Lifes Lessons: A Book of Poetry and Floetry For a Time Like This...

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The student will have to use his or her feelings and personal knowledge about the song to determine purpose. It would be very interesting to see what words emerge from the song, once it's in poem form. Students begin to use their own voices now, but they are not alone. They explore how to maintain the purpose even if the voice changes.

The goal is to create a piece that feels just as effective as the old form. Students also pay close attention to voice. How are the connections between music and poetry expressed through the generations? How do the writers' voices reflect or reject the societal views of a particular era? What makes a "good" poem? We return to the second quadrant of learning with new material.

Students are introduced to poets of the Harlem Renaissance and the Beat Generation.

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They will continue chronologically to the Last Poets and Hip Hop, and finally to the Slam poets of our time. We focus on the voice of the poet and the historical context of the poem as we interpret meaning and speculate about the source of inspiration. Students add imagery , detail , diction , assonance and consonance to their vocabulary during readings and discussions. Students complete a paper in order to show knowledge of a poem.

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In the paper, they describe the purpose, state musical and historical influences, and use literary terms to evaluate how well the poem expresses an idea. Students choose a poem that they like. Ideally, it is one of the poems we discuss in class; however, I am not against students finding other poems from the Harlem Renaissance, the Beat Generation, the Last Poets and Hip Hop, or Slam.

I will present three poems from each section to the class and have other poems available. The Harlem Renaissance began in on the occasion of three daring plays that produced dignified characters for an all-black cast. The NAACP, founded ten years earlier, encouraged writers, actors, musicians, and artists to stand as equal voices in an otherwise oppressive society. According to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. McKay, Harlem artists "rediscovered the ancient confidence and sense of destiny of their African ancestors and created a body of art on which future writers and musicians and artists might build.

The influence of music, particularly the blues, is apparent in the voices of poets. Blues gave voice to the oppressed. Tyehimba Jess writes, "Black folks couldn't just go out and protest racism in the '20s and '30s. But we could give voice to our pain through a blues song. The blues began with the call and response model of field hollers during slavery and expanded from the South to the urban environment of the North during the early part of the twentieth century.

Handy, often considered the father of the blues, established the three-line structure of four beats each. The third line follows with an end-rhyme. For instance, Handy's "St. Langston Hughes, recipient of an award for "Weary, Weary Blues," is known for incorporating blues into his poetry.

Students will read the lesser known "Po' Boy Blues," as the feelings and predicament of the speaker can be fairly clearly understood. The second poem for this section, "Song" by Gwendolyn Bennett, uses musical references to express strong emotion. Although "Incident" by Countee Cullen lacks both "blues" and "song" in its title, it has a distinct rhythm and rhyme that students will be able to hear. Now we are not only concerned with having voice, but with what we do with it once we have it.

The Beat Generation broke language conventions established by earlier poets, much to the dismay of some literary critics of the s and s who proclaimed such poems to be non-literary. The Beat writers began as a small group of four, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, but it grew from the East Coast to the West, expanding to include other writers of the same sentiment and time period. The word "beat" has an immediate connection to music, namely jazz. Ann Charters writes that jazz musicians used "beat" as a slang term meaning poor, exhausted or down and out.


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The word also implies a sense of being outside of society and on one's own. Eventually "beat" was applied to anyone who appeared to be a rebel or who lived as a bohemian. The Beat writers were essentially voices for people rejected by mainstream society. It is interesting to note that both the Beat and the Harlem Renaissance writers engage a struggle with society. David Levering Lewis finds that for Harlem artists, art was a means to change society in order to be accepted into it. For Bohemians, art was a means to change society before they accepted it.

Jazz music, write Gates and McKay, "knows that, despite all hopes and efforts, things might not work out for the best. Jazz improvises ways to cope with trouble. According to Charters, Jack Kerouac was thinking of himself as a jazz musician when he wrote "Mexico City Blues," the first of three Beat poems that we'll read. In the spirit of Jazz, Allen Ginsberg decided to let go of his usual form and meter and just write, extending the lines of "Howl" out to the length of his own breath.

The poem reflects the people in Ginsberg's world, his view of America, and his encounter with Carl Solomon, a man he met in a psychiatric hospital. Both "Mexico City Blues" and "Howl" are dedicated to other people. Diana Di Prima's love poem, "Song for Baby-O, Unborn" is also a nice source of inspiration for students who wish to write a "song" for another person.

