A Poem to Pair with The Awakening

Today my classes finished reading Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, and I started class by sharing the poem “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Your students might recognize this poem as the source of the title line for Maya Angelou’s book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

We only talked about the poem for a few minutes, but it led us in to our discussion of Edna and whether or not she could ever be free in her society/time period/marriage.

Sympathy

Paul Laurence Dunbar

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!

When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;   

When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,   

And the river flows like a stream of glass;

When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,   

And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—

I know what the caged bird feels!

 

I know why the caged bird beats his wing

Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;   

For he must fly back to his perch and cling   

When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;

And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars   

And they pulse again with a keener sting—

I know why he beats his wing!

 

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,

When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—

When he beats his bars and he would be free;

It is not a carol of joy or glee,

But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,   

But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—

I know why the caged bird sings!

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A Poem to Pair with The Awakening

Happy July 4! Read “America,” a poem by Claude Mckay

America

Claude McKay
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.
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Happy July 4! Read “America,” a poem by Claude Mckay

New Poet Laureate: Tracy K. Smith

We have a new U.S. Poet Laureate: Tracy K. Smith! In 2011, her book of poetry Life on Mars won a Pulitzer. She currently teaches at Princeton.

Some things you might not know about this position:

  • The official title for this position is: Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.
  • The librarian of Congress (currently Carla Hayden) appoints the position.
  • This position started in 1937 and the stipend accompanying it is only $35,000.

Here’s a link to NPR’s article “Tracy K. Smith, New U.S. Poet Laureate, Calls Poems Her ‘Anchor'”

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picture from NPR


The Good Life

Tracy K. Smith
When some people talk about money
They speak as if it were a mysterious lover
Who went out to buy milk and never
Came back, and it makes me nostalgic
For the years I lived on coffee and bread,
Hungry all the time, walking to work on payday
Like a woman journeying for water
From a village without a well, then living
One or two nights like everyone else
On roast chicken and red wine.
New Poet Laureate: Tracy K. Smith

A Poem: “Summer at Blue Creek, North Carolina” by Jack Gilbert

Summer at Blue Creek, North Carolina
Jack Gilbert

There was no water at my grandfather’s
when I was a kid and would go for it
with two zinc buckets. Down the path,
past the cow by the foundation where
the fine people’s house was before
they arranged to have it burned down.
To the neighbor’s cool well. Would
come back with pails too heavy,
so my mouth pulled out of shape.
I see myself, but from the outside.
I keep trying to feel who I was,
and cannot. Hear clearly the sound
the bucket made hitting the sides
of the stone well going down,
but never the sound of me.

A Poem: “Summer at Blue Creek, North Carolina” by Jack Gilbert

Friday Five: Five Reasons to Join the Pennsylvania Poetry Society

Five Reasons to Join the Pennsylvania Poetry Society (or at least check out what they’re doing).

I have been a member of the Pennsylvania Poetry Society for three years, but only recently attended a spring meeting.  This was such a fun experience, it prompted me to write this post, with 5 reasons to join PPS, Inc.

  1. The Pennsylvania Poetry Society holds two meetings each year with workshops for developing your inner poet.  These workshops provide time to talk with other poets, share work, and work with poets from throughout the state. The most recent workshop featured Dana Sauers. 
  2. Meeting people who are also interested in reading and writing poetry. From their twitter page: “Founded in 1949, the PPS assists its members in the development of their craft and fosters an intelligent appreciation of poetry.”
  3. The PPS also runs an annual contest with 17 categories.  Members have the opportunity to enter 3 of those 17 that non-members cannot. The winning poems are published each year.
  4. Joining this group allows can give you notice about many other contests, which they share on Facebook and Twitter.
  5. Joining this group will help you if you’re trying to work on your own writing. Each newsletter (produced four times a year) provides a challenge for writing poetry, and there’s also an online publication each month, called Pennessence. There are plenty of opportunities to challenge yourself and publish your writing.

Posted by Kate, Blog Editor and Book Reviewer for PCTELA

Friday Five: Five Reasons to Join the Pennsylvania Poetry Society

A poem for today: “Mr T” by Terrance Hayes

Mr T–
Terrance Hayes

A man made of scrap muscle & the steam
engine’s imagination, white feathers
flapping in each lobe for the skull’s migration,
should the need arise. Sometimes drugged
& duffled (by white men) into a cockpit
bound for the next adventure. And liable
to crush a fool’s face like newsprint; headlines
of Hollywood blood and wincing. Half Stepin’ Fetchit,
half John Henry. What were we, the skinny B-boys,
to learn from you? How to hulk through Chicago
in a hedgerow afro, an ox-grunt kicking dust
behind the teeth; those eighteen glammering
gold chains around the throat of pity,
that fat hollow medallion like the sun on a leash —

2002

A poem for today: “Mr T” by Terrance Hayes

Poem: “The Poet’s Occasional Alternative” by Grace Paley

The Poet’s Occasional Alternative

Grace Paley

I was going to write a poem
I made a pie instead it took
about the same amount of time
of course the pie was a final
draft a poem would have had some
distance to go days and weeks and
much crumpled paper

the pie already had a talking
tumbling audience among small
trucks and a fire engine on
the kitchen floor

everybody will like this pie
it will have apples and cranberries
dried apricots in it many friends
will say why in the world did you
make only one

this does not happen with poems

because of unreportable
sadnesses I decided to
settle this morning for a re-
sponsive eatership I do not
want to wait a week a year a
generation for the right
consumer to come along

Poem: “The Poet’s Occasional Alternative” by Grace Paley