This time I decided to do something different. I wanted them to examine a poem closely, to take a poem's pulse but not beat the poor poem into a bloody pulp.
So this time around I bypassed formal literary analysis altogether. Instead, I put them in small groups where they are preparing PowerPoint presentations on one of nine possible poems:
"From Blossoms" (Li-Young Lee)
"Linguine" (Diane Lockward)
"When the Burning Begins" (Patricia Smith)
"How to Make World Unity Salsa" (Juan Felipe Herrera)
"Ode to Conger Chowder" (Pablo Neruda)
"Cold Solace" (Anna Belle Kaufman) [in The Sun Magazine]
"Problems with Hurricanes" (Victor Hernandez Cruz)
"Cherry Tomatoes" (Sandra Beasley)
"Shopping for Pomegranates at Wal-Mart on New Year's Day" (Campbell McGrath)
I've assigned poetry presentations before, but I've never actually demonstrated by example exactly what I was looking for. (Yes very lame of me, I know!) After viewing a bunch of physics lectures online this past summer courtesy MIT’s Open Courseware, I decided my Poetry Unit could use its own little infusion of baking soda and vinegar.
While perusing the current issue of River Styx, the poem "Free Bird" by Rose Kelleher, with its allusions to Frye Boots, Brooke Shields, Jodi Foster, bongs, tresses, and the strutting ManFest that was the 1970s, screamed out “Transform me into a Powerpoint Demo!” So that’s exactly what I did.
Here’s a sample from said demo:
Seventies Man—how unabashedly
he struts his stuff! You gotta love those long
gold chains that loop across that naked V
Of polyester-free, unbuttoned chest