Poetry Out Loud (for Nicole Louw, 2015 Poetry Out Loud Alabama Champion)
A skinny Puerto Rican boy,
proud of his country (ashamed of his country),
confidently performs the naked buttocks of William
Carlos Williams’s “Danse Russe,”
looks in his mirror, and finds
a skinny Puerto Rican poet.
An imaginative South African American girl from
Alabama agrees (but disagrees) with a first-generation
American immigrant who remarks—sharing
his corrupted vision of politicians, businessmen,
and lovers—that Alabama is the most racist
place on earth. She voices Tony Hoagland’s
ageless speaker: “This is not a test / and everybody passes.”
The Puerto Rican boy and South African Alabamian girl
redefine American, finding a shared language to teach each other
a new way to speak—to discover on stage the voices
and Puerto Rico
and unfurl in the rhythms of
poetry out loud.
I stand here … in the street
Waiting to get hurt
They would bring
Justice to the
United States of America
Back in 1964
Back when the Civil Rights Act was signed
But they have killed,
And many more
I want to make history
Like Martin Luther King did
Like Obama did
Being a movement starter
Being the first black president …
So I stand here … in the street
Each year the month of April is set aside as National Poetry Month, a time to celebrate poets and their craft. Various events are held throughout the month by the Academy of American Poets and other poetry organizations. Follow along this month as we unpack some genres of poetry and find related resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org.
We will kick off with looking at narrative poetry. This genre of poetry tells a story, usually with a human interest element. Narrative poetry combines poetic language with short-story elements and is thought to be the oldest type of poetry. “Poetry Preference Research: What Young Adults Tell Us They Enjoy” shares that the most popular type of poem chosen by a survey of students was the narrative.
As National Poetry Month winds down, consider inviting students to perform some of the poetry they have read and written throughout the month. Performing poetry allows students to read with expression, using their voice and gestures to convey the meaning of the text. With repeated readings of a poem, younger students become fluent readers and increase their comprehension. Older students analyze and develop their own interpretation of a poem’s meaning and representation through performance. Take a look at the following resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org.
Performing poetry incorporates oral reading, literature, and the performing arts. This strategy can benefit content area readers, English language learners, or learners with special needs. Read more in this Strategy Guide.
In this lesson, students watch an example of poetry performed orally and then discuss elements of the performance that lead to reading fluency. Students then select a poem to perform in class. A performance critique sheet is used to evaluate performances and can be used for self-evaluation, peer evaluation, and teacher evaluation.
In this lesson plan, using their voices as interpretive instruments, students gain a deeper appreciation of the art of poetry as they prepare a recitation of the frequently anthologized poem “Those Winter Sundays”.