The struggle with society continues in the work of the Last Poets and Hip Hop artists. The Last Poets blended music with poetry in the late 60s and 70s and are considered to be the parents of today's hip-hop. The song "Jazzoetry" reflects their style of writing and performing: a mixture of jazz, funk and poetry. The origins of hip hop are thought also to include dub, a Jamaican style of music brought to New York in the late s by artists such as DJ Kook Herc.

Dub included energetic percussion rhythms that evolved into speech rhythms. In , the first official hip-hop single, "Rapper's Delight," was released by the Sugar Hill Gang although it is disputed whether the lyrics were stolen from Grandmaster Caz of the Cold Crush Brothers. Hip-hop can also be traced back to the African griots, oral historian-poets. It moved through time, picking up a taste of blues lyrics and jazz scat singing along the way. Hip-hop was ignored by MTV until the mid s when it became more violent.

The impressive degree of social awareness and artistic flare may be lost in some of the music heard on hip hop radio stations today, but it is important to remember that although certain songs are profitable, they cannot wholly represent the expansive hip hop culture. Queen Latifah makes allusions to the Declaration of Independence, apartheid, and slavery as she speaks about trying to live positively in a world of drugs, poverty, and the evil actions of mankind.

Mos Def creates a metaphor for New York City as he laments the violence inflicted upon a breathing, bleeding, and sighing entity. His tone shows affection for the city, yet he urges his listener to be more aware of the violence that plagues society. The use of alliteration, repetition and internal rhyme in hip-hop can also be seen in Slam Poetry. Like the poetry of the Beat Generation, slam poets have been accused of being non-literary.

Slam depends heavily on performance; line breaks and stanzas are most likely lost on the audience member. Recently, however, books have been published to showcase slam and performance poems exclusively. Perhaps this is an indication that performance poetry is making its way into mainstream literary culture. Marc Smith started slam in as part of the Chicago Poetry Ensemble. The competition rules evolved from a desire to get audience members to participate random audience members, rather than a panel of esteemed poets, judge the performed poems , a strategy to keep the suspense going throughout a show competing poets must make it through three rounds in order to win , and an aversion to really awful poetry that goes on and on all slam pieces must be three minutes or less.

Slam emerged from a local event made up of a few people to become a national phenomenon. Slam poets compete nationally and internationally.

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Slam is a business: poets can pay to become a member of Poetry Slam Incorporated, a requirement in order to participate in the annual National Poetry Slam. Slam poets are considered performance poets, but they aren't allowed to use music or props. A connection to music is apparent, however, through rhythm and cadence. Poets may sing parts of their poems, or even interject part of a popular song during the performance. Vocal sounds non-words are also used to emphasize mood or rhythm.

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Poets may also create dance-like movements, especially during team performances. It is rare to see a slam poet who holds still. Like hip hop, slam poetry ranges from one-dimensional and lewd to socially conscious and deeply sensitive to the sound and meaning of language. In "Marriage," Sherman Alexie explores the meaning of bread. We end our survey of how voice evolves through different eras by examining how voice evolves in the individual, using the above poems as our guide. We listen to our own experiences, our own backgrounds, our own conversations with the world, our own voice.

It's time to put new knowledge to practice in a third quadrant exercise. Students have written a paper about the voice of a selected poem, now it's time to play. It's time to compete. Students work in teams of three, and each team has a chance to compete in all three rounds. Now students get to experience performance poetry.

They experiment with delivery. They pay attention to the musical qualities of the poem. They combine their own voice with the voice of the poet and create a new kind of sound. Students show off what they have learned in a final performance. They create a piece of their own and write a proposal that discusses the literary elements, the connection between poetry and music, and the purpose of the piece.

They explain why the poems effectively express their own voices. Suggestions for student projects include the following:. How does music inspire poetry? How does poetry inspire music? Why is inspiration important? How does inspiration encourage voice? Why is voice important? Why is poetry an effective medium for voice? Many questions will drive the varying learning activities, but it is the last question that is central to the unit.

It is at the heart of the lessons. Poetry can speak for the silenced. Poetry can express what society does not say.


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Poetry can move with an era and it can move against it. It can move the reader and the listener. It can even move the writer. Poetry can evoke change. It can keep us from forgetting. Poetry can cry for us. It can laugh. It can scoff. Poetry can turn words into instruments. It can give us a sound that lets us hear who we are. It can sing. New Mexico Content Standards address what all students should know within the subject area.

Language Arts has three content standards: 1. Students will apply strategies and skills to comprehend information that is read, heard, and viewed; 2. Students will communicate effectively through speaking and writing; and 3. Students will use literature and media to develop an understanding of people, societies, and the self.

