118. The Blue Seuss: Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes just won the National Book Award for poetry for his book “Lighthead”. You can buy it here. Hazzah!

Below is an older poem from his book Wind in a Box.

I tend to embed literacy in my instruction. For me, that means using it to teach Social Science. Hayes accomplishes a neat trick here, making the long history of blacks stolen from Africa, shipped to America and slowly struggle for freedom and equality seem simultaneously light and quite heavy. This somber mood, with a delicate touch, is best understood by listening to him read it. You can hear it here. It reminds me of “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks in tone; it starts out kinda fun, but then gets sad.

For a more concrete lesson, have students create a timeline and identify each moment addressed in the poem. As with any good timeline, it will show just how long blacks have been oppressed in America, and their relatively short passage from second-class citizens to president and award winning poets.

The Blue Seuss
Terrance Hayes

Blacks in one box
Blacks in two box
Blacks on
Blacks stacked in boxes stacked on boxes
Blacks in boxes stacked on shores
Blacks in boxes stacked on boats in darkness
Blacks in boxes do not float
Blacks in boxes count their losses
Blacks on boat docks
Blacks on auction
Blacks on wagons
Blacks with masters in the houses
Blacks with bosses in the fields
Blacks in helmets toting rifles
Blacks in Harlem toting banjoes boots and quilts
Blacks on foot
Blacks on buses
Blacks on backwood hardwood stages singing blues
Blacks on Broadway singing too
Blacks can Charleston
Blacks can foxtrot
Blacks can bebop
Blacks can moonwalk
Blacks can beatbox
Blacks can run fast too
Blacks on
Blacks and
Blacks on knees and
Blacks on couches
Blacks on Good Times
Blacks on Roots
Blacks on Cosby
Blacks in voting booths are
Blacks in boxes
Blacks beside
Blacks in rows of houses are
Blacks in boxes too


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