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20th Cenbacktury African American Poetry
Created by Michael Kerr

 

Prefatory Statement:
According to poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poetry is “The blossom and fragrance of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, and language.” I agree with his assessment, and I feel that there is no other example that best exemplifies his definition than the poetry from African American authors in the 20th century. During that time, African Americans were facing an immense struggle to be accepted in American society. To cope with their problems, some turned to the written word. African American poets wrote about poverty, alienation, following dreams, working hard, finding an identity, and survival. They also wrote poetry in ways that many others had not done before, creating their own forms, writing using their own speech patterns, and doing away with many of the grammar and punctuation rules that many writers before them had rigidly followed. 20th Century African American poetry is the ultimate example of how emotional, powerful, and important poetry can be and is a great genre to start off with when introducing poetry to a classroom.
This four-week unit will serve as both an introduction to poetry, in general, as well as an introduction to African American poetry specifically. Students will learn about the form, function, and characteristics of poetry through the writings of some of the prominent African American poets of the 20th century. Students will learn about the basic form, rhyme scheme, and other characteristics of poetry, as well as how to find the underlying themes within each poem. Also, students will learn how to write in their own voice and create poetry that is unlike poems they have seen before, much like the African American poets of the 20th century.
This unit will include three major activities. The first major assessment will be given on week one. This assessment is a short answer quiz designed to measure student knowledge about the basic characteristics of poetry being covered during the week (included in the "Handouts" section). The second assessment is a poetry book that students will be making between weeks 2-4. Students will create six different poems following the form and theme of some famous African-American poems from the past. During this three-week period, students will be learning about many vital aspects of poetry as well as how to focus their writing on a central theme and use their voice in writing as well. The third and final activity will be a Webquest called "The 20th Century African-American Poet Timeline." In this Webquest, students will be broken up into smaller groups focusing on a specific era. Within these small groups, students will research an author in that era and share their biography, their contributions to poetry, and how their poet's work fit into their era.
I believe this will be relevant to students because the themes discussed in the poetry are timeless and universal. Anyone and everyone can relate in some way to the problems faced by these writers, and I believe every student benefits from reading, hearing, and discussing these messages in the classroom.

Class Specification:
I would give this unit to students in any grade of high school in some sort of Creative Writing class. I would give this unit as the first unit of poetry study because so much of it is based on the introduction to poetry. While the upper-classmen in high school may already know about the basic forms and characteristics of poetry, it never hurts to be given a refresher.
Many portions of this unit can be changed to suit the audience. For example, this unit doesn’t have to be based specifically on African-American poets, writers from any culture can be included. Also, the poems in this unit can be swapped out. I realize some poems in this unit deal with sexual content and contain swear-words, so if a teacher does not think their students can handle that type of language, they can feel free to put in something more appropriate for their age and community—so long as the poem matches the themes the unit is trying to cover.

Significant Assumptions:
Teaching: It is the educator’s job to relate the content being taught in the classroom to the student’s lives, engage the classroom with different activities, and provide help when needed. In this sense, I believe that my job is more or less to act as a guide who directs student learning. This can be seen throughout the unit, through many classroom discussions, and even with the Unit Launch, where students create their own definition of poetry instead of being given a ready-made response from me. This unit launch gives students the opportunity to take ownership of the concept of poetry and will help them create work that they believe fits their definition of good poetry.
Learning: I believe that students work best through collaboration and social activity. In this unit, students will be given plenty of opportunity to work within small groups and partnerships to create their own poetry and discuss themes presented in the poetry being covered in class. Some of these themes can be pretty difficult to discuss, so I think that by working through them in small groups and presenting opinions as groups to the class, students will feel safer knowing their ideas won't be criticized and will be more likely to contribute.
Also, I believe that when given freedom to choose what they want to write and discuss, students will be more engaged with the unit and more eager to do the work. In this unit, students come up with their own definition of poetry, think of themes they would like to write about for their own poetry, and write poetry in any sort of style they want.
Prior Knowledge: This unit assumes that students know how to read and write at their grade level and have experienced or at least witnessed tough social issues in their lifetime

Desired Outcomes:
By the end of the unit, students will have learned:
• The basic structure and function of poetry
• How to recognize the theme of a work
• How to write their own poetry including a personal voice and theme
• The history of African-American poetry

This unit supports the following MN State Education Standards:
• 9.4.1.1/11.4.1.1
• 9.4.2.2
• 9.4.10.10/11.4.10.10
• 9.7.4.4
• 9.7.5.5
• 9.7.6.6
• 9.7.10.10
• 9.9.1.1
• 9.9.3.3
• 9.11.3.3
• 9.11.5.5

Possible Whole-Class Activities:
• "What Is Poetry?" Launch Activity
• Writing Exercises
• Song Lyric Show/Listen/Discuss
• Webquest

Possible Group Activities:
• Theme Discussions
• "What Is Poetry?" Launch Activity
• Webquest

Possible Individual Activities:
• Poetry Book
• Webquest

Student Resources:
• “Mother to Son” Langston Hughes
• “On Being Crazy” W.E.B DuBois
• “Lennox Avenue Mural” Langston Hughes
• “I Want to Write” Margaret Walker
• “That Crazy Woman” Gwendolyn Brooks
• “Slim Greer Went to Hell” Sterling Brown
• “Black Baby” Anita Scott Coleman
• “Where Have You Gone?” Mari Evans
• “Is Truth Liberating?” Haki R. Madhubuti
• “I Said to Poetry” Alice Walker
• “We Real Cool” Gwendolyn Brooks
• “Still I Rise” Maya Angelou
• “Homage to my Hips” Lucille Clifton Read
• “Conjugal Visits” Al Young
• “beware: do not read this poem” Ishmael Reed
• “When ure Heart Turns Cold” Tupac Shakur
• “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” Tupac Shakur
• “Please Don’t Take My Air Jordans” Reg E. Gaines

