11 Historical Indebtedness of Contemporary Black Poetry – High School Lesson Plan

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

Target Group: High School 


  • “1994” by Lucille Clifton (Furious Flower 2004, p. 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 between Black poetry. It centers on the idea of a historical figure (Lucille Clifton) and the ways in which the contemporary DaMaris B. Hill engages that figure. Students will read and contextualize both of the poems in steps. As an optional extension of this exercise, students will 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:

  • Before class, the instructor prints out 3-4 copies of both poems in large font (at least 14-16 point).
  • Instructor mounts both poems on poster-sized sticky note sheets and posts them on the walls around the classroom.

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.
  • Instructor asks students:
    • What do you see in the poem?
    • What do you think about the poem?
    • What do you wonder about the poem?
      • Instructor gives students time to reflect in writing and records responses on the whiteboard.
  • Following the see/think/wonder discussion, 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. Students have five minutes for the gallery.
  • After the gallery walk, instructor leads students in a discussion using some or all of the questions below.


  • 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?
  • 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?


  • Instructor asks students to close with a quiet writing exercise using the following prompt:
    • Is there an artist or author that you admire? How would you seek to pay tribute to them?

Optional Extension:

  • During the next class period or for homework, instructor asks students to complete the following questions:
    • Do some research into the life of Lucille Clifton—what is to be admired about her life? What did she achieve, and what historical moments did she witness? What monuments to her life exist? What other poets have listed her as an influence or inspiration?
    • Who is Dr. DaMaris B. Hill? What has she achieved, and what historical moments has she witnessed?



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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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