Performance standards are listed under benchmarks as concrete examples of what students should know and be able to do. As part of a mission to develop vertical alignment, teachers in Santa Fe schools have translated performance standards into student-friendly language now called learning targets.

I have written the learning targets in first person to reflect the student's voice. The learning targets correspond to specific activities and finally to the assessment at the end of the lesson. The lessons provided are a closer look at the strategies listed above. I have taken three of the learning quadrants used in Bernice McCarthy's 4Mat to illustrate first the connection to the concept, second, the learning of new material, and third, the practice of new knowledge.

The fourth quadrant asks students to create something new based on their new knowledge. The fourth quadrant contains the final performance assessment. At the end of the unit, students will use the shared elements of poetry and music to show how poetry is an effective medium for voice. I can deliver an informative presentation; I can establish and defend a point of view; I can design and apply criteria for evaluating my oral presentation; I can explain my ideas in a clear, logical and comprehensive manner.

Ask students ahead of time to bring a favorite song to class. They must firmly believe that it is a "good" song for any reason , as they will have to defend their position. I remind them to keep their audience in mind when they select their "good" song. If a member of the class feels offended, the student will have to explain why something that offends contributes to what makes the song good. This activity has always been a lot of fun, and the selection of songs has been surprisingly eclectic.

One of the presentations even led to a battle between Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix. Before playing any music, students develop criteria for what makes a good song. At this point, we are still in the realm of what the students already know, so it is not necessary to get overly technical. Some students may say a good song is one you can dance to. Others may comment on the subtlety of internal rhyme. Talk to students about dissonance and whether that occurs in "good" songs. Keep a list where it is visible.

Students take turns playing music. They defend their song using their criteria, and then the rest of the class gets a shot at it. Open up the discussion. Discuss: Why do people like some music but not all music? Does a certain kind of music attract a certain kind of personality? What kind of personality do you think the singer has? Use prior knowledge and speculation to create a persona behind the voice. How does the musician use singing, melody, rhythm, or rhyme as voice?

The musician may express a certain emotion, attitude or style through the sounds of words or music. Remember that voice is a form of expression and a sense of identity and power. The voice may be used to express emotion, establish a relationship to the world, and encourage change.

The musician has a reason for engaging in a kind of conversation rather than remaining silent. Use ideas generated from the discussion. What inspired the poet to move from silence to voice in order to create the song? Students are encouraged to use their imaginations, as it is not likely that the artist will be there to provide facts. However, the connections between the song and the possible points of inspiration should be reasonable. This exercise helps students begin to think about the reasons behind creating art. The student is able to develop criteria and evaluate material, deliver a presentation about what makes a particular song good, discuss voice in terms of musical expression, and write a reasonable speculation about the inspiration behind a song.

I can evaluate information by posting questions, responding personally, exploring issues, and identifying writing techniques; I can analyze and explain author's purpose, tone, perspective and message; I can analyze and interpret the significance of literary movements as related to social movements and historical periods; I can read and analyze literary works and identify significant themes and concepts as they relate to me; I can use language that is appropriate for my purpose and audience.

Listen to excerpts from blues songs. Although Muddy Waters recorded in the s and later, his rhythm and lyrics are immediately engaging, providing a nice introduction to blues. Students take notes while listening to Muddy Waters or another engaging blues musician. What kind of emotion does this song express? What is the singer saying? Using Cornell notes, students write "Emotion expressed in song" and "Thoughts expressed by singer" on the left margins and write their own ideas on the right.

Discuss the emotion and thoughts expressed. Examine the repetition of lines, which can be traced back to the form of W. Listen to Bessie Smith or another Harlem Renaissance blues musician and continue to take notes. What are the similarities between Muddy Waters and Bessie Smith? The blues structure appears in all four stanzas. The poem begins by lamenting the need to leave home, a place of sunshine, for a colder world in the North.

He speaks about having to face difficulty in spite of being "a good boy" and about experiencing loss as a result of falling in love. The poem ends with the speaker saying he's so weary, he wishes he'd never been born. The first three stanzas express being let down by something or someone. The speaker is clearly disappointed with the world. The bitterness is conveyed immediately with an impression of coldness in the first stanza and continues through the next two.

In the third stanza, the speaker is a victim of cruelty by someone he t hought was kind. Here, as in the first stanza, the speaker is worse off than he was before he acted on his hopes. He emphasizes his weariness in the last stanza. The word "weary" implies being tired physically as well as mentally. It is a complaint about continuing something that sucks out one's energy, yet implies relying on the very last bit of one's resources in order to endure.