Unit Launch:
To start the lesson, on the board will be the question “What is Poetry?” I will pose this question to students, and I will ask volunteers to come up to the board and write a word or phrase of what poetry is to them. Once the board is full of definitions, we will keep our ideas of poetry around and use them as a basis for how we discuss poetry through the rest of the unit. After that activity, I will break the students up into smaller groups, each with a large piece of paper, and they will write what poetry looks like, sounds like, and feels like, then draw a picture of what poetry represents to them. This activity will engage their senses and allow them to draw connections to these feelings later on. After that, I will hand out the “Tips for Enjoying Poetry” which we will go over as a class. After reading the handout, we will explore two poems as a class using "Tips for Enjoying Poetry" as our guide: “I Want to Write” by Margaret Walker and “I Said to Poetry” by Alice Walker. I believe these poems serve as a great introduction to poetry for the students because they talk about the excitement of writing and also the anxiety to write poetry, something I’m sure most students can relate to.

Organization of Unit:
Week 1 Poems: Black Baby, I Said to Poetry, I Want to Write, When Ure Heart Turns Cold, The Rose that Grew From Concrete, Please Don’t Take My Jordans, Homage to My Hips, Still I Rise, Harlem

Week 1 Goals:
• Find a personal definition for poetry
• Understand where African-American Poetry came from and where it's going
• Understand/Identify/Create the basic elements of poetry

Day 1: What is Poetry? Classroom Discussion.
Small Group Discussion: Poetry and the senses
• Read “I Want to Write” and “I Said To Poetry”
Pass out “Enjoying Poetry” handout, discuss
1. "What is Poetry?"
2. "What does poetry look like?"
3. "What does poetry sound like?"
4. "What does poetry feel like?"

Day 2: African American Poets in the 20th Century (Presentation)
• Harlem Renaissance
Read "Harlem" by Langston Hughes
• Civil Rights Movement
• Black Arts Movement
Read "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou
• Hip/Hop Revolution
Discussion of Movements taking place today

Day 3: Elements/Forms of Poetry
• Stanza
• Meter
• Metaphors/Similies
• Image
Poems for the day: "Black Baby" and "Homage to my Hips"
Class activities for the day include writing activities on Metaphors, Similies, and Image found at http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/virtualit/poetry/elements.html

Day 4: Elements/Forms of Poetry
• Alliteration
• Assonance
• Rhyme
• Tone
Class activities for the day are the writing activities on Alliteration, Assonance, Rhyme, and Tone found at http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/virtualit/poetry/elements.html

Day 5: Poetry as a Vocal art form
Discuss Rap/Hip-Hop/Slam! Poetry
Show videos of some Slam poetry performances
Read/Discuss “Please Don’t Take My Jordans”/ “The Rose That Grew From Concrete”/ “When ure heart turns cold”
Quiz on Poetry Form (Found in Handouts Section) on Monday

Week 2 Poems: Mother To Son, The Crazy Woman, Slim Greer Went To Hell, Conjugal Visits, On Being Crazy, We Real Cool, Is Truth Liberating, Beware, Where Have You Gone

Week 2 Goals:
• Understand Poetry Form
• Recognize themes in poetry
• Learning to write in one's own voice
• Begin Writing Drafts for Poetry Book

Day 1: Quiz On Poetry Form/Finding a Voice
• Defining Voice Activity found on http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/poets-voice-langston-hughes-and-you#sect-activities
• Poems Read for Today: "Conjugal Visits" "Beware" "Is Truth Liberating"

Day 2: Finding a Voice in Poetry
• Poems Read for Today: "Slim Greer Went to Hell"
• Learning how to write dialect
• Begin Writing first draft of poems

Day 3: Finding a Voice in Poetry/Overcoming Adversity
• Poems Read for Today: "Mother to Son"
• Activity 5 found on http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/poets-voice-langston-hughes-and-you#sect-activities
• Writing First Drafts

Day 4: Themes
• Alienation
• Self-Perception
Activity for today can be found on http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/poets-voice-langston-hughes-and-you#sect-activities Activity 3
• Poems being read for today: "The Crazy Woman", "On Being Crazy", and "We Real Cool"

Day 5: Themes
• Following a Dream
Activity for this can be found on http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/poets-voice-langston-hughes-and-you Activity 2
• Poems read for today: "Harlem", "Dreams", and "Dream Variations"
• Writing First Drafts

Week 3: Work Week
Students will use this week either in the classroom or computer lab to complete their poetry. Throughout the course of week two, students had an opportunity to think of themes, forms, and ideas for their poetry, as well as writing their first drafts. This week, students are working to complete their ideas. Students will be given full access to their peers, illustrating tools, and computers to help them complete the task. The job for the teacher this week is to make sure all of the students stay on track and continue to progress toward their completed book collection. Due date for the books will be the following Monday, which will give students plenty of time to finish work at home they may have been unable to complete in class.

Week 4:
For the first three days of this week, students will be given the opportunity to finish their poetry books. By Wednesday poetry books should be completely finished and ready to be handed in. For the rest of the week, students will work on the "Timeline" webquest. During this webquest, students will be researching apoet from their small groups' time period. Their research will include the poet's biography, a few of their famous works, and their contribution to both poetry and the era they wrote in. At the end of the project, students will include the information about their author with the other authors of their era and their group will put this information on the timeline to be displayed in front of the whole school.

