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included find several poems that I taught and thought were successful. I would suggest limited the schema
that the students focus on to five main aspects. I used speaker, setting, imagery, mood/tone, theme. You
may even want to cut out theme. The students can examine these five dimensions at the beginning of every
poem analysis. then go into the poem in more detail. rather than grouping poems according to forms and
structure (like sonnets and limericks), maybe than can be grouped and taught according to idea. For
example, “Slim Cunning Hands” and “At the San Francisco Airport” could be good for ambiguity and
double-meaning. “The Bells” and “We Real Cool” would be good for rhythm and tone.
Walter De La Mare

Slim cunning hands at rest, and cozening eyes,

Under this stone one loved too wildly lies;
How false she was, no granite could declare;
Nor all earth’s flowers, how fair.

pre-reading vocab:
pun, ambiguity
cunning: (adj, n) skilled in deception; pretty or cute
cozening: (adj) deceitful
fair: beautiful, just, impartial

This poem is a very very good introduction to ambiguity. “cunning” can be deceitful or pretty,
“loved too wildly” by both the speaker and others, “lies” as both lying down and telling untruths, “fair” can
be beautiful and impartial (she was impartial about who she loved).
You can also examine sounds (the similarly in sound and rhythm between “cunning” and
“cozening” ties those words together).
Also contrast images of “granite” and “stone” with that of “flowers” and how the disparity mirrors
the speaker’s own mixed feelings about the woman.
──Yvor Winters (1900-1964) 伊沃爾‧溫斯特(美國詩人 1900-1968)

“At the San Francisco Airport”

The is the terminal; the light

Gives perfect vision, false and hard;
The Metal glitters, deep and bright.
Great planes are waiting in the yard ─
They are already in the night.

And you are here beside me, small,

Contained and fragile, and intent
On things that I but half recall ─
Yet going whither you are bent.
I am the past, and that is all.

But you and I in part are one:

The frightened brain, the nervous will,
The knowledge of what must be done,
The passion to acquire the skill
To face that which you dare not shun.

The rain of matter upon sense

Destroys me momently. The score:
There comes what will come. The expense
Is what one thought, and something more ─
One's being and intelligence.

This is the terminal, the break.

Beyond this point, on lines of air,
You take the way that you must take;
And I remain in light and stare ─
In light, and nothing else, awake.

terminal: (n) limit, boundary, end, final; station at the end of a transportation line
old/young, light/dark, past/present, security/adventure
fear: small, contained fragile contrasted with great planes

Examine double meaning of “terminal.” Use a graphic organizer to analyze the many dichotomies
present in this poem. The cold, hard light represents the reason and control that the speaker is trying to
maintain over his roiling emotions as his daughter leaves.
I read aloud “The Bells,” by Edgar Allan Poe and students graphed the rather obvious changes in the “tone”
of the poem (y-axis was happiness level, x-axis was time). Even if you didn’t understand English, how
could you know that the tone of the poem was changing? How did the rhythm change? (It slows down a
great deal and becomes more laborious)
 by Gwendolyn Brooks

We Real Cool



 We real cool. We
 Left school. We

 Lurk late. We
 Strike straight. We

 Sing sin. We
 Thin gin. We

 Jazz June. We
 Die soon.

 colloquial – difference in diction/tone from Slim Cunning Hands
 alliteration: repetition of consonant sounds at beginning of words
 internal rhyme
 “We” is in an uncertain position, and is also the only unstressed syllable – identity. a group identity,
wouldn’t work w/ “I”.
 pride in flouting conventions, breaking rules of English grammar
 “jazz” can mean “give great pleasure to”; double-meaning of “Jazz June”
 abrupt ending

Speaker: From the sentence, “We / Left school,” the reader knows that the speakers are still young enough
that they should be attending school, but are skipping out instead. Therefore, they are probably group of
rebellious teenagers.

Setting: The setting is a pool hall, where the teenagers “strike straight” at the pool table.

Imagery: school, gin.

Mood/tone: The tone is initially one of the self-confidence as the speakers proudly proclaim, “We real
cool.” The poem continues to carry a haughty tone as the speakers brag about their exploits. However, the
tone shifts abruptly with the last line of the poem: “Die soon.” Suddenly, the mood becomes somber and
sad. Thus, the poem is mixed between pride and regret, liveliness and death.

Theme: Though a life of youthful rebellion may initially be filled with pride and excitement, it can
ultimately end in tragedy and disappointment.

I emphasized the sound and rhythm of this poem, and actually did the scansion for this poem for
the students to see how it was rhythmically organized. We also tapped the rhythm of the poem out on the
desks. Every line except the first and last are stressed, stressed, unstressed. Why did the poet use only
single-syllabic words? What effect does that have on the rhythm?
I also taught some Emily Dickenson poems, which didn’t work out well because the kids had a real hard
time understanding her language. I believe I’ve already given you stuff on “Tableau” and “Barbie Doll”.
In my blue ethnic lit textbook, I also did “We Wear the Mask” and “Sonrisas.” “We Wear the Mask” was
good because the students all wrote about what “masks” they wear, and their essays were remarkably
candid. “Sonrisas” was good for exploring the difference “spaces” that literature can conjure; by
contrasting the diction between different stanzas, the poem strikes two very different moods in very
different spaces.
"Still I Rise"
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,

With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?

Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame

I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
 poetry: Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”. you may work on discussion questions with a partner. Answer
any THREE questions in paragraph form.
1. How could you tell that the speaker is an African-American woman? Be sure to use stanzas 1, 8, and 9
to answer this question.
2. List the similes to which the poet compares herself. Why do you think she uses these similes?
3. To whom is the poet speaking?
4. Note the last two lines of stanzas 2, 5, and 7. What do the last two lines of each of these stanzas have
in common? Why do you think the poet uses that particular imagery?

This is a great poem to teach. First, it sounds great when read aloud. Then, look at the imagery. The
speaker compares herself to all sorts of natural images (dust, air, moons, sun, ocean). What do these
images have in common? The moon waxes and wanes, the sun rises and sets, the ocean waves rise and fall.
How does that tie into the speaker’s conception of history and the title of the poem, “Still I Rise”? How
about “dust” and “air”? How do these ephemeral images represent the resilience and constancy of black
women’s spirit?

Does my sassiness upset you?

Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Does my haughtiness offend you?

Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

I spent class discussion focused on comparing/contrasting stanzas 2, 5, and 7 (above). The parallelism
should be clear. her “sassiness” is seen in her “walk”, her “haughtiness” is evident in her “laugh”, her
“sexiness” is present in her “dance” and “at the meeting of [her] thighs”.
Now switch to looking at the spaces in which her positive qualities reside: “living room,” “back yard,”
“meeting of my thighs.” Why not front yard? It’s because these are intensely private spaces.
Now look at the third lines of stanzas 2, 5, and 7. First “oil,” then “gold,” then “diamonds.”
These are all natural resources, listed in increasing value. What do these natural resources have in
common? They are hidden beneath the earth, hidden from sight, and they have to be mined in order to be
discovered. The same is true of black women’s natural resources (the sassiness, haughtiness, and sexiness).
Their qualities are not evident to the casual observer; they are hidden in private spaces. Just as people must
dig to discover the richness of black women, so must the reader dig to discover the hidden richness of the
My Papa's Waltz, by Theodore Roethke

The whiskey on your breath

Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans

Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist

Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head

With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.

passivity of the mother: her countenance (rather than herself) can’t unfrown (why phrased in the negative?)
why use extended metaphor of the waltz? how is it ironic?
what does “palm caked hard by dirt” suggest about the father’s social class?