"Lit Bits & Culture Capture" Blog Posts

Poet Laureate Steps Off Beaten Path, Takes Poetry to Small Towns, Rural Communities

Photo of Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith
“I am thrilled that Tracy K. Smith has accepted my invitation to continue sharing her poetry with the nation. Her exchanges with Americans in small towns and rural communities are inspiring an appreciation of poetry and history—and remind us that poetry has value for all our lives.”—Carla Hayden, Librarian of CongressRead More »

“Facing the Lion”: A Memoir That Speaks Volumes about Effective Storytelling and Autobiographical Writing

Panorama of the Serengeti
In 2003 the National Geographic Society published a memoir called Facing the Lion by Joseph Lemasolai  Lekuton in which the author describes growing up on the savannah in northern Kenya along the southern border of Ethiopia and leading a nomadic life as a member of the Maasai people. The memoir—included on NEH’s list of favorite nonfiction titles—has elements of interest to middle grade readers from age eleven to fifteen, including adventure and danger.Read More »

Pulitzer Prize-winning Book of Poetry—“Olio”— Is a Liberating Experience

Tyehimba Jess
The 2017 winner of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry, Olio by Tyehimba Jess, “melds performance art with the deeper art of poetry,” explains a statement from the judges, “to explore collective memory and challenge contemporary notions of race and identity.” English teachers will find a wealth of source material in the book’s bibliography—from slave narratives to histories of the music of black Americans—to supplement the study of the poems themselves, whRead More »

“The Things They Carried”: Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam War Novel Endures

Soldiers carry a wounded comrade through a swampy area
Fifty years ago, many young men like Tim O’Brien, author The Things They Carried—published in 1990—were drafted into the army and later served in what was increasingly becoming an unpopular war. Today, in times of a volunteer army, many aspects of the military have changed.Read More »

War Literature: Being There or Not

World War One soldier's identity document. Robert Knox
Literature about war—whether the lived experience of the author or not—has over the centuries taken the form of many genres: epic, tragedy, comedy, narrative poetry, history play, novel, short story, memoir, and lyric poetry. While reading works from Homer’s Iliad  to Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, students can benefit from identifying not only the wide variety of genres depicting battle and its consequences but also from recognizing the stark contrasts these genres can represent in  tone, style, point of view, and intent.Read More »