Two Days of Unit:
Week 1 Day 1
Lesson Topic: "What Is Poetry?"
Length of lesson: 50 Minutes

Stage 1 – Desired Results
Content Standard(s):
Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

Understanding (s)/goals:
Students will understand:
• What poetry means to them
• How to approach poetry as a reader
Essential Question(s):
• What is poetry?
• What does poetry look like?
• What does poetry sound like?
• What does poetry feel like?
Student objectives (outcomes):
Students will be able to define what poetry means to them
Students will be able to describe what poetry looks/feels/sounds like
Students will be able to differentiate poetry reading from other reading

Stage 2 – Assessment Evidence
Performance Task(s):
• "What is Poetry" Fill-in contributions
• Small group discussion- What does poetry sound/feel/look like?
• Shared reading of "Tips" handout

 

Other Evidence:
• Classroom Discussion
• Group Participation
• Journal Writing
• Exit slip assessment of Student Objectives above
Stage 3 – Learning Plan
Learning Activities:

Materials Required:
Writing Utensil
Journal
Markers
Poster-sized paper

50 Minute Lesson Plan:

10 Minutes: To start the lesson, the question "What is Poetry?" will be written on the board. Students will be asked to come up to the board to write what they believe poetry is. After enough answers are compiled, class will discuss the answers put up on the board, the logic behind them, and how they go together to make a collective definition of poetry.

30 Minutes: Students will be divided into groups of four. Each group should have a poster and markers at their table, and each student in the group should have their notebooks with them. Before any group discussion goes underway, students will be asked to write for five minutes about what poetry means to them, their experiences with poetry, and anything else they associate with poetry. This writing will be helpful when students attempt to answer the questions "What does poetry look like?" "What does poetry feel like?' and "What does poetry sound like?" After five minutes, ask the students to come together to discuss what they wrote, then ask the students to answer the three main questions on their poster board. For the question "what does poetry look like?" groups should have a picture representation of what poetry means to them. Allow about 20 minutes of work time, the final five minutes will be for student presentations.

10 Minutes: Pass out "Tips for Enjoying Poetry". Have 7 students in mind who are willing readers and ask them to read the seven points on the sheet. Stress how important these points are and how much benefit students will get from their poetry reading if they approach it with the mindset given by the sheet. Finally, conclude with a reading of "I Said to Poetry" and "I Want to Write". These two poems will both set the table for writing poetry and the subject of 20th Century African American authors for the coming weeks.

 

Stage 1 – Desired Results
Content Standard(s):
9.4.2.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

Understanding (s)/goals
Students will understand:
• That their experiences shape their writing
• Everyone has some obstacle they must overcome Essential Question(s):
• What obstacles have you overcome in life?
• How do life experiences affect our writing?
• What can we learn from people who have been there before?
Student objectives (outcomes):
• Students will be able to express their experiences in writing
• Students will be able to connect the images of life in "Mother to Son" to what life is
• Students will be able to distinguish between voice and speaker
Stage 2 – Assessment Evidence
Performance Task(s):
• Journal Entry
• Classroom Discussion Other Evidence:
• Exit slip at the end of the activity

Stage 3 – Learning Plan
Learning Activities:

10 Minutes: Read aloud the poem "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes. After reading the poem, share with the class a few letters from readers talking about the effect this poem has had on their lives.

10 Minutes: Students are given individual writing time to write about their reactions to the poem. During this writing period, I also want them reflecting on the voice used in the poem, the feelings the speaker had, and how they knew the speaker felt that way.

10 Minutes: Read a few more poems that include a unique voice- "Slim Greer Went to Hell" by Sterling Brown. What techniques did the author use to distinguish the speakers voice from the other aspects from the poem?

20 Minutes: Writing activity where students write in their own distinct voice. Will be exploring different uses of punctuation and spelling to create unique words that match student voice.

Week 2 Day 3
Supporting Materials:
http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/virtualit/poetry/elements.html
http://www.hsj.org/modules/lesson_plans/detail.cfm?LessonPlanId=393
http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/poets-voice-langston-hughes-and-you
Resources for poetry:
• “Mother to Son” Langston Hughes
http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/matoson.html
• “On Being Crazy” W.E.B DuBois
https://www.msu.edu/user/rooneyer/DUBOIS.htm
• “Lennox Avenue Mural” Langston Hughes
http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/zinn17explo.html
• “I Want to Write” Margaret Walker
http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/s_z/walker/onlinepoems.htm
• “That Crazy Woman” Gwendolyn Brooks
http://poemhunter.com/poem/the-crazy-woman/
• “Slim Greer Went to Hell” Sterling Brown
http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15488
• “Black Baby” Anita Scott Coleman
http://allpoetry.com/poem/8617187-Black_baby_-by-Anita_Scott_Coleman
• “Where Have You Gone?” Mari Evans
http://poefrika.blogspot.com/2007/02/where-have-you-gone-by-mari-evans.html
• “Is Truth Liberating?” Haki R. Madhubuti
http://www.nsm.buffalo.edu/~sww/madhubuti-lee/madhubuti_lee2.html
• “I Said to Poetry” Alice Walker
http://www.ctadams.com/alicewalker7.html
• “We Real Cool” Gwendolyn Brooks
http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15433
• “Still I Rise” Maya Angelou
http://poemhunter.com/poem/still-i-rise/
• “Homage to my Hips” Lucille Clifton Read
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/179615
• “Conjugal Visits” Al Young
http://www.thenewpolitics.com/2005/08/al_young_califo.html
• “beware: do not read this poem” Ishmael Reed
http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/poetry/beware.html
• “When ure Heart Turns Cold” Tupac Shakur
http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/When-Ure-Heart-Turns-Cold-lyrics-2Pac/23DD0EB029535BEB482570DA000C4BB8
• “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” Tupac Shakur
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-rose-that-grew-from-concrete-2/
• “Please Don’t Take My Air Jordans” Reg E. Gaines
http://englischlehrer.de/school/literaturliste-sek-II/gaines.php