Hughes wrote "Po' Boy Blues" in , shortly after the Reconstruction era. African Americans migrated to northern cities to escape the segregation and lynching of the South. The industrialization of the North also provided African Americans with job opportunities. New York City, home of the Harlem Renaissance, attracted intellectuals and artists who advocated societal change for a better world. The promise of cultural transcendence from a state of oppression to a place of respect and equality lingered and teased Harlem Renaissance writers.

Students work with a partner optional and use the structure of a blues poem to write about a disappointing event. Students can use humor. Although the events in "Po' Boy Blues" are depressing, the poem as a whole uses short lines and rhyme to give it a lighter and slightly humorous mood that undercuts the weariness. Students now have an opportunity to use their "woe-is-me" voices in a way that may even poke fun at an otherwise disappointing situation.

Brainstorm topics together to get students started. Topics may include a sporting event that ends badly, an awkward date, an unfortunate vacation, a car that turns out to be a lemon, an unexpected grade, or anything else worthy of complaint. Each stanza may consist of only three lines and one rhyme: two lines repeated, the third line rhymes. This will provide a structure and allow students to create clever rhymes in an otherwise simple form. Students work toward capturing the mood expressed in the blues songs. The student responds personally, asks questions, and explores issues during the close reading and discussion of poem.

The student takes notes and explains the author's purpose, tone, perspective and message, and states the significance of the Harlem Renaissance as it pertains to the poem; the student demonstrates significant themes, concepts, and blues writing style by creating and reading an original poem that relates to his or own life. I can recognize a writer's style, tone and other rhetorical strategies; I can analyze texts and synthesize ideas; I can design and apply criteria for evaluating my oral presentation; and I can design and deliver an effective oral presentation by using clear enunciation, and gestures appropriate for a particular audience.

Toward the end of the unit, each student selects a poem that connects to his or her own voice. The poem may reflect the student's opinion about a topic or issue, it may portray an experience that a student has had, or it may be written in a style that is similar to the student's own style of writing. The student gets to know his or her own poem by writing a review. He or she explains why the poem is "good" by describing the use of literary elements and showing historical and musical connections.

This is actually the assessment piece for the second quadrant of learning, or the end of the survey of voices. Students are asked to think about how their poems would be read or performed. They watch excerpts from SlamNation , Slam!


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A careful screening will provide excerpts appropriate for schools with strict language restrictions. Students give the viewed performances a score from 1. The class designs a rubric to evaluate body language, vocal intonations, enunciation, diction, musical attributes and rhythm, and the overall message of the poem. Students prepare to battle their poems by becoming familiar with the procedure. I loved this book. It was acoustical in flow and structure. I loved it. Sep 18, Yvette rated it it was amazing.

Inspirational Read!! Her writing is like having a conversation with an old friend. You get the feeling you know her on every page you read. No perfect English class writer here, she used her own style to get the point across, and you really feeling that. I had a great time with this one. There are no discussion topics on this book yet. About Felicia Martin. Felicia Martin. Felicia Martin began writing in , never really thinking about being published than, She continued to write for years to come. In , with encouragement from her mother, She entered her first of what would be many poetry contests.

She has won several entries into numerous anthologies, but has always had the dream of my own book. Her favorite statement of truth, and that is, She knows everythi Felicia Martin began writing in , never really thinking about being published than, She continued to write for years to come. Her favorite statement of truth, and that is, She knows everything she has accomplished is Thanks to the Lord above, and without him her success would have been impossible.

But writing isn't her only love, she also owns a small jewelry business she started as a past time, that has grown into a online business as well as being displayed in a local shop right in her hometown of Salisbury North Carolina. Kpangolo and gold. Broken and then whole. My life traded and sold. The longing on your face, etched in linings of my soul, all of time cannot erase. Streaks of tears, more tears. I find you, seven years of joy and in the same breath, I weep with the loss of letting you go Bereft.

Steeped in stirrings that shamelessly show as stains of pooled heat in damp, hidden grooves Burning and then cold I cannot touch myself. I live untouched. In the centre of my life a gaping, gasping hole The seasons roll one to the other. And now, I am old. Seven by twelve seasons; Eighty-four years old. Wait; Waiting and longing. Till one day, I behold him in the temple and I live again. Shattering the silence; For R. The glass case splintered And I thought her heart Would break apart Into nothingness From the clawing Lugubrious loneliness I was here, there And I was afraid Of the quaking raid I did not show my fear It was a lump of brick Choking me Like a forced prick Just before my throat Raping my mouth; Killing me.

