About

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David Meeker created this blog in the fall of 2013 to serve as an aid for a high school language arts unit on 20th century protest poetry. Since that time, the poems have expanded to include poems from the 21st century, too.

David received his MFA in Poetry from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has since published poems in the Wisconsin Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Phoebe, The Southeast Review, Colorado Review, Georgetown Review, and Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose. David’s poetry manuscripts have been selected as finalists for numerous poetry prizes, including the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize and the National Poetry Series. He is currently working on a new book of poems.

Two main objectives of this blog are to have students consider how language can be powerful and how literature, in general, can contribute to social change. Focusing on protest poetry, in particular, I have included several exercises for students new to poetry to discover their voice, begin using the tools that writers tap into to reach a wider audience, and perhaps shape the world in which they live for the better.

For educators, I have devised a mini-unit on Protest Poetry consisting of three 90-minute lesson plans. If your interested in learning more about how this unit is structured, please contact me for more detailed lesson plans and other resources, though my intention was to create a blog site that was a free-standing resource for educators and students alike. The following is a breakdown of the lesson plans.

In the first lesson, students will read and analyze a selection of protest poems written in English or translated into English from another language, paying close attention to the literary devices that protest poems utilize effectively. How are these poems constructed? Do they have similarities and differences among each other or with other types of poems and literary genres? Who is the audience for these poems? Can you accurately describe the speaker and tone of voice spoken in each poem?

In the second lesson, students focus on social change and the events these poems are protesting against, if applicable. Do the arts have an influence on historical events, or do they merely witness them? Does poetry make a difference? How? When we use the word “protest” what exactly do we mean? Is it possible, for example, to write a poem about one’s cat and still consider it a protest poem? Examining how poetry has been used throughout history to create social change or to bring to our attention important moments in the history of the human race, students will learn to broaden their understanding and appreciation of poetry as both a chronicle and agent of human history.

In the final lesson of the unit, students will compose their own protest poems and either perform them before the class in a poetry slam event or, if students are not comfortable with performing before a large group, create “poetry videos” with a voice-over of their written work. Students are also encouraged to submit their protest poems to the website issue (published twice a year) that showcases student work from across the country. Alternatively, students can submit their poems for publication in either print or digital literary magazines and journals that feature current protest poems being written in the U.S. and abroad.

5 thoughts on “About”

  1. Thank you, David for creating this blog. It is important for students to know that when bad things happen and we feel powerless to do anything about it, we can write. Write the questions even if we don’t have answers, stand witness to what we didn’t want to see, write the horror, the anger, the sympathy and outrage, write to say ‘I know this; I felt that too’.

  2. Hi David
    Would love an opportunity to see more detailed lessons. I am teaching grade 11 English in Ontario and our area of focus this year is on injustice. Protest poetry would be a great place to start the conversation and I think they would really love an opportunity to create either a slam poem or list poem to share with the class. If you wouldn’t mind contacting me in regards to further lessons, that would be great! Our curriculum is different, but a starting point would be appreciated.
    Kristin

    1. Hi Kristin,

      I’m sorry to say, but unfortunately I don’t have any further detailed lesson plans for this mini-unit on protest poetry. I have brief sketches of 3 lessons in the “About” tab, which I meant to expand and teach last year, but to be honest I ran out of time with my own 9th grade students.

      With that said…In a larger unit of poetry, I introduced this website at the end of the unit. I had students read, digitally annotate, and then write about the poetic devices used in each poem in their journals. After we did a few of these, I had them think about what the poems had in common, if they could find similarities and differences with regard to tone, theme, audience, language, etc. This could work well for a compare/contrast essay, but I think I had them just write a long paragraph when I did it then focus on writing their own protest piece. This might be 4-5 days.

      It’s hard to say how I made the jump to the essential question of whether or not protest poetry is witness or adds to social change (the second lesson), but that’s where I wanted to go. To me, this is a great question. If I taught this mini-unit today, I would look at Ai Weiwei and others, Pyotr Pavlensky, Pussy Riot, etc. I am teaching 7th graders this year, so maybe not appropriate for that age group, but 11th graders, yes. This could take 2-3 days.

      Finally, I would end up having students brainstorm events (Trump’s inauguration, LGBTQ rallies, etc.) that they might want to protest and have them begin writing a performance poem written to a particular audience. Just an idea, but I’ve recently been asked to write a collaborative protest poem with 14 other writers in Portland, OR (18 lines each) and started thinking this could be a cool way to collaborate with others in the class. Maybe let students form groups of 4-6, by topic, and have them say something together and perform it somewhere. It could be “assembled,” so not really collaborative in that sense.

      Anyway, hope this helps. I am a new teacher (second career) and frankly not great at writing out formal lesson or unit plans yet, though I am thinking of doing so for this unit based on the responses I’ve received. I’m still figuring out the best way to teach this. Again, thanks for the interest and good luck in Ontario!

      David

  3. Hi David,
    This is an excellent resource! I’m an 8th grade teacher in Brooklyn, NY and I’m planning a protest poetry unit right now. If you are inclined to share more detailed plans and models (particularly for the writing exercises), I’d be most grateful.
    Sincerely,
    Emily

    1. Hi Emily,

      I wrote this response to another teacher in Ontario, so am duplicating it here. Hope this helps!

      I’m sorry to say, but unfortunately I don’t have any further detailed lesson plans for this mini-unit on protest poetry. I have brief sketches of 3 lessons in the “About” tab, which I meant to expand and teach last year, but to be honest I ran out of time with my own 9th grade students.

      With that said…In a larger unit of poetry, I introduced this website at the end of the unit. I had students read, digitally annotate, and then write about the poetic devices used in each poem in their journals. After we did a few of these, I had them think about what the poems had in common, if they could find similarities and differences with regard to tone, theme, audience, language, etc. This could work well for a compare/contrast essay, but I think I had them just write a long paragraph when I did it then focus on writing their own protest piece. This might be 4-5 days.

      It’s hard to say how I made the jump to the essential question of whether or not protest poetry is witness or adds to social change (the second lesson), but that’s where I wanted to go. To me, this is a great question. If I taught this mini-unit today, I would look at Ai Weiwei and others, Pyotr Pavlensky, Pussy Riot, etc. I am teaching 7th graders this year, so maybe not appropriate for that age group, but 11th graders, yes. This could take 2-3 days.

      Finally, I would end up having students brainstorm events (Trump’s inauguration, LGBTQ rallies, etc.) that they might want to protest and have them begin writing a performance poem written to a particular audience. Just an idea, but I’ve recently been asked to write a collaborative protest poem with 14 other writers in Portland, OR (18 lines each) and started thinking this could be a cool way to collaborate with others in the class. Maybe let students form groups of 4-6, by topic, and have them say something together and perform it somewhere. It could be “assembled,” so not really collaborative in that sense.

      I am a new teacher (second career) and frankly not great at writing out formal lesson or unit plans yet, though I am thinking of doing so for this unit based on the responses I’ve received. I’m still figuring out the best way to teach this. Again, thanks for the interest and good luck in Brooklyn!

      David

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