Assessment Task:
There will be three assessment tasks in this unit: the first will take place at the end of week one and the second will come at the end of week three, the last day of the unit. During the first week, we will be covering the basic structures and functions of poetry. On the final day of the week, students will be given a small quiz on this terminology as well as identifying these terms in a poem itself. The first portion of the test will be a combination of fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions concerning the definition of specific terms. The second portion will include the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. Students will be given a list of terms and asked to identify these terms within the context of the poem. Finally, as an extra-point question, students will be asked to describe what poetry means to them. I believe this first form of assessment is relevant because over the course of the next two weeks, students will be writing their own poetry, which means these terms and their own definition of poetry will come in handy during the creation process.
The second form of assessment comes as a poetry booklet. In this collection, students will include five poems, one of which will be presented orally to the class. The students will have the ability to choose what form, voice, and themes are included in the poetry, but they must fulfill the criteria of the checklist (included below). This assessment will be a summative assessment of all we have learned in this unit because students will be writing their own poetry based on the knowledge gained over the course of these three weeks. To assess these poems, I’m not necessarily looking at the content so much as I’m looking at mastery of the basic aspects of poetry, the ability to write in one’s own voice, and the use of themes in the writing as well.
The third form of assessment will be a webquest about African-American authors. This will take the form of a timeline on which every member of the class will contribute. Each student will be assigned a time period of African-American poetry and an author within that period. Students will research their author and then contribute their findings to a timeline collage which other students in the class will add to as well. At the end, the collage should have entries from all students and will represent the rich history of African-American poets. This timeline will be displayed outside the classroom so that everyone in school can see the work done by the students.

Grades: Students will be graded based on the test given at the end of week one and the collection of poetry given at the end of week three. The criteria for these two pieces of assessment are if the student gained the knowledge about the basic forms of poetry and are able to reproduce it themselves. Students can use the results of these two assessments to determine whether or not they know about the basic workings of poetry.
The quiz coming at the beginning of the unit will be worth 20 points, the project in the middle will be worth 100 points, and the contribution to the timeline will be worth 50 points. Since the quiz is only testing basic knowledge, I am going to make it worth the least amount. The poetry book is the most important project in this unit, so I am making it worth 100 because it is engaging many aspects of student knowledge and a wide range of skills. I am making the Timeline project worth 50 points for two reasons. The first is that I believe it is important for students to learn as much as they can about the history of African-American poetry. The second reason is that i believe student participation in this project is very important. I would hate for an important author to be left off the timeline simply because a student refused to do the project. The fifty points will give students an incentive to contribute to this project and will allow for a complete timeline.

Handouts
Tips for the Enjoyment of Poetry 

by Robert G. Shubinski

1. Read it aloud

2. Be receptive 

3. Read carefully 

4. Follow the leader 

5. Read it over again

6. Forget the technical aspects

7. Consider it as a whole
1. Read it aloud Poetry is word-music, an art which paints pictures with words and sounds. Since the sounds greatly increase the effect of the words, poems must be read aloud to provide your fullest enjoyment. Silent reading just won't do poetry justice--it's like trying to enjoy a concert by reading the score. Reading aloud enables the poem to reproduce the music of rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and harmony to enhance the emotional colors of the words. Make your first reading a silent one, if you like, to get a "feel" for the content--but you should read aloud to experience the full potential of poetry.
2. Be receptive Read poetry with an open mind. Try to match your mood to the tone of the content. Be receptive to the word music of the poet--let him speak through you, as if the words were your own. This positive approach will allow the poem an opportunity to awaken a satisfying emotional response. Unless you're willing to have your feelings aroused the way good poetry can stir them, wait until a better time. Should the poem still fail to "deliver" after your best receptive effort, you needn't feel a sense of inadequacy--just as we differ in musical tastes or sense of humor, we each have our own unique artistic criteria for the appreciation of poetry. You cannot expect to like every poem, because no-one does. Look for and enjoy poetry that does something special for you, but you must be in a receptive frame of mind to allow it the opportunity.
3. Read Carefully Relax, slow down; there's no rush. Read with understanding, rather than speed. Speak the words crisply, with good diction, especially the beginning consonants. Don't read with monotony or lack of inflection. Words and phrases can flow like a sparkling stream or be jarring--let them do it their way. As you read the lines, feel their excitement, their joy, their sadness; sense their look, smell and taste. Only by reading carefully will you experience an emotional response to the word sounds and images by which the poet transfers his sense impressions to you.
4. Follow the Leader Pretend you're dancing with the poem and following its lead. Slow down or stop where the punctuation indicates. Hesitate ever so slightly at run-on line endings and pause between stanzas. Don't impose a mechanical "tee-dum tee-dum" meter in your reading--let the words of the poem provide the rhythm and the meter will fend nicely for itself. Enjoy the poetic music as you dance, as well as the visual aspect of a poem's layout on the page, which often represents a careful preparation by the poet to complement the texture of his work.
5. Read it over again Very often we are unable to fully appreciate a poetic work on the first reading. Maybe a distracted mood was interfering with our receptive antennae. Perhaps there are elusive undertones or subtleties not initially perceived which could make a world of difference in our response to subsequent readings. The incremental appreciation of art and music--of which poetry is both--is dependent on repetition. What may not have impressed us at all on first exposure may become a beloved favorite if repeated. So if a poem failed to "grab" you the first time, give it another chance. Read it over again.
6. Forget the technical aspects Don't be overly concerned with the technical aspects of poetic construction. It's not vital to understand the metrical variations. The definitions of esoteric terminology are no more necessary for pleasurable reading than to be a connoisseur of vintages in order to enjoy a glass of wine. The only thing that matters is whether or not you like the poem; you don't have to analyze it--let the English professors do that. On the other hand, if you feel such additional knowledge will enhance your pleasure, by all means, pursue it.
7. Consider it as a whole There is truth in the saying that a poem is only as good as its weakest line. A well-written piece of poetry--meaning one which is successful in imparting effective word images and sounds to the reader--results from the unity of its segments with the whole, whether it be a simple sonnet or a sweeping epic. We all like to remember and quote favorite lines which have a memorable meaning or beauty of expression. Other lines, words and phrases, however, which have little apparent significance by themselves, can be integral components in the context of their relationship to the rest of the poem, The obvious conclusion is that the ultimate worthiness of a poetic composition is dependent upon the contributions made by each word and every line to the complete work. Therefore, don't fragmentize the poem in your reading, but evaluate and enjoy it as a whole.