The air in Judea came alive with perfumes of your poems fresh, humble hibiscus, giving, gazing gardenias, wise izoras, pink thorny roses Just a hint of flirty lilies, a wisp of zany zinnias, a smiling sunflower, all laced up in a vase, filled with the aromas of your presence, Isa I am aunt Elizabeth, John and I danced In joy when you came.

I inhale a fragrance of your words and exhale secrets from my heart I hear the soundless echoes of forgotten names of my soul and the universe whispered gently back to me mysteries of the tastes and innocent beauty of you; In seasons past and in lifetimes to come And I, a virgin took you in. Like a sardine of songs Packed into the spaces Of a scattered mind Their oils pour out Spilling into and staining My wall-less nights and days Fingers cannot keep up With the flood of words I am drowning here In an angry storm-sea of love I am the lady of Magdala Watching you, nailed to the cross, My sweet saviour, BEloved lsa….

And I cannot get you out of the linings of my soul Unless love ends; or I cease to breathe Confused, I pause; I inhale; I decide to live I exhale; I choose to love And so I know That I shall carry you around All the life of my days Like a mesh of beautifully knotted, stirring, aches I am Bethsheba, cleansed anew As I bathe in the light of your love…. The former Governor denied any wrongdoing, saying that the N million released to him by the NSA was meant for PDP leaders in the South-East to mobilize support for the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan as President in the election.

I am talking because I want peace. I want our people to be part of the Federal Government at the centre. I had a problem being an opposition Governor. I am not coming into APC because I want anything. I want our people to reintegrate and have our own share of the Federal Government resources. O gini di ife a?? What crazy alchemy is let loose in the synaptic gaps of their cells? How messed up are their neurotransmitters? I was waiting for some core ideological shifts, a value construct or belief system that propelled this move and we get this inane dribble?

Are you kidding me? These are the words of a year old man! A founding member of PDP. Ah my beloved, battered Naija! We must have a wall of shame to call out these folks!! Mr Jim Nwobodo, sir, with all due respect, as an Igbo lady, you do not in anyway speak for me or represent me.

Not at all!! I appreciate that he handed over power peacefully, he may even be a good man but in my opinion and I may be wrong , GEJ was a weak, corrupt and misguided leader, with zero creativity. Just like almost all the leaders before him. How can you simply spend money to buy votes when all you had to do was actually plough those funds in developmental projects and leave a worthy legacy?? Did he not read up about Awolowo, Michael Okpara, et al? A first-time South-South leader! Two, Two hundred or Two thousand? We debate numbers, carelessly offhand. In an orgy of violence, in this desolate land, while children are slaughtered like salah rams.

In numbers to rival Bar beach grains of sand and the zoo masters feed off goats and yams So if I must die, and die, one day I must I fear not, either a svelte bomb or a crude dagger. I ask for this one wish; honour my plea in trust Let me die in far away Paris, not here in Baga Here sons, now enemies; Boko Haramites multiply like an army of fornicating termites. Take me there, far, far away from here. For here, many the toga of terrorists bear it is becoming so very hazy for me to really tell between Dasukis and his many master-devils.

A case of who is evil and who is purely evil? All parties sullied, to darkness their souls did sell Here, they piss, shit and spit on my grave In this town I am ignored, cruelly scorned. And on my grave they gladly, gleefully dance Hapless, to deaf ears may I not plaintively cry for between cowardice and cluelessness, I die If I die, do not bury me in baga, take me far, far away from Naija….

The choir hummed a halting hymn The organist played a pretty note And we all waited for her to sing And yet the only lyrics That escaped her dry, parched tongue. You I. It is not a declaration Or a proclamation It is not a place Or a feeling Or a thought or a thing or words Or a phase or a meaning-less-ful phrase or a craze or magic or madness It is not about me or about you or about love It is not to be connected or pieced apart or to be analyzed or proved or justified It is not about truths or lies It is not a blame or a name or a game or a journey or a destination or a complication It is not about worthiness Or brokenness or being lost or found or falling or rising or right or wrong It is simply this: I.

Everywhere Simple. This; I. The night wind revolves in the sky and sings. Tonight I can write the saddest lines. I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

What makes a poem … a poem? - Melissa Kovacs

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms I kissed her again and again under the endless sky. She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too. How could one not have loved her great still eyes. To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her. To hear the immense night, still more immense without her. And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture. What does it matter that my love could not keep her.

The night is shattered and she is not with me. This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance. My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her. My sight searches for her as though to go to her. My heart looks for her, and she is not with me. My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.