This unit on the Japanese poetic form tanka encourages students to explore the structure and content of the form and to arrive at a definition of the tanka’s structure in English. Students will read and analyze the tanka form and compare it to English structures of poetry, and will finally compose their own tankas.
This lesson engages students in the reading and writing of the ghazal, a public, participatory poetic form created by the ancient Bedouins of Arabia and Persia. Students examine the structure of the ghazal, which continues as a poetic form in India, Iraq, and Iran, to derive a definition of this intricate form of word-play, and collaboratively compose their own group ghazals.
Striking examples of poetic "pictures"-not just vivid images but the entire mental picture conjured up by a poet-are to be found in "The Charge of the Light Brigade," by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and "The Highwayman," by Alfred Noyes. As they explore the means by which Tennyson and Noyes create these compelling pictures in words, students will also learn the critical terminology to analyze and describe a variety of poetic techniques and will have an opportunity to create their own pictures in words.
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.
Clues to Walt Whitman's effort to create a new and distinctly American form of verse may be found in his Notebooks, now available online from the American Memory Collection. In an entry to be examined in this lesson, Whitman indicated that he wanted his poetry to explore important ideas of a universal scope (as in the European tradition), but in authentic American situations and settings using specific details with direct appeal to the senses.