Poetry Book Project
This unit we have been studying the works of famous African-American poets from the 20th century. Over the past few weeks we have discussed the major influences African-Americans have had on poetry, their unique voices, styles, themes, and form have revolutionized the genre for the better, and now, I’m asking you to bring your own original works to the open. You will be creating a poetry book that consists of the following:
Checklist
• Cover Page
Title, Name of Creator, Illustration or Picture
• Table of Contents
• 5 poems
1. Each of these poems must relate to a different theme we have discussed in class: Social Commentary, Following Dreams, Self-Perception, Overcoming Adversity, and Lineage. You may write in any form or style you want, but remember to keep it consistent (example: if numbers are used in your poem to represent words, as in Tupac’s “When ure heart turns cold” make sure to have the number represent the word throughout) If you have other themes you wish to cover, by all means go for it, but please meet with me to discuss your ideas before getting too far ahead.
2. One of these poems must contain a speaker (or multiple speakers) who use their own distinct dialect in the poem. For help with this process, refer to the “Writing in Your Own Voice” exercise or the poem “Slim Greer Went to Hell” by Sterling Brown. This may be the toughest portion of the assignment, so feel free to come to me with any concerns, I will be happy to lend some of my own ideas as well.
3. Though you are tied to a certain theme, I want the content of the poem to reflect you and your own unique experiences. Refer back to the notes we have taken and exercises we have done throughout the unit to refresh your memory on possible topics you may want to write about.

• 1 oral presentation
As we have discussed in this unit, African American poetry has become more of a spoken art than a written one. To conclude your assignment, you will select one of your five poems to be presented orally to your classmates.

Scoring Guide

Cover Page: Includes name of author, title, and illustration or picture that represents the works in the book (10 points) ______________________

Table of Contents: Pages are consistent with page numbers of the poems, neatly organized (10 points) ______________________________________

Poems: At least five poems are in book (10 points)

Themes: Themes of poems were based off of the themes discussed in class or with teacher. Themes were also related in some way to author’s own experiences. (25 points) _______________________________________________________

Voice: One poem included one or more speakers talking in their own unique dialect. Poems also a reflection of author’s own unique voice and perspective (25 points)

Presentation: Author selected one poem to present to the class. (10 points) _______________________________________

Use of Poetic Elements: Author used many different poetic elements (i.e. metaphors, similes, assonance, alliteration etc.) in their poetry (10 points) ________________________________________

Total: ____________/100 points

Poetry Form Quiz
Part 1
Below are some terms and definitions associated with poetry. Correctly define each term or provide the accurate description of each term. 1 point each.

1. What is a stanza?
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

2. What is the difference between assonance and dissonance?
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3. What is the difference between a metaphor and a simile?
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

4. What is meter?
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

5. What is the difference between denotation and connotation?
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

6. What is an allegory?
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

7. What is the purpose of a symbol in poetry?
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

8. What is Irony?
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

9. Name the three types of Irony
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

10. Write one metaphor and one simile
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Part 2
Here is the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. Read through this poem, and after reading, identify the elements of poetry listed below.

Still I Rise 
by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history 

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt 

But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?

'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high, 

Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 

Bowed head and lowered eyes? 

Shoulders falling down like teardrops. 

Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don't you take it awful hard 

'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines

Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words, 

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise 

That I dance like I've got diamonds 

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

1. What phrase is reiterated throughout this poem? What is the significance of the author repeating this phrase?
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2. Write down an example of a simile used in the poem.
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3. Write down an example of a metaphor used in this poem.
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4. Give an example of a rhyme in this poem.
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5. Who is the speaker of this poem?
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Bonus Question: What does the speaker symbolize in this poem?
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List of Poems
I Want to Write

by Margaret Walker
I want to write

I want to write the songs of my people.

I want to hear them singing melodies in the dark.

I want to catch the last floating strains from their sob-torn throats.

I want to frame their dreams into words; their souls into notes.

I want to catch their sunshine laughter in a bowl; 

fling dark hands to a darker sky 

and fill them full of stars 

then crush and mix such lights till they become 

a mirrored pool of brilliance in the dawn.

MOTHER TO SON

by Langston Hughes
Well, son, I'll tell you:

Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

It's had tacks in it, 

And splinters, 

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor

- - - Bare.

