How did two women separated by a hundred years create a new poetry? Why does the subject matter still startle us? Are the voices in these poems distinctly female?
The "Mothers" are the spiritual mothers of modern poetry, Emily Dickinson and Gwendolyn Brooks. Each changed the course of poetry for generations after her work was published. Students follow the directions to read poems by these poets, read about the poets' lives, read criticism, copy pictures of them and hear other people recite their poetry. At the end of the week, students will explain their understanding of these connections.
Copy and paste photos of each poet in your Microsoft Word page. Find, read and respond to literary criticism link (essay by Galway Kinnell).
Favorite Poem Project video of student reciting "I'm Nobody! Who are you?", by Emily Dickinson
Students will answer questions about Dickinson and Brooks and email them to instructor. All work will be created in a new Word file entitled "Mothers". Students will also write a four-paragraph essay comparing one of Dickinson's poems to one by Brooks. The focus will be on what is startling or interesting.
Poems by Emily Dickinson:
- "I'm Nobody! Who are you?" (#288)
- "I heard a Fly buzz" (#465)
- "Because I could not stop for Death" (#712)
Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks:
- "We Real Cool"
- "The Mother"
- "the sonnet-ballad"
Students will need to become familiar with the following terminology: slant rhyme, assonance, ballad, and sonnet.
Dickinson and Brooks Project
The following steps should be followed for each of the poets:
- Go to The Academy of American Poets
- Click on "Find a Poet"
- Type in "Emily Dickinson" (or "Gwendolyn Brooks")
- When you get to the poet page, read the poet's biography.
- Go to your Microsoft Word page and write about the poet's life.
- Click Back to the Academy site and get the poet's picture for your page
Now it's time to read some poetry. Go Back to the Academy site. Click on the poem "I'm Nobody! Who are you?". Copy and paste it back into your Word page.
Read "I'm Nobody! Who are you?" and write what you think Dickinson is saying about being a "nobody".
- How does her view compare with our own?
- What animal image does she employ?
- In what ways do the lines of her poem almost rhyme?
- How is Dickinson's poem unlike any other you've ever senn? (Unless you've read a lot of Dickinson.)
Go back to the the Academy website and scroll through the titles of other Dickinson poems (she wrote over 1700, this is a small sampling). Select any with an appealing title, click on it, copy the poem into your Word page, and read it twice. Write about how the poem affected you: does it leave you feeling confused? enlightened? was it thought-provoking? mundane? morbid? funny?
Before we go on, we'll stop and watch a web video of someone reading "I'm Nobody" on the Favorite Poem Project website.
There is one more thing to do with Dickinson: Read a critic's view of her. At the Academy's website, scroll down below the Dickinson entry to a link called "Reckless Genius: Galway Kinnell on Emily Dickinson" and click on it.
When the site comes up, read it. Copy the passages about Dickinson's rhymes and paste it into your Word page. Then go back and copy the passages about "I heard a Fly buzz".
Before you leave the site, copy the URL from the dialogue box and paste it below the quotes. This is attribution.
Go back to the Academy website and click on "I heard a Fly buzz" and copy/paste it into your Word page.
Read the poem two times.
Write: How did Galway Kinnell help you understand this poem in a way that you might not have? Be specific.
You have completed your page on Emily Dickinson for now. Write what you think makes her a "mother" to modern female poets. You may use information from the biographical notes, Kinnell or the poems themselves.
For Gwendolyn Brooks, you will follow the same directions that you followed for the Emily Dickinson assignment: Academy website, biographical material, notes, copy of her photograph, and so on.
Poems to Copy and Read
- "the sonnet-ballad"
- "We Real Cool"
- "The Mother"
Criticism/Background to Read and Paste Sections From
Below the Brooks biographical material on the Academy website, find and click on Modern American Poetry: Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000). Write what you think makes poet Gwendolyn Brooks a "mother" to modern poets. Again, be specific and use citations from anything you read this week.
Our mothers are our guides; whether they nurture or neglect us, they are our first teachers, and we learn from their examples and their advice. Write about how you can see Emily Dickinson and Gwendolyn Brooks as spiritual mothers to people/women who want to write poetry today. You could structure this as a four-paragraph essay with one body paragraph on each poet. Decide what you want to say about the poet as a mother to young poets--is her example in the subject of her poetry? in the individuality? in the word choices/line style? or something else? Be sure you cite poems or lines from poems to prove your point. In your conclusion, discuss this idea: because Emily Dickinson and Gwendolyn Brooks have already done certain things, we are free to do other things. What might those things be when it comes to writing poetry? In other words, tell me what types of things poets DON'T have to do now because the mothers already did them. Again, think about subject matter, the way the lines look in their poems, images or anything else. Check your spelling, citations, and punctuation.