27 Poetics of Black Childhood – Lesson Plan

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

Target Group: Graduate Seminar


  • Ask students to spend three minutes simulating a “Red Light/Green Light” game. This is done to remind them of childhood in an immediate way and associate that remembrance with bodily movement and a physical experience.
  • Each graduate student is tasked with creating an echo poem modeled after a poem that centers childhood (Note: “echo poems” are distinguished from “echo verse.” For further explanation and examples, see poet DaMaris B. Hill’s use of “echo poems” based on Lucile Clifton’s poetry in A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing).
  • Each graduate student will create/write a poem focusing on one of the following topics:
    • A poem written for children (delimit age).
    • A poem written for an “inner” child within.
    • A poem written from perspective of adult reflecting on childhood.

Learning Goals

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

  • This lesson will engender dialogue about Black childhoods with the tropes and stereotypical representations of childhood experiences in which students’ bodies and senses are engaged.
  • This lesson will help students develop an understanding of their becoming in the context of intersectional identities, particularly within Black and Brown bodies.
  • This lesson will challenge students to interrogate their own early childhood experiences and cultural foundations to better understand how they have acquired knowledge, developed theories, and established their limits.

Learning Objectives

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

  • To understand how poetry about childhoods infuses historical forms (ballad(e)s, nursery rhymes, sonnets, villanelles) and notions of intersectional identity as a means of understanding our various embodied social locations and the climate in which we learn and teach.
  • To identify and attend to intersecting embodied differences (racial, gendered, class, and etc.) in poems’ imagery, metaphor(s), syntax, and other formal choices.
  • To use writing as a means of exploring and transforming experiences of childhoods.
  • To enter into a call-and-response dialogue with theoretical (re)framings of childhoods within the context of Black bodies.

Primary Texts: Poems for Focused Study

Beyond the Binary

  • Arisa White, “Loni, with a martini and sapphire balls,” (Furious Flower 2019, p. 310)
  • Xandria Phillips “A Fruit We Never Tasted” (Furious Flower 2019, pp. 201-202)
  • Rickey Laurentiis, “Conditions for a Southern Gothic” (Furious Flower 2019, p. 56)
  • Danez Smith “For the Dead Homie” (Furious Flower 2019, pp. 130-132)



  • Nikki Giovanni, “The Wrong Kitchen” and “Nikki-Rosa” (1:24:45-) (Furious Flower 2004, pp. 139-140)
  • Elizabeth Alexander, “Passage” (Furious Flower 2004, pp. 225-226)
  • Mahtem Shiferraw, “The Silences,” (Furious Flower 2019, p. 63)

Primary Concept/Background Texts (Books/Book Covers for Focused Study)

Context Books for Children’s Lit (Understudied Genre Black Poets Innovate)

Supplemental Texts for Childhood Reading


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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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