalog poems list daily activities in a woman’s life, but the tone of each poem is different—the speakers express different attitudes toward their lives. How would you describe the tone of each poem? Is it complaining? bitter? angry? resigned? accepting? loving? joyful? Is it something else? Cite details from each poem to explain the tone you hear in it.

5.              Both of these poems were written by women about their daily work. If the poems had been written by men and were called “Man Work,” how might they be different?



My Day

Expand your notes for the Quickwrite into a catalog poem that lists the things you do every day. Choose images that make your day come alive for the reader. You might want to imitate the structure of one of the poems in the following ways:

              If you imitate “Woman Work,” begin with I’ve got… Then, list the things—such as “a bus to catch”—that you have to do.

              If you imitate “Daily,” begin each line with These/This… Write, for example, “This heavy backpack I carry…”

How do you feel about your daily work? Try to express that feeling.


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