26 Intertextual Exchanges and Intergenerational Poetic Conversations: Lesson Plan

Authors: Tyree Daye, Meta DuEwa Jones, DaMaris B. Hill, Dana A. Williams, L. Lamar Wilson

Target Group: Graduate Seminar


Time and Conceptual/Pedagogical Unit Blocks:

45 min x three:

One Break (15 min)

One focused writing within the classroom seminar session space: (15 min)

Step One: Graduate students select one prompt from an itemized list of prompts specifically generated from 1-2 of the primary poems.

Step Two: They engage focused writing for the duration of that time period.

Step Three: 1 minute timed read-aloud segmented excerpts from student’s focused writing (10-15 mins max).

Step Four: They post their responses to the learning management system, and each student offers a short response to the other students’ writing.

Step Five: After the writing and sharing activity has been completed, the students and the faculty leading the session engage in discussion between the primary texts and the secondary texts listed below—included poems and essays in this longer three-hour session.

  • Timing is balanced to ensure at least 30 minutes of the classroom discussion involves secondary texts that are poems and another 30 minutes involves texts that are essays

Step Six: After discussing the written text and historical and political contexts, students will be guided to discuss (not write about) 1-2 of the photographs of poets featured on the Furious Flower Archive.

  • The prompt for discussion begins: “In this photograph, you are . . .”

Learning Goals

Remember: goals often point to a larger purpose, a long-term vision, or a less tangible result.

  • To consider how Black poets participate in intertextual exchanges;
  • To develop an appreciation of intergenerational poetic conversations; and
  • To demonstrate awareness of the spirit of insurrection inherent in Black poetry.

Learning Objectives

Remember: objectives tend to be time-limited, measurable actions with tangible outcomes that help push progress toward broader goals.

  • To understand the varied interpretations of a trope and/or theme (resistance) across a range of poems;
  • To identify the literary techniques the poets use to develop the trope and;
  • To respond to the poems through guided prompts.

Primary Texts

Writing Exercise One

View Krista Franklin’s We Wear the Mask VIII, a 2014 collage on handmade paper, which investigates negative perceptions of women by fusing female bodies with parts of animals, plants, and other organic entities. Then, craft a poem that responds to the image and Johnson’s “Aeration.”

Writing Exercise Two

  • With those poems in your consciousness, spend seven minutes writing about how grace sounded in your childhood home space when you chose not to seek the intervention of a guardian or a municipal or state agency.
  • Take a breather from writing to consider this quotation from Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye:

There is a difference between being put out and being put outdoors. If you are put out, you go somewhere else; if you are outdoors, there is no place to go. The distinction was subtle but final. Outdoors was the end of something, an irrevocable, physical fact, defining and complementing our metaphysical condition …Dead doesn’t change, and outdoors is here to stay.

  • Now, spend an additional seven minutes writing as you contemplate the difference between “calling on cops” and “calling the cops” in terms of the vernacular use of the preposition and care within Black communities, especially when the “state” or “authority” cannot be trusted with care of our bodies, minds, or health. Infuse your poem with details of a personal experience with police or other authorities.

Secondary Texts

(in foci and context for graduate seminar)

The lesson will emphasize that the poems are antecedent and historically crucial to read, view, listen to, and engage with in preparation for the lesson.

Writing Exercise Three

Then, ponder: What are the rules that govern, fairly or unfairly, how Black girls and women navigate the world? What does it mean for them to break these rules? List 10 unforgivable rules that Black women might need to break in order to realize their fullest potential. Write a haiku sequence that is a love letter to an individual, famous or known only to you, who has defied at least five of these unforgivable rules, taking account of injustices or insensitivities that undergrid these rules.

  • Read F. Douglas Brown’s “Re-Portrait Your Name, Douglas” (Furious Flower 2019, pp. 30-32) and listen to Earth Wind and Fire’s “Reasons” (lyrics, performance), which his poem references. Then, read Amiri Baraka’s “I Am” and “In the Funk World” (Furious Flower 2004, pp. 50-55) and Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Songs for My Father” (Furious Flower 2004, pp. 152-157).

Writing Exercise Four

Spend some time researching the origins of your name, its etymologies and meanings. Listen to a favorite song that was played in your childhood home as you complete the research, taking note of its key refrains and chorus. Then craft a poem that rehistoricizes America’s fraught history through the prism of your and your family members’ experiences of coming of age. Using anaphora, epistrophe, apostrophe, and other invocations of repetition, incorporate the refrain in your poem.

  • Read DaMaris B. Hill’s “A Reckoning: Assata in 1980” (Furious Flower 2019, p. 198) and discuss the Natasha Trethewey-inspired “sensibilities” that Hill infused in her poem. Then, read Lucille Clifton’s “1994” and Nikki Giovanni’s “The Wrong Kitchen” and “Nikki-Rosa” (Furious Flower 2004, pp. 69-70; 139-141), both of which inspired the poem. Then consider this excerpt from Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God:

‘Ah’ll clean ’em, you fry ’em and let’s eat,’ he said with the assurance of not being refused. They went out into the kitchen and fixed up the hot fish and corn muffins and ate. Then Tea Cake went to the piano without so much as asking and began playing blues and singing, and throwing grins over his shoulder. The sounds lulled Janie to soft slumber and she woke up with Tea Cake combing her hair and scratching the dandruff from her scalp. It made her more comfortable and drowsy” (p. 125).

Writing Exercise Five

Take the next seven minutes to write about love and the kitchen space. You can write about a personal experience or rely on literary examples.

Secondary Texts (Essays)

  • Read Joanne Gabbin’s “Introduction” (Furious Flower 2004, pp. xvii-xxxii), which emphasizes Gwendolyn Brooks’s humanity and vulnerability.
  • Read John H. Bracey’s “Communities and Social Movements in Black Poetry” (Furious Flower 2019, pp. 5-20).
  • Read Charles E. Cobb Jr., This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible (Basic, 2014) for intergenerational historical context about the complexities of liberation, rebellion, insurrection, and mental health.


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The Furious Flower Syllabus Project: Opening the World of Black Poetry Copyright © 2024 by Anastacia-Reneé; allia abdullah-matta; Ariana Benson; Mary Beth Cancienne; Teri Ellen Cross Davis; Shameka Cunningham; Hayes Davis; Tyree Daye; Angel C. Dye; Brian Hannon; T.J. Hendrix; DaMaris B. Hill; Meta DuEwa Jones; Shauna M. Morgan; Adrienne Danyelle Oliver; Leona Sevick; James Smethurst; Dana A. Williams; L. Lamar Wilson; Carmin Wong; Dave Wooley; and Joanne V. Gabbin (preface) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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