Poetry & Social Justice

“Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry” –W.B. Yeats 

Along with numerous schools throughout the country, next month students at Islip High School will celebrate National Poetry Month. On Friday, April 12 we will use the library all day to highlight and celebrate poems, poets, and poetry. Hands-on activities such as magnetic poetry, Post-A-Poem, Spine Poetry and Blackout Poetry, in addition to poetry recital will round out the gathering. We’ll also have a passive display of novels in verse. 

*Remember these activities listed above can be done in any language.
Give it a try – Pull out your Spanish language books for spine poetry!

One way to make your Poetry celebration unique, is to include poems highlighting social justice.  

Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice (edited by Gail Bush) is an excellent choice. This anthology includes “over 50 works of poetry by 20th century writers on issues related to social justice in American society.” Use with middle school and high school classes. 

Here are some helpful resources related to this title:

Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice Book Group Discussion Guide 

Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice Teacher’s Guide 

Interested in additional books? Take a look at Sylvia Vardell’ “Classroom Connections: Poetry and Social Justice” from Book Links

Or, try using The Poetry Foundation’s Collection – “Poems of Protest, Resistance, and Empowerment” where students can explore “why poetry is necessary and sought after in moments of political crisis.” 

Make connections through poetry by creating found poems. “In this activity, students analyze and interpret historical, primary source content, then synthesize the information, making personal connections with history as they retell it from their own perspective. The activity provides an opportunity for students to creatively share their historical understanding with an authentic audience. 

While writing original poetry can be daunting to students, this activity uses a “found poetry” strategy. Using rich primary source texts, students select words that allow them to retell the historical content in poetic form.”  

“To create a found poem, students select words, phrases, lines, and sentences from one or more written documents and combine them into a poem. Raw material for found poems can be selected from newspaper articles, speeches, diaries, advertisements, letters, food menus, brochures, short stories, manuscripts of plays, shopping lists, and even other poems.” Additional information can be found in this pdf. This activity is similar to blackout poetry. 

So as you plan your National Poetry Month celebrations and activities, consider including social justice as a theme.