Sunday, November 28, 2010

Farewell Poem

My final farewell to my fantastic poetry club students was the poem "Dreams" by Langston Hughes. Every student got a handwritten copy from me. It was pretty tough to say good-bye to such an amazing group of students. I really, really wish I could come back to EMS next semester!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Montage of a Dream Deferred

To mark the end of our poetry club, I decided to share some poems from my most favorite work of poetry, Montage of a Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes. Published in 1951, Montage is a send-up of everything beautiful and terrible in Black culture in post-war Harlem. One of the strongest themes in the book is the representation music in the poems.

I decided to put together a mini-folio of Mr. Hughes's "jazz poems" for us to read over the last two days of the poetry club. Since most of these poems are not available online, I used my copy of The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes as a source for the mini-folio. Where before I had handed out slips of paper containing each poem that the students kept afterward, for our Montage days I passed out a full page of poetry and took it back up so that they would be sure to have it on our final Montage day. Students were free to keep the handout after the last reading.

You can click here to see a PDF of the mini-folio that I passed out to students.

I was very glad that my send-off to my awesome students could be some of my most favorite poems. I hope that they will carry these poems around with them for years to come.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

The tenth poem in our series is "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" by Langston Hughes. We read this poem in class on Monday, November 8. In addition to having two students read this poem aloud as we usually do, a third student read the poem while Ms. Miller showed the class E.B. Lewis's illustrated version of the poem. This was a big hit with the class!

You can read Mr. Hughes's biography on by clicking here. You can also visit the poem on by clicking on the poem title (below) and even listen to Mr. Hughes read the poem!

by Langston Hughes

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

We borrowed this illustrated edition of the poem from the Belser-Parton Literacy Center at the University of Alabama. The BPLC is a community lending library that is open to everyone. They have lots of great resources for educators, including classroom sets of young adult novels that can be borrowed.

You can purchase a copy of this book on


The ninth poem in our series is "9." by E.E. Cummings. We read this poem in class on Thursday, November 4.

Click here to read Mr. Cumming's biography on You can click on the poem title (below) to visit the poem on


by e.e. cummings

there are so many tictoc

clocks everywhere telling people

what toctic time it is for

tictic instance five toc minutes toc

past six tic

Spring is not regulated and does

not get out of order nor do

its hands a little jerking move

over numbers slowly

we do not

wind it up it has no weights

springs wheels inside of

its slender self no indeed dear

nothing of the kind.

(So,when kiss Spring comes

we'll kiss each kiss other on kiss the kiss

lips because tic clocks toc don't make

a toctic difference

to kisskiss you and to

kiss me)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Emperor of Ice Cream

The eighth poem in our series is "The Emperor of Ice Cream" by Wallace Stevens. This is one of my most favorite poems! We read this poem in class on Monday, November 1.

Click here to read Mr. Stevens's biography on You can read the poem on by clicking on the title (below).

by Wallace Stevens

Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.

About "The Emperor of Ice-Cream":
This poem is apparently "set" in Key West, a place that inspired much of Stevens's work, and where it was a tradition to have ice cream at funerals.

Watching the Mayan Women

The seventh poem in our collection is "Watching the Mayan Women" by Luisa Villani. We talked about this poem in class on Thursday, October 28.

Ms. Villani does not have a biography available on You can visit the poem at Poetry180 by clicking on the poem title (below). It is poem #67.

by Luisa Villani

I hang the window inside out
like a shirt drying in a breeze
and the arms that are missing come to me
Yes, it's a song, one I don't quite comprehend
although I do understand the laundry.
White ash and rain water, a method
my aunt taught me, but I'll never know
how she learned it in Brooklyn. Her mind
has gone to seed, blown by a stroke,
and that dandelion puff called memory
has flown far from her eyes. Some things remain.
Procedures. Methods. If you burn
a fire all day, feeding it snapped
branches and newspapers—
the faces pressed against the print
fading into flames-you end up
with a barrel of white ash. If
you take that same barrel and fill it
with rain, let it sit for a day,
you will have water
that can bring brightness to anything.
If you take that water,
and in it soak your husband's shirts,
he'll pause at dawn when he puts one on,
its softness like a haunting afterthought.
And if he works all day in the selva,
he'll divine his way home
in shirtsleeves aglow with torchlight.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Spring in New Hampshire

The sixth poem in our collection is "Spring in New Hampshire" by Claude McKay. We talked about this poem in class on Monday, October 25.

Click here to read Mr. McKay's biography on You can visit the poem on by clicking on its title (below).

Spring in New Hampshire

by Claude McKay

Too green the springing April grass,

Too blue the silver-speckled sky,

For me to linger here, alas,

While happy winds go laughing by,

Wasting the golden hours indoors,

Washing windows and scrubbing floors.

Too wonderful the April night,

Too faintly sweet the first May flowers,

The stars too gloriously bright,

For me to spend the evening hours,

When fields are fresh and streams are leaping,

Wearied, exhausted, dully sleeping.