Poets achieve popular acclaim only when they express clear and widely shared emotions with a forceful, distinctive, and memorable voice. But what is meant by voice in poetry, and what qualities have made the voice of Langston Hughes a favorite for so many people?
Walt Whitman sought to create a new and distinctly American form of poetry. His efforts had a profound influence on subsequent generations of American poets. In this lesson, students will explore the historical context of Whitman's concept of "democratic poetry" by reading his poetry and prose and by examining daguerreotypes taken circa 1850. Next, students will compare the poetic concepts and techniques behind Whitman's "I Hear America Singing" and Langston Hughes' "Let America Be America Again," and will have an opportunity to apply similar concepts and techniques in creating a poem from their own experience.