National Writing Project

Poem: The Five-Paragraph Essay

By: Ray Skjelbred
Publication: The Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 1
Date: 2005

They thought abstract thinking had become too messy,
So they invented the five-paragraph essay.

Which gave the illusion of order and symmetry
But pushed each voice into anonymity.

Such formulaic steps could be charted on a graph,
that could serve as a writing process epitaph.

Sentences of particularity are the heart of writing.
That's why this form is worth fighting.

It's a strange frame, where words turn to dregs
In a crude little nest without any eggs.

About the Author Ray Skjelbred teaches middle school students at the Marin Country Day School in Corte Madera, California.

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