But all the time

I'se been a - climbin' on

And reachin' landin's,

And turnin' corners, 

And sometimes goin' in the dark

Where there ain't been no light.

So boy, don't you turn back. 

Don't you set down on the steps

'Cause you find it's kinder hard. 

Don't you fall now - - -

For I'se still goin' honey,

I'se still climbin', 

And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

The Crazy Woman

by Gwendolyn Brooks


I shall not sing a May song.

A May song should be gay. 

I'll wait until November 

And sing a song of gray.

I'll wait until November 

That is the time for me. 

I'll go out in the frosty dark

And sing most terribly.

And all the little people

Will stare at me and say,

"That is the Crazy Woman 

Who would not sing in May."

Slim Greer went to Hell
by Sterling Brown
I
Slim Greer went to heaven;

St. Peter said,

"Slim, You been a right good boy." 

An' he winked at him.

"You been travelin' rascal

In yo'day. 

You kin roam once mo';

Den you come to stay.

"Put dese wings on yo' shoulders, 

An' save yo' feet."

Slim grin, and he speak up,

"Thankye, Pete."

Den Peter say,

"Go To Hell an' see,

All dat is doing, and

Report to me.

"Be sure to remember 

How everything go." Slim say,

"I be seein' yuh 

On de late watch, b
o."

Slim got to cavortin'

Swell as you choose, 

Like Lindy in de Spirit

Of St. Louis Blues.

He flew an' he flew, 

Till at last he hit 

A hangar wid de sign readin'

DIS IS IT.

Den he parked his wings, 

An' strolled aroun',

Gittin' used to his feet

On de solid ground.
II

Big bloodhound came aroarin'

Like Niagry Falls,

Sicked on by white devils 

In overhalls.

Now Slim warn't scared 

Cross my heart, it's a fac', 

An de dog went on a bayin'

Some po' devil's track.

Den Slim saw a mansion 

An' walked right in;

De Devil looked up 

Wid a sickly grin.

"Suttingly didn't look

Fo' you, Mr. Greer, 

How it happens you comes 

To visit here?"

Slim say---

"Oh, jes' thought I'd drop by a spell."

"Feel at home, seh, an' here's

De keys to hell."

Den he took Slim around

An' showed him people

Rasin' hell as high as 

De first Church Steeple.

Lots of folks fightin' 

At de roulette wheel,

Like old Rampart Street,

Or leastwise Beale.

Showed him bawdy houses

An' cabarets, 

Slim thought of New Orleans

An' Memphis days.

Each devil was busy

Wid a devlish broad, 

An' Slim cried,

"Lawdy, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd."

Took him in a room

Where Slim see

De preacher wid a brownskin

On each knee.

Showed him giant stills, 

Going everywhere, 

Wid a passel of devils 

Stretched dead drunk there.

Den he took him to de furnace

Dat some devils was firing,

Hot as Hell, an' Slim start

A mean presspirin'.

White devils with pitchforks

Threw black devils on, 

Slim thought he'd better

Be gittin' along.

An' he says---

"Dis makes Me think of home---

Vicksburg, Little Rock, Jackson, 

Waco and Rome."

Den de devil gave Slim

De big Ha-Ha;

An' turned into a cracker, 

Wid a sheriff's star.

Slim ran fo' his wings,

Lit out from de groun' 

Hauled it back to St. Peter, 

Safety boun'.
III

St. Peter said, 

"Well, You got back quick. 

How's de devil?

An' what's His latest trick?"

An' Slim Say, 

"Peter, I really cain't tell, 

The place was Dixie

That I took for hell."

Then Peter say, "you must 

Be crazy, I vow,

Where'n hell dja think

Hell was, Anyhow?

"Git on back to de yearth,

Cause I got de fear,

You'se a leetle too dumb,

Fo' to stay up here. . ."

Black Baby

by Anita Scott Coleman
The baby I hold in my arms is a black baby.

Today I set him in the sun and 

Sunbeams danced on his head.

The baby I hold in my arms is a black baby.

I toil, and I cannot always cuddle him.

I place him on the ground at my feet.

He presses the warm earth with his hands,

He lifts the sand and laughs to see

It flow through his chubby fingers.

I watch to discern which are his hands,

Which is the sand. . . . 

Lo . . . the rich loam is black like his hands.

The baby I hold in my arms is a black baby. 

Today the coal-man brought me coal. 

Sixteen dollars a ton is the price I pay for coal.—

Costly fuel . . . though they say:

-- If it is buried deep enough and lies hidden long enough

'Twill be no longer coal but diamonds. . . . 

My black baby looks at me. 

His eyes are like coals, 

They shine like diamonds.

On Being Crazy 
by WEB Du Bois
It was one o'clock and I was hungry. I walked into a restaurant, seated myself, and reached for the bill of fare. My table companions roles. 
"Sir," said he, "do you wish to force your company on those who do not want you?" No, said I, I wish to eat. "Are you aware, sir, that this is social equality?" Nothing of the sort, sir, it is hunger, and I ate. 



The day's work done, I sought the theatre. As I sank into my seat, the lady shrank and squirmed. I beg pardon, I said. "Do you enjoy being where you are not wanted?" she asked coldly. Oh, no, I said. "Well, you are not wanted here" I was surprised. I fear you are mistaken, I said, I certainly want the music, and I like to think the music wants me to listen to it. "Usher," said the lady, "this is social equality." "No madame," said the usher, "this is the second movement of Beethoven's fifth symphony." 



