28 The Poetics of Grace – Lesson Plan

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

Target Group: Graduate Seminar

“This is love. And this is where I need to be.”

–Rita Dove

This assignment draws inspiration from Panel 10 of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series (1941). For the Museum of Modern Art’s curated series on the 60 panels, featuring Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Rita Dove, Natasha Trethewey, and other Black poets inspired by Lawrence’s art, curated by Elizabeth Alexander, see here.

Defining Key Terms


  • morally very bad or evil
  • fierce, vicious
  • disgustingly unpleasant


  • ease of movement or bearing
  • disposition to kindness

Wicked Grace (Re)definitions (vis-a-vis Furious Flower Poets’ Black Consciousness)

A poetic posture whose elegance, refinement, and goodwill defies that which would be considered morally wrong in the eyes of those innured to the bear trap of white supremacy patriarchy.

Primary Poetic Examples

  • Remica Bingham-Risher, “Fish Fry” (Furious Flower 2019, p. 28)
  • DaMaris B. Hill, “Miz Lucille” (Furious Flower 2019, pp. 45-46)


Time and Conceptual/ Pedagogical Unit Blocks

45 min x two

Focused Writing on Site within the Seminar Session (45 min)

  • Graduate students select from the poems below to create small presentations they can provide to undergraduate students discussing how a poem of their choice represents one or more of the definitions provided for wicked grace.
  • Graduate students select two secondary sources to provide a historical context for the poems they selected.
  • Graduate students post and select a classmate’s presentation to determine how an undergraduate may respond to the presentation.

Learning Goals

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

  • To consider how Black poets’ works disrupt white supremacist heteropatriarchy and to redefine and reimagine grace.
  • To demonstrate an ability to provide clear class presentations to undergraduate students.

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 grace as a form of resistance across a range of poems.
  • To identify poetic techniques of grace that disrupt white supremacist heteropatriarchy.
  • To articulate attributes of grace in the form of a presentation for undergraduate students.

Additional Resources from Furious Flower, 2019


  • Rita Dove, “Foreword,” (pp. xvii-xx)
  • Meta DuEwa Jones, “The String of Grace: Renovating New Rhythms in the Present-Future of Black Poetry and Music” (pp. 213-230)
  • Sharan Strange, “A Poetics of Empathy” (pp. 396-399)


  • With her “Foreword” for the 2019 anthology in mind, read Dove’s “Parsley,” a villanelle* read at the 1994 Furious Flower conference, and “Say Grace,” her response to Jacob Lawrence Migration Series Poetry Suite.
  • F. Douglas Brown, “Re-Portrait Your Name, Douglas” (pp. 30-32)
  • Safia Elhillo, “self-portrait with no flag” (pp. 36-37)
  • Duriel E. Harris, “Making” (pp. 42-44)
  • JP Howard, “Praise Poem for My Leo Self” (pp. 49-50)
  • Yalie Kamara, “A Haiku Love Letter for Gabby Douglas” (p. 53)
  • Anastacia-Renée, “prayer for the unseen” (p. 62)
  • T’ai Freedom Ford, “#notorious” (p. 99)
  • Jericho Brown, “The Long Way” (pp. 178-179)

Additional Resources

*Dove’s use of this form with origins among the French-speaking proves subversive for many reasons. Chiefly, it underscores the irony that Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo, a mixed-race leader of Haitian descent through his mother’s mother, refused to show grace to those who could not hide their accents while also gracefully humanizing his complex relationship with his maternal ancestry.


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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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