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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   



10. Rhythms
in Poetry


•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
- Video
Activities
- Author
Activities
- Context
Activities
- Creative Response
- PBL Projects

Activities: Creative Response

  1. Journal: Try to imagine what it might have been like for a black person moving from a small town to Harlem in the 1920s. What would they have encountered? What would the atmosphere have been? What might they have done for fun on a weekend night? What kinds of frustrations might they have met with? What might have surprised or pleased them?

  2. Poet's Corner: Reread William Carlos Williams's "This Is Just to Say." Choose a topic of your own and write a poem that imitates his style. Think about what kind of subject matter Williams writes about. What does his language sound like? What are the features of his verse? After you've written your poem, write a short paragraph analyzing what you wrote. What characteristics of Williams's work were you trying to capture?

  3. Poet's Corner: Read Kenneth Koch's hilarious imitation of Williams's "This Is Just to Say": "Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams" (Thank You, and Other Poems [New York: Grove Press, 1962]). Ask your students to write their own parody of one of the modernist poems they have read.

  4. Doing History: For the ancient Greeks, the Trojan War (c. 1200 b.c.e.) marked an important turning point in their collective identity. For the modernists, World War I functioned as an earth-shattering moment that signaled the end of the Victorian era and the beginning of the modern age. Reread some of H.D.'s poems that rely on classical mythology. Do some research on a myth that particularly interests you. How is H.D.'s telling of modern history enhanced by her use of past histories? What is added to her poetry when she uses histories steeped in myth rather than factual historical allusions?

  5. Multimedia: Many of the artists in this unit looked to the visual arts and music for inspiration. Look at the paintings in the archive by Aaron Douglas and Jacob Lawrence, as well as items that reflect the primitivist and orientalist orientations of many modernist poets. In addition, listen to some jazz. How do the formal and aesthetic characteristics of these works relate to the poetry featured in this unit? What are specifically American images, sounds, or verses? What, if any, authentic national identity can be forged from these many sources?



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