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.