Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

15. Poetry of Liberation

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

Activities: Author Activities

Allen Ginsberg - Teaching Tips

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  • Beat poets were famous for their poetry performances; indeed, we might see them as precursors to currently popular "poetry slams." Have students take turns reading passages from Howl (the first section of the poem works well). After several students have performed the poem, ask the class to discuss the performance choices each student made. What words did they emphasize? What was the tone of the performance? Did they change the dynamics of their voice? What was it like for the students to read this poem aloud? How does the meaning change with each performance?

  • Ask students to write their own poem in the style of Ginsberg. You might get them started by asking them to make a list of the defining characteristics of their generation. Students should also consider the formal features of Ginsberg's work (long lines, blurred boundary between prose and poetry, use of many registers, including slang, erudite allusions, etc.), the often aggressive tone, the intimacy created between speaker and reader, and the political critique that drives his work. After the students have written their poems, they should write several paragraphs explaining what features or characteristics they were trying to capture. Then, have students break into small groups and share their poems. Each group should vote on the best poem. Groups should be prepared to defend their choices as they listen to all of the poems.

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