This is a short assignment with the objective of delivering 3 layers of understanding through the use of backwards design. The top layer of knowledge for students is a general understanding about life, we all have a story to tell, and each is unique and valuable, this is to impart a general feeling of peace towards mankind and the idea that while we are all different, we are all still human, and have that shared experienced, therefor, we can all get along. The 2nd layer of knowledge being imparted in the lesson is about Feminist Literature. Just as all people have a story to tell and it is valuable, all women have a story to tell and it is valuable in its uniqueness. Though the experiences of the women are vastly different, they are relatable to women and the female experience and also to men and women, the human experience of suffering and pain, strife and perseverance in adversity. The last layer of knowledge is more specific to the study and conversation about poetry, students would be able to read a poem written by anyone from anywhere, analyze the form and content, and then discuss which aspects make it relatable to the human experience as a whole, or in other words, universal.
The main objective of the assignment is for students to feel that “good” poetry, as a form of art, does what art does, which is to bring us together in a shared understanding of the human experience. Students should have the confidence after reading a poem to say, “yes, this is good, because… and although the specific context may be unfamiliar, the experience of being human is familiar.”
Speaking of universality gives students a direction when using aspects such as figurative language, theme, imagery, context, and form of a poem. While we recognize that a poem is written by a person in a certain time and place, and this information is sometimes relatively apparent in the poetry, it does not detract from its’ universality. Universality does not mean that we all have the same detailed experiences, it only means we share the human experience. For example, In Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise”, references to slavery are about the African enslavement in the America’s, but it’s also about living life after that historical moment, with a message that one can live with a knowledge of the past and that the world, though it changes in some ways, doesn’t seem to change in other ways, and so we are all sort of living in a world that was formed by our ancestors and it has a large impact on our lives today. This is universal because it’s true for all people, and it’s true in large and small scopes, because we all have ancestors, and because something has happened in the world in every place, leaving an imprint on the world in which we all live. Therefore, we all must find a way to live in that imprinted world, to make changes big and small in our respective current world, as well as individually, without forgetting the past, but to in fact attempt to overcome the past, to the best of our abilities.
The above paragraph contains the answer that I would like to see from every student from my class who participated in the entire unit, in their short essay at the end of this assignment. The assignment to assess knowledge is a short essay about Maya Angelou’s poem “Sill I Rise”, students can examine any part of the poem that speaks to them, whether it’s imagery, metaphor, form, repetition devices… the sky is the limit about which lines or words they would specifically choose to focus on and point out, and I expect the reasons why the choices were made to vary among students at least slightly because people relate to a poem themselves for a personal reason based off of their own life experience.
At the beginning of this lesson I would guide students in reading and commenting about 3 poems also written by women in the modern feminist movement time period in America. Each poem is deeply steeped in their respective cultures, which enhances the imagery displayed through language and metaphor. The structure and form of each poem is generally the same, as the poems are lyrical, narrative, and written in stanzas. The themes of Identity, Hope, Mortality, Love, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Self, History, Family, Feminism, Patriarchy and Tradition are all present in each poem.
Each of the three poems is available on my website for my annotation partner to skim through for a general idea of the things I would have guided students to look for in the poems, and comments I would make to the class about the poem are displayed in the annotations. Of course, the ideas of the students is missing, please feel free to add any insights or thoughts to any of these poems.
Following a detailed reading and discussion about the poems and life, (because they are powerful pieces and hard to not have many opinions and feelings of), I would assign the class to read Maya Angelou’s poem and annotate it as a student community on the website for homework. I would like for my annotation partner to add at least 3 annotations to Angelou’s poem.
Once we come back to class, with annotations already complete, I would have a discussion about the similarities and differences between the poems, how they all exist in the feminist movement, how they are valuable and relatable human experiences to read for both men and women, how they are valuable and relatable across cultures. I would do a separate activity for each of those three concepts. At the end of this class session, I would assign the short paper (2 pages) about Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise.” I would like for my annotation partner to write a paragraph about the poem using the annotations that he or she made.
After this assignment, I would assign students to march forth and find their own poem and to add it to the website for everyone to be able to annotate. I would then have an assignment asking students to read 3 poems of others in the class, and make annotations on them for homework. I want my annotation partner to please send me a poem that I can put on my website as a students poem, with Professors Hanley’s help, because I really want to learn how to do this for future teaching experiences.
