37 Poem Family Tree – Project

Authors: allia abdullah-matta, Angel Dye, Shauna Morgan, Dave Wooley

Target Group: Advanced Undergraduate

Project Overview

The Poem Family Tree project requires students to critically analyze a poem and identify the antecedents or “relatives” from which it borrows or to which it connects. These might be allusions, influences, epigraphs, after poems, golden shovel poems, and/or historical or communal references, but they must represent some tethering to the past that establishes a connection throughout the continuum of the Black experience and Black aesthetic productions. In their poem tree analysis, students will consider the historical role that Black music, poetry, literature, and art played in resistance to anti-blackness and systems of white supremacy. 

In establishing connections across time and space through the identified poetic “relatives,” students will deconstruct the artistic tapestry of their subject poem through a research paradigm that mimics what hip hop DJs refer to as “digging in the crates;” a means of finding the source material that informed the subject song.

In this critical “pulling apart,” students will have an opportunity to explore the context in which the original source material existed as both a social critique and critical solution to a system problem of oppression. They will then put that historical framework in conversation with the contemporary context in which their subject poem exists.

Student Task

First, choose a poem to focus on for your analysis. You can choose any poem from the syllabus or any poem of your choice from a Furious Flower anthology. Document your choice by identifying the poem title, the name of the poet, the original site of publication, as well as the year the poem was published (if known).

Secondly, write a short biography of the poet. Include their relevant dates, accomplishments, noteworthy publications, and a description of their poetic production. The biography should be no longer than 200 words, and it should be accompanied by an image of the poet.

Then, write a short summary and analysis of the poem. What is the poem about, and what is the thematic work that the poem does? This description and short analysis should be 300 words or less.

Next, identify three “relatives” of the poem that belong in that poem’s family tree. In other words, identify three references, influences, or allusions that you recognize in the poem. For each of the “relatives” that you identify, you must do the following:

  • Identify how the reference appears in the poem.
  • Explain the connection between the poem and the “relative.”
  • Discuss how the use of the “relative” in the poem creates a specific effect. In other words, why do you think the poet chose to employ this reference? How does it add depth of meaning and complexity to the poem? Each “relative” should be presented with supporting visual elements and appropriate links to any digital media that reference the “relative” and add context to the connection between the “relative” and the subject poem.

Lastly, the project must include a works cited page, presented in an appropriate citation format at the discretion of the course instructor.

You may format your project as a word document, graphic organizer, a PowerPoint or Prezi presentation, or any other presentation model that the course instructor approves.


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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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