Lesson of the Day: ‘Listen Up: These Young Black Poets Have a Message’

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Lesson of the Day: ‘Listen Up: These Young Black Poets Have a Message’

4. In the interview, Alora Young, 17, said, “I think that poetry is vital in this time period, because I don’t think there’s ever been a lonelier time in history.” Do her words resonate with you? Do any of the poems in the article help you to understand, process or get through the challenges of the present moment?

5. Akilah Toney, 18, said, “Poetry is more expansive than we really realize.” Does reading the article change your thoughts and feelings about poetry? Does it make you appreciate its craft and power? Are you now more likely to read or write poetry? Why or why not?

Option 1: Analyze and Interpret One of the Poems.

Choose one of the poems showcased in the article and write your own analysis and interpretation. Read the poem at least twice, both aloud and to yourself. If possible, print out a copy and mark it with observations as you go.

To help you get started, you might use these three questions modified from our What’s Going On in This Picture? feature:

Then dig a little deeper:

  • What do you notice about the words, phrases, details, imagery and metaphors in the poem? What do you notice about its structure, style or point of view?

  • Why did this poem stand out to you? What do you find interesting or moving about it?

  • What connections can you make between the poem and your own life or experience? Does this poem remind you of anything else you’ve read or seen?

  • What message do you think the young writer wanted to communicate? What questions would you ask the author about his or her work if you could?

Option 2: Write Your Own Original Poem.

Now it’s your turn: What do you want to say or express about our current moment?

Your poem can be short or long, rhyme or not, be written in prose or verse, but it should somehow comment on or respond to our world today. As you write, you might consider the words of Samuel Getachew, 18: “I’m always asking myself, if I’m not telling the truth in my poetry, then what am I doing?”

To get started, consider the ideas and insights offered by the 10 poets. Alora said she takes inspiration from history and science. INARI Williams, 18, drew on the loss of a friend to gun violence for his poem “WHY TASHA WAS BURIED IN A YELLOW COFFIN.” Madison Petaway, 17, once wrote a series of poems from her fascination with dandelions and the ways she felt like that forgotten flower.

Need more ideas and inspiration? Try writing a poem in response to one of our Picture Prompts. Or you can create a found poem using an article from The Times’s coverage of any issue that matters to you. If you have access to the print paper, try making a blackout poem instead.