That is the end of the assignment. So first you will skim over the poetry selection on my website. Then you will annotate Maya Angelou’s poem (3 annotations at least). 3rd you will write a short paragraph about the poem “Still I Rise”, and last you will somehow send me a poem that you, the student, chooses.
Student learning and participation would be assessed by the short paper essay concept, and through a portfolio of about 6 small paragraphs that they would turn in that they had been writing throughout about the poems. A progression of more concise, focused paragraphs should be on display with apparent growth in the applicable use of terms learned in the class to discuss poetry. For extra credit, I would assign a voluntary 5-minute presentation of the students chosen poem to the class, contextual information, and the paragraph about it. The culminating assignment would be a reflective essay about the poems and concepts, interactions and the growth they produced for the student, both in the study of poetry and in skills and understandings that they feel they could utilize better somehow in life henceforth. The reflective essay would help the student to realize what they had been learning throughout the entire process and so they could congratulate themselves on the results of their participation and hard work, cooperation, open mindedness as it would be a clear essay of “where I was, and where I am now.” In order to cement the values of the course the students must connect what they have learnt as a memory of diversity and openness in art to the feelings it invoked and the conversations that they had. The reflective essay should touch on the value that ultimately we are connected as human beings because while we are all unique and live different lives, we are still all connected together in the greater community of our world and how the poems as a form of art were able to teach us this.
Lastly, the 3 poems, including a picture of the author and some contextual information, is included here. The students would have posted a paragraph as homework about each poem after we had annotated them together, held group discussions, and then class discussions about them.
Sylvia Plath is a famous American Poet from the 20th century. Plath was the daughter of a German immigrant college professor and was born in 1932 in Boston. She excelled in university and won numerous awards for published stories and poetry. She passed out of life at age 30.
BY SYLVIA PLATH
You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time——
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal
And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend
Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.
It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene
An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.
The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.
I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You——
Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.
You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who
Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.
But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look
And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.
If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.
There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.
Sandra Cisneros is a novelist, poet, essayist, short-story writer, and children’s author. She was born in Chicago and spent much of her childhood moving between Chicago and Mexico. Her novel House on Mango Street won an American book award and is taught as a part of American curriculum. Cisneros has won many awards for her works, she is also an activist for Mexican-American and Chicano rights, as well as a feminist.
They say I’m a beast.
And feast on it. When all along
I thought that’s what a woman was.
They say I’m a bitch.
Or witch. I’ve claimed
the same and never winced.
They say I’m a macha, hell on wheels,
viva-la-vulva, fire and brimstone,
but I like the compliment.
The mob arrives with stones and sticks
to maim and lame and do me in.
All the same, when I open my mouth,
they wobble like gin.
Diamonds and pearls
tumble from my tongue.
Or toads and serpents.
Depending on the mood I’m in.
I like the itch I provoke.
The rustle of rumor
I am the woman of myth and bullshit.
(True. I authored some of it.)
I built my little house of ill repute.
Brick by brick. Labored,
loved and masoned it.
I live like so.
Heart as sail, ballast, rudder, bow.
Rowdy. Indulgent to excess.
My sin and success–
I think of me to gluttony.
By all accounts I am
a danger to society.
I’m Pancha Villa.
I break laws,
upset the natural order,
anguish the Pope and make fathers cry.
I am beyond the jaw of law.
I’m la desperada, most-wanted public enemy.
My happy picture grinning from the wall.
I strike terror among the men.
I can’t be bothered what they think.
¡Que se vayan a la ching chang chong!
For this, the cross, the calvary.
In other words, I’m anarchy.
I’m an aim-well,
I’m Bitch. Beast. Macha.
Ping! Ping! Ping!
I break things.
Emily Jungmin Yoon is a PhD student at the University of Chicago studying Korean literature. Yoon also earned her bachelors degree and master’s degree in the United States. She has written a book entitled A Cruelty Special to Our Species about ‘comfort women’ from Asia and Korea whom the Japanese detained in sexual slavery. Yoon was born in Busan, South Korea, and is currently working on translation projects of feminist Korean writings.
BY EMILY JUNGMIN YOON
When I was laughed at for my clumsy English, I touched my throat.
Which said ear when my ear said year and year after year
I pronounced a new thing wrong and other throats laughed.
Elevator. Library. Vibrating bells in their mouths.
How to say azalea. How to say forsythia.
Say instead golden bells. Say I’m in ESL. In French class
a boy whose last name is Kring called me belle.
Called me by my Korean name, pronouncing it wrong.
Called it loudly, called attention to my alien.
