17 Historical Indebtedness of Contemporary Black Poetry – Undergraduate Lesson Plan

Authors: allia abdullah matta, Mary Beth Cancienne, Hayes Davis, Leona Sevick, Carmin Wong

Target Group: Undergraduate


  • “1994” by Lucille Clifton (Furious Flower 2004, pp. 69-70)
  • “Miz Lucille” by DaMaris B. Hill (Furious Flower 2019, pp. 45-46)

Historical Approach Exercise:

This exercise uses modes of intertextual analysis to draw connections within Black poetry. It centers on the idea of a historical figure (Poet Lucille Clifton) and the ways in which contemporary poet DaMaris B. Hill engages that figure and her work. Students will read and contextualize both of the poems in steps and uncover information about Clifton, her poetic legacy, and the connection of her legacy to Hill and her work.


To urge students toward an understanding of the historical indebtedness of contemporary Black poetry.

Classroom Preparation:

  • Instructors can project both poems on the screen in front of the class.
  • After reading the poems out loud, students should engage with the two poems by pointing out similar structural elements, stylistic choices, and figurative language.

Lesson Plan:

  • Instructor hands out copies of “Miz Lucille” by DaMaris B. Hill. Instructor reads the poem out loud to the class, then asks for a student to read the poem.
  • What images are evoked in the opening lines of the poem? How does the speaker’s choice of language create proximity between the speaker and Clifton?
  • Instructor asks students to do a “gallery walk” to read Dr. Hill’s poem next to one of Lucille Clifton’s poems and begin noticing commonalities between the two.
  • Following the gallery walk, students are asked to gather in small groups.
    • What ideas are being “echoed” in Dr. Hill’s poem?
    • How do the poet’s technical choices contribute to the theme of “Miz Lucille?”
  • After the “gallery walk,” the instructor leads students in a discussion using some or all of the questions below.

Note: Practitioners can use the key questions to facilitate student engagement with the poems in terms of whole group class discussion, guided free-writing, small group analysis and discussion of the texts, and discussion questions to build a writing assignment or essay.

    • How does the speaker seem to feel about Lucille Clifton, or, what is the tone of the poem? What language in the poem helps to develop that tone?
    • Research the life of Lucille Clifton—what is to be admired about her life? What did she achieve, and what historical moments did she witness? How are she and her legacy honored and recognized? What other poets have listed her as an influence or inspiration?
    • Who is Dr. DaMaris B. Hill? What has she achieved? What significant events have occurred during her lifetime?
    • How does the poem itself pay homage to Lucille Clifton’s work and poetics? What is an “echo poem,” and how does Dr. Hill reflect Ms. Clifton’s work in her style?
    • How does Dr. Hill’s poem engage with and/or honor Clifton’s poetry and literary legacy? Why is this important in the tradition of Black poetry? How might your writing engage this tradition?
  • Free-write session. Students should begin to write down their thoughts and ideas about the poems. How does Dr. Hill’s poem engage with and/or honors Clifton’s poetry and literary legacy?



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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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