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Picking a selection of poems for a high school student
November 7, 2012 8:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm tutoring a teen girl who loves Maya Angelou and writing her own poetry and I want to make her a book of poems to encourage/inspire her. What poems should I include?

I am tutoring a girl who loves Maya Angelou and likes to write poetry herself, and I want to give her a book of poems she might enjoy to encourage her interest in it. I'm going to print and bind it myself with hand-drawn illustatrations and cover decorations. I am familiar with Angelou's work but I was wondering what recommendations you could add.

From what she tells me, what she most likes about Angelou's poetry is the free verse style and her personal relation to the words. She is a below-grade-level tenth grader who is in the foster care system. She's also black, comes from a poor family, and we are located in the Southern US.

These are my goals for the book:

1) Choose other examples of poems that will reinforce her current taste and interest in poetry (poems that are written in the style and voice she is drawn to - "Phenomenal Woman" being an example). Feminist poems, poems by African-Americans about the black experience, and introspective poems by female poets fit here in my calculation. Also poems about being young or coming of age.

2) Choose some notable poems that will introduce her to different styles and subject matters but dovetail her current interests in some way (for instance free-verse cerebral poems or feminist poems with more formal meter).

3) Choose some poems that will be "educational" in a way - ones that deal accessibly and artfully with different cultures, histories, social issues, etc.

4) Choose some poems that are simply pretty, funny, inspiring, or highly inventive -- somehow just hard to ignore -- but won't go way over her head.

5) Choose some poems that are about the process of writing itself, ideally in an inspiring way.

In the top comment I will list the poems I've already got included in the selection, for reference and, as relevant, critique. Thank you very much!
posted by grokfest to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Phenomenal Woman - Angelou
God Says Yes to Me - Kaylin Haught
La Lupe - Victor Hernandez-Cruz
Variations on the Word “Love” - Margaret Atwood
Pithos - Rita Dove
I Will Keep Broken Things - Alice Walker
We Wear the Mask - Paul Laurence Dunbar
A Few Words on the Soul - Wislawa Szymborska
My Name - Mark Strand
“Hope” is the thing with feathers - Dickinson
Still I Rise - Angelou
To You - Whitman
Prayer in My Boot - Naomi Shihab Nye
A Prayer - Robert Creeley
Enigmas - Pablo Neruda
Our Valley - Philip Levine
Different Ways to Pray - Naomi Shihab Nye
Silence - Billy Collins
This is Just to Say - William Carlos Williams
Anecdote of the Jar - Wallace Stevens
a song in the front yard - Gwendolyn Brooks
Bus Stop - Donald Justice
Legacies - Nikki Giovanni
Four Skinny Trees - Sandra Cisneros
Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein
in Just- - e. e. cummings
April Rain Song - Langston Hughes
The Daffodils - Wordsworth
If the World Was Crazy - Shel Silverstein
The Summer Day - Mary Oliver
The Guest House - Rumi
little tree - e. e. cummings
posted by grokfest at 8:16 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Check out some Mark Strand. Also James Tate. Both are pretty accessible but evocative.
posted by vecchio at 8:20 PM on November 7, 2012


"Hir" by Alysia Harris & Aysha El Shamayleh

It's described as a poem about transgender youth, but I think it also translates to a lot of people's lives and the conflicting expectations between oneself and their society.
posted by rylan at 8:26 PM on November 7, 2012


Terrance Hayes, "A House Is Not a Home."
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 8:36 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sylvia Plath - Daddy
posted by empath at 8:45 PM on November 7, 2012


Audre Lord, "Hanging Fire."
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:50 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bonaro Overstreet - Stubborn Ounces.
posted by 9000condiments at 8:56 PM on November 7, 2012


"homage to my hips" - Lucille Clifton
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:16 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Loving in Truth" - Philip Sydney

Some Emily (Dickinson).
posted by pynchonesque at 9:31 PM on November 7, 2012


Anna Akhmatova's Requiem and WB Yeats' The Second Coming.
posted by par court at 9:46 PM on November 7, 2012


I have a scrapbook of poetry that 'spoke to me' in high school (three decades ago). One quote I'd ripped from something or other was this:

"Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits."

That ignited my imagination no end.

Upon googling, I find that quote was written by a bloke named Carl Sandburg. (The wikipedia article mentions that he supported the civil rights movement and contributed to the NAACP which may or may not be of interest to your giftee.)

