Rukeyser often celebrates working people in her poems. Have students list ten categories of working people. For each category, have them come up with one or two powerful symbols that represent that category of worker or profession. Use the activity to discuss how symbols function in literary works.
Have students read "The Conjugation of the Paramecium," which on the surface appears to be a brief vignette about reproduction. Ask them to think about what the poem might mean. Remind students about Rukeyser's usual themes of social protest, the "uniting spirit" between common workers and laborers, and the emptiness of individual consumption.
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