220. Good Bones: Maggie Smith

What makes something go viral? It's a good question to ask your students.  If you ask them about "Literature with a capital 'L'" they won't know what you're talking about.  Classics?  Old books?  Books librarians shove in your hand, that have gold seals on them and are not good but good for you?  Personally, I... Continue Reading →


215. Fire Safety: Joshua Mehigan

Another poem exploring safety, from our year-long look at Maslow (each stage a unit). Three things to take away: First, how does Mehigan capture an everyday object? Why use such a ubiquitous object as the subject of a poem? After looking at this poem, ask students the next day if they noticed the fire extinguishers... Continue Reading →

Shooting an Elephant: George Orwell

Not a poem, but a very useful story.... Because of the nature of our blocks, I recently read this aloud four times in two days. With each reading, I appreciated the story more and more. While not a poem, "Shooting and Elephant" is a stock essay in many anthologies. It is used for most any... Continue Reading →


207. A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London: Dylan Thomas

Look, there's only so much grading you can do. And when you assign writing, you might as well resign yourself to a long week of commenting. After such an assignment, I offer up work that is easy and quick to grade. One such assignment is to find an author interview. Students choose a book or... Continue Reading →


206: Paradise Lost: Book II: John Milton

Common Core a bit overwhelming? One afternoon, I was going to do the hard work of going through my ELA Common Core standards line by line and pulling out the recurring verbs--dull stuff--when I figured that, in this computer age, there must be a better way.   And it hit me: Wordle. Like Xerox, a... Continue Reading →


204. Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note: Amiri Baracka

I know, another suicide poem. But this poignant and ends with hope. I write this a week after Amiri Baracka died. His death made me think about his post 9/11 poem, "somebody blew up america". It's quite the polemic. A study in anger--a dream denied (as Langston Hughes observed) just explodes, and Baracka is plenty... Continue Reading →


203. Richard Cory: Edwin Arlington Robinson

The last post--Anne Carson's "The Glass Essay"--was a bit long and deep and could be considered a downer.  Suicide. This  is about a suicide, too.   Not as much of a downer.  Perhaps it's Aristotle's often quoted "comedy = tragedy + time".  Not that Robinson is funny, but Cory's death isn't as tragic as the... Continue Reading →


202. The Glass Essay: Anne Carson

Okay, this is a really long poem. Okay, this poem is very mature and serious.  Not with language, but with ideas and suicide and death.  Not for kids, perhaps, but.... In the previous post, I wrote about how publishers use different covers to attract different markets.  What brought me there was Sylvia Plath's "The Bell... Continue Reading →


Judging a Book By Its Cover

A fascinating and engaging project for the classroom is comparing book jackets. To the right are two real covers for Sylvia Plath's classic "The Bell Jar".  The one on the left is the original, while the right one is for the 50th Anniversary Edition.  Quite a difference. Follow this link to an interesting discussion (and... Continue Reading →


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