After the theatre, I sought the hotel where I had sent my baggage. The clerk scowled. "What do you want?" Rest, I said. "This is a white hotel," he said. I looked around. Such a color scheme requires a great deal of cleaning, I said, but I don't know that I object. "We object," he said. Then why, I began, but he interrupted. "We don't keep niggers," he said, "we don't want social equality." Neither do I, I replied gently, I want a bed. 



I walked thoughtfully to the train. I'll take a sleeper through Texas. I'm a little bit dissatisfied with this town. "Can't sell you one." I only want to hire it, said I, for a couple of nights. "Can't sell you a sleeper in Texas," he maintained. "They consider that social equality." I call it barbarism, I said, and I think I'll walk. 



Walking, I met another wayfarer, who immediately walked to the other side of the road, where it was muddy. I asked his reason. "Niggers are dirty," he said. So is the mud, said I. Moreover, I am not as dirty as you -- yet. "But you're a nigger, ain't you?" he asked. My grandfather was so called. "Well then!" he answered triumphantly. Do you live in the South? I persisted pleasantly. "Sure," he growled, "and starve there." I think you and the Negroes should get together and vote out starvation. "We don't let them vote." We? Why not? I said in surprise. "Niggers are too ignorant to vote." But, I said, I am not so ignorant as you. "But you're a nigger." Yes, I'm certainly what you mean by that. "Well then!" he returned, with that curiously inconsequential not of triumph. "Moreover," he said, "I do not want my sister to marry a nigger." I had not even seen his sister, so I merely murmured, let her say no. "By God, you shan't marry her, even if she said yes." But--but I don't want to marry her, I answered, a little perturbed at the personal turn. "Why not!" he yelled, angrier than ever. Because I am already married and I rather like my wife. "Is she a nigger?" he asked suspiciously. Well, I said again, her grandmother was called that. "Well, then!" he shouted in that oddly illogical way. I gave up. Go on, I said, either you are crazy or I am. "We both are, " he said as he trotted along in the mud.

“Harlem” by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Where Have You Gone Mari Evans

Where have you gone

with your confident

walk with 

your crooked smile

why did you leave

me

when you took your

laughter

and departed

are you aware that

with you

went the sun

all light 

and what few stars 

there were?

where have you gone 

with your confident

walk your

crooked smile the

rent money

in one pocket and 

my heart 

in another . . .

IS TRUTH LIBERATING? By Haki Madhubuti
if it is truth that binds

why are there

so many lies between

lovers?

if it is truth that is liberating

why

are people told:

they look good when they don't

they are loved when they aren't

everything is fine when it ain't

glad you're back when you're not.

Black people in america

may not be made for the truth

we wrap our lives in disco

and sunday sermons

while

selling false dreams to our children.

Lies

are refundable,

can be bought on our revolving

charge cards as

we all catch truth

on the next go round

if

it doesn't hurt.

I Said to Poetry 
by Alice Walker
I said to Poetry:"I'm finished 

with you." 

Having to almost die

before some wierd light

comes creeping through

is no fun. 

"No thank you, Creation,

no muse need apply.

Im out for good times--

at the very least, 

some painless convention."

Poetry laid back

and played dead 

until this morning. 

I wasn't sad or anything,

only restless.

Poetry said: "You remember 
the desert,
and how glad you were

that you have an eye

to see it with? You remember

that, if ever so slightly?"

I said: "I didn't hear that. Besides, it's five o'clock in the a.m.

I'm not getting up

in the dark to talk to you."

Poetry said: "But think about the time

you saw the moon
over that small canyon

that you liked so much better

than the grand one—
and how suprised you were 

that the moonlight was green

and you still had

one good eye

to see it with
Think of that!"

"I'll join the church!" I said,

huffily, turning my face to the wall.

"I'll learn how to pray again!"

"Let me ask you," said Poetry.

"When you pray, what do you think 

you'll see?"

Poetry had me.

"There's no paper

in this room,"
I said.
"
And that new pen I bought

makes a funny noise."

"Bullshit," said Poetry. 

"Bullshit," said I.

We Real Cool 
by Gwendolyn Brooks
The Pool Player.

Seven at the Golden Shovel.

We real cool. We

Left school. We

Lurk late. We

Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We

Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We

Die soon.

Still I Rise 
by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history 

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt 

But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?

'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,

Just like hopes springing high, 

Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken? 

Bowed head and lowered eyes? 

Shoulders falling down like teardrops. 

Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don't you take it awful hard 

'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines

Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words, 

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise 

That I dance like I've got diamonds 

At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame I rise

Up from a past that's rooted in pain I rise

I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

Homage to My Hips 
by Lucille Clifton Read
these hips are big hips. 

they need space to move around in. 

they don't fit into little petty places.

these hips are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.

these hips have never been enslaved,

they go where they want to go

they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.

these hips are magic hips.

i have known them to put a spell 
on a man and spin him like a top!

CONJUGAL VISITS 
by Al Young
By noon we'll be deep into it --
up reading out loud in bed. 

Or in between our making love

I'll paint my toenails red.
Reece say he got to change 
his name from Maurice to Malik. 

He think I need to change mine too. 

Conversion, so to speak.

"I ain't no Muslim yet," I say.

"Besides, I like my name. 
Kamisha still sounds good to me. 

I'll let you play that game."
"I'd rather play with you," he say,

"than trip back to the Sixties."

"The Sixties, eh?" I'm on his case. 
"Then I won't do my striptease."

This brother look at me and laugh; 

he know I love him bad and,

worse, he know exactly how much

loving I ain't had.
He grab me by my puffed up waist 
and pull me to him close.