And then I found this list of his ten definitions of poetry which, I reckon, is poetry itself.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 10:13 PM on November 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ben Okri's an African Elegy.

We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.....
posted by anitanita at 11:33 PM on November 7, 2012


And a nice wikipedia about who Okri is here....
posted by anitanita at 11:38 PM on November 7, 2012


nthing Langston Hughes.
posted by DaddyNewt at 12:11 AM on November 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a wonderful thing to do -- and hooray for adding "God Says Yes"!

A Work of Artifice by Marge Piercy

To Be of Use by Marge Piercy

Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins (I loved this poem as a young teen, loved the sound)

Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

buffalo bill's defunct by e e cummings

Untitled by Diane Ackerman (begins "One can live at a low flame")

Mending Wall by Robert Frost

Does It Matter by Siegfried Sassoon
posted by kestralwing at 2:51 AM on November 8, 2012


Langston Hughes for sure. Also Tupac Shakur, The Rose that Grew from Concrete would be a wonderful gift.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:53 AM on November 8, 2012


People have suggested Langston Hughes. I have his relatively innocent "April Rain Song" and know his most famous (Theme for English B, Weary Blues, I, too Sing America, Let America Be America Again, Dreams, Mother to Son, Dream Deferred) but don't know a great lesser known one. I would appreciate recommendations for that.
posted by grokfest at 6:45 AM on November 8, 2012


When I was in Junior High & High School & felt like a bit of an outsider I kept coming back to Allen Ginsberg's 'America' and 'My Sad Self.'

When I was older and more feminist I discovered Adrienne Rich (e.g. Calle Vision), but may not have appreciated it when I was young though.
posted by univac at 7:07 AM on November 8, 2012


Lordy, I was a girl much like her. This book of poetry was very important to me during that time: Rhythm Road: Poems to Move to.

(By the way, I would have never found this book again, if it hadn't been for Ask.)
posted by Coatlicue at 7:51 AM on November 8, 2012


I'm wondering about Ishmael Reed: fantastic, wonderfully clever Afrocentric novelist and poet, with a striking and inspiring style, but a lot of his stuff is sexually or politically radical enough to give teachers pause.

Beware: do not read this poem is the most commonly taught of his — one of the clean ones, straightforward, fun to read, not overtly political.

I am a cowboy in the boat of Ra is his other Greatest Hit, and it's a much more exciting poem — really shockingly brilliant — but it's also kinda raunchy, and less immediately accessible if you're not much of a reader.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:59 AM on November 8, 2012


Thank you to everyone! I've marked as "best" the ones that I either added or took me to a poem I added (different poems by Lucille Clifton and Audre Lorde, for instance). I requested Rhythm Road from the library and look forward to reading it.

Here's the list as it stands now:

Phenomenal Woman - Maya Angelou
Some Days - James Baldwin
God Says Yes to Me - Kaylin Haught
La Lupe - Victor Hernandez-Cruz
Variations on the Word “Love” - Margaret Atwood
Beware: Do Not Read This Poem - Ishmael Reed
Pithos - Rita Dove
I Will Keep Broken Things - Alice Walker
We Wear the Mask - Paul Laurence Dunbar
A Few Words on the Soul - Wislawa Szymborska
My Name - Mark Strand
“Hope” is the thing with feathers - Emily Dickinson
Still I Rise - Maya Angelou
To You - Walt Whitman
Prayer in My Boot - Naomi Shihab Nye
Dedication - Jim Natal
Ten Definitions of Poetry - Carl Sandburg
Enigmas - Pablo Neruda
Our Valley - Philip Levine
One Day - Robert Creeley
Different Ways to Pray - Naomi Shihab Nye
Silence - Billy Collins
Snow, Aldo - Kate DiCamillo
The Secret - Denise Levertov
if mama could see - Lucille Clifton
Peace - Gerard Manley Hopkins
a song in the front yard - Gwendolyn Brooks
Legacies - Nikki Giovanni
Four Skinny Trees - Sandra Cisneros
I said to poetry - Alice Walker
Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein
in Just- - e. e. cummings
April Rain Song - Langston Hughes
The Daffodils - William Wordsworth
If the World Was Crazy - Shel Silverstein
The Summer Day - Mary Oliver
Be Nobody’s Darling - Alice Walker
The Guest House - Jalaluddin Rumi
little tree - e. e. cummings
posted by grokfest at 9:51 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


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