(I touched the globe moving in my throat, a hemisphere sinking.)
Called me across the field lined with golden bells.
I wanted to run and be loved at the same time. By Kring.
As in ring of people. Where are you going? We’re laughing with you.
The bell in our throat that rings with laughter is called uvula. From uva: grape.
A theory: special to our species, this grape-bell has to do with speech.
Which separates us from animals. Kring looked at me and said
Just curious, do you eat dogs? and I wanted to end my small life.
Be reborn a golden retriever of North America.
Lie on a field lined with golden bells, loved.
Today, in a country where dogs are more cherished
than a foreign child, an Oregon Senate candidate says no
to refugees. Says, years ago, Vietnamese refugees ate dogs,
harvested other people’s pets. Harvest as in harvest grapes.
Harvest as in harvest a field of golden rice. As do people
from rice countries. As in people-eat-dog worlds.
Years ago, 1923 Japan, the phrase jūgoen gojissen was used
to set apart Koreans: say 15 yen 50 sen. The colonized who used the chaos
of the Kanto Earthquake to poison waters, set fire: a cruelty special to our species.
A cruelty special to our species — how to say jūgo, how to say gojit,
how jūgo sounds like die in Korean, how gojit sounds like lie —
lie, lie, library, azalea, library.
I’m going to the library, I lied, years ago, on a field lined with forsythia.
Dr. Maya Angelou
She lay, skin down in the moist dirt,
the canebrake rustling
with the whispers of leaves, and
loud longing of hounds and
the ransack of hunters crackling the near
She muttered, lifting her head a nod toward
I shall not, I shall not be moved.
She gathered her babies,
their tears slick as oil on black faces,
their young eyes canvassing mornings of madness.
Momma, is Master going to sell you
from us tomorrow?
Unless you keep walking more
and talking less.
Unless the keeper of our lives
releases me from all commandments.
And your lives,
never mine to live,
will be executed upon the killing floor of
Unless you match my heart and words,
saying with me,
I shall not be moved.
In Virginia tobacco fields,
leaning into the curve
pianos, along Arkansas roads,
in the red hills of Georgia,
into the palms of her chained hands, she
cried against calamity,
You have tried to destroy me
and though I perish daily,
I shall not be moved.
Her universe, often
summarized into one black body
falling finally from the tree to her feet,
made her cry each time into a new voice.
All my past hastens to defeat,
and strangers claim the glory of my love,
Iniquity has bound me to his bed.
yet, I must not be moved.
She heard the names,
swirling ribbons in the wind of history:
nigger, nigger bitch, heifer,
mammy, property, creature, ape, baboon,
whore, hot tail, thing, it.
She said, But my description cannot
fit your tongue, for
I have a certain way of being in this world,
and I shall not, I shall not be moved.
No angel stretched protecting wings
above the heads of her children,
fluttering and urging the winds of reason
into the confusions of their lives.
The sprouted like young weeds,
but she could not shield their growth
from the grinding blades of ignorance, nor
shape them into symbolic topiaries.
She sent them away,
underground, overland, in coaches and
When you learn, teach.
When you get, give.
As for me,
I shall not be moved.
She stood in midocean, seeking dry land.
She searched God’s face.
she placed her fire of service
on the altar, and though
clothed in the finery of faith,
when she appeared at the temple door,
no sign welcomed
Black Grandmother, Enter here.
Into the crashing sound,
into wickedness, she cried,
No one, no, nor no one million
ones dare deny me God, I go forth
along, and stand as ten thousand.
The Divine upon my right
impels me to pull forever
at the latch on Freedom’s gate.
The Holy Spirit upon my left leads my
feet without ceasing into the camp of the
righteous and into the tents of the free.
These momma faces, lemon-yellow, plum-
honey-brown, have grimaced and twisted
down a pyramid for years.
She is Sheba the Sojourner,
Harriet and Zora,
Mary Bethune and Angela,
Annie to Zenobia.
before the abortion clinic,
confounded by the lack of choices.
In the Welfare line,
reduced to the pity of handouts.
Ordained in the pulpit, shielded
by the mysteries.
In the operating room,
In the choir loft,
holding God in her throat.
On lonely street corners,
hawking her body.
In the classroom, loving the
children to understanding.
Centered on the world’s stage,
she sings to her loves and beloveds,
to her foes and detractors:
However I am perceived and deceived,
however my ignorance and conceits,
lay aside your fears that I will be undone,
for I shall not be moved.