He say, "I want you in my face. 
Or on my face, Miss Toes."

What can I say? I'd lie for Reece, 
but I'm not quitting school.

Four mouths to feed, not counting mine.

Let Urban Studies rule!
I met him in the want ads, 
we fell in love by mail.

I say, when people bring this up, 

"Wasn't no one up for sale."

All these Black men crammed up in jail,

all this I.Q. on ice, 

while governments, bank presidents, 
the Mafia don't think twice.
They fly in dope and make real sure 
they hands stay nice and clean.

The chump-change Reece made on the street -- 
what's that supposed to mean?
"For what it cost the State

to keep you locked down, clothed and fed,

you could be learning Harvard stuff,

and brilliant skills," I said.
Reece say, "Just kiss me one more time, 
then let's get down, make love.

Then let's devour that special meal 
I wish they'd serve more of."

They say the third time out's a charm;

I kinda think they're right. 
My first, he was the Ace of Swords,

which didn't make him no knight.
He gave me Zeus and Brittany; 
my second left me twins.

This third one ain't about no luck; 
we're honeymooners. Friends.

I go see Maurice once a month

while Moms looks after things.

We be so glad to touch again, 
I dance, he grins, he sings.
When I get back home to my kids, 
schoolwork, The Copy Shop,

ain't no way Reece can mess with me.

They got his ass locked up.

beware : do not read this poem 
by Ishmael Reed
tonite, thriller was 

abt an ol woman, so vain she

surrounded herself w /

many mirrors

it got so bad that finally she

locked herself indoors & her

whole life became the

mirrors

one day the villagers broke 

into her house ,
but she was
 too swift for them . she disappeared

into a mirror

each tenant who bought the house

after that , lost a loved one to

the ol woman in the mirror :

first a little girl

then a young woman

then the young woman/s husband

the hunger of this poem is legendary

it has taken in many victims

back off from this poem

it has drawn in yr feet

back off from this poem

it has drawn in yr legs

back off from this poem

it is a greedy mirror
y
ou are into this poem . from

the waist down 
nobody can hear you can they ?

this poem has had you up to here 

belch

this poem aint got no manners

you cant call out frm this poem

relax now & go w / this poem

move & roll on to this poem

do not resist this poem

this poem has yr eyes

this poem has his head

this poem has his arms

this poem has his fingers

this poem has his fingertips

this poem is the reader & the

reader this poem

statistic : the us bureau of missing persons re- 
ports that in 1968 over 100,000 people 
disappeared leaving no solid clues 
nor trace only 
a space in the lives of their friends

“When ure heart turns cold” by Tupac Shakur
When your heart turns cold
it causes your soul 2 freeze
It spreads throughout your spirit
like a ruthless feeling disease
The walls that once were down
now stand firm and tall
Safe from hate/love, pain/joy
until u feel nothing at all
When ure heart turns cold
a baby's cry means nothing
A dead corpse is trivial
Mothers neglecting children is daily
Loneliness becomes your routine friend
Death seems like tranquility
Sleeping is never pleasant
if u even sleep at all
u forget ideals and turn off the reason
2 make sure the products get sold
You don't understand how I behave
Just wait till your heart turns Cold!

“The Rose That Grew From Concrete” by Tupac Shakur
Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature's law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping it's dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

Please don't take my air jordans
by reg e. gaines
my air jordans cost a hundred with tax
my suede starters jacket says raiders on the back
I’m stylin…smilin… lookin real mean cuz
it ain’t about bein heard just bein seen

my leather adidas baseball cap
matches my fake gucci backback
there’s nobody out there looks good as me
but the gear costs money it sure ain’t free
and I gots no job no money at all
but it’s easy to steal fresh gear from the mall
parents say I shouldn’t but I know I should
gota ta do what I can to make sure I look good

and the reason I have to look real fly
well to tell ya the truth man I don’t know why
I guess it makes me feel special inside
when I’m wearing fresh gear I don’t have to hide

but I really must get some new gear soon
or my ego will pop like a ten cent balloon
but security’s tight at all the shops
everyday there are more and more cops

my crew’s laughin at me cuz I’m wearing old gear
school’s almost over summer is near
and I’m sportin torn jordans and need somethin new
tere’s only one thing left to do

cut school Friday catch the subway downtown
check out my victims hanging around
maybe I’ll get lucky and find easy prey
gots to get some new gear there’s no other way

I’m ready and willin I’m packing my gun
this is serious bizness it sure ain’t no fun
but I can’t have my posse laughin at me
I’ll cop something dope just wait you’ll see

come out at the station west 4th near the park
brothers shootin hoops and someone remarks
HEY HOMES…WHERE’D YOU GET THOSE DEF NIKES
as I said to myself…I likes em… I likes

they were q-tip white bright and blinded my eyes
the red emblem of michael looked as if it could fly
not one spot of dirt the airs were brand new
had my pistol knew just what to do

followed him very closely behind
waited until it was just the right time
made a left turn on houston pulled out my gun and screamed
GIMME THEM JORDANS … and he tried to run

took off fast but didn’t get far
I fired (POW) he fell between two parked cars
he was couging/crying/bodd dripped on the street
and I snatched them air jordans off a his feet

while laying there dyin all he could say was
please…don’t’ take my air jordans away…
you think he’d be worred about stayin alive
as I took off with the jordans there were tears in his eyes

the very next day I bopped into school
with my brand new air jordans man was I cool
I killed to get them but hey…I don’t care
cuz now…I needs a new jacket to wear

Dreams by Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Dream Variations by Langston Hughes
To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me-
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening...
A tall, slim tree...
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.