Three Poems by William Carlos Williams
(Click Title)
by William Carlos Williams
by William Carlos Williams 

Danse Russe  
by William Carlos Williams
Audio Link

My Summary:
1. Read the poem out loud
2. Ask questions (in the margins or in a notebook)
3. Don't assume that you should understand the poem on the first "read"
4. Don't assume a poem is a "code," that each detail corresponds to one, and only one, thing
5. Don't assume that a poem can mean anything you want it to mean
6. Understand that the poet depends on the reader to "work" at gathering meaning from both form and content.
7. "The best poetry has a magical quality—a sense of being more than the sum of its parts—and even when it's impossible to articulate this sense, this something more, the power of the poem is left undiminished."
8. Form is content. A group of lines separated by space are called stanzas. Stanzas shape the poem literally and figuratively.
9. Think of poems as close cousins to music. The sound of the words and stanzas as they are read out loud—including alliteration, punctuation (or lack of), rhyme, rhythm (syllabic), tone, and repetition— matter.
10. Embrace ambiguity and difficulty

Here’s a useful analogy [from Poetry.org]:
A life partner, a husband, a wife—these are people with whom we hope to constantly renew our love. Despite the routine, the drone of familiarity, the daily preparation of meals and doing of dishes, the conversations we’ve had before, we hope to find a sense of discovery, of surprise. The same is true of poems. The most magical and wonderful poems are ever renewing themselves, which is to say they remain ever mysterious.


Ha Jin

Cornelius Eady

I'm a Fool to Love You

"In a Station of the Metro"
by Ezra Pound

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Mark Doty on Pound

Source: Literature An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing

Judith Ortiz Cofer (b. 1952)

My dolls have been put away like dead
children in a chest I will carry with me when I marry.
I reach under my skirt to feel a satin slip bought for this day. It is soft
as the inside of my thighs. My hair has been nailed back with my mother's
black hairpins to my skull. Her hands stretched my eyes open as she twisted
braids into a tight circle at the nape
of my neck. I am to wash my own clothes
and sheets from this day on, as if the fluids of my body were poison, as if
the little trickle of blood I believe travels from my heart to the world were
shameful. Is not the blood of saints and
men in battle beautiful? Do Christ's hands
not bleed into your eyes from His cross?
At night I hear myself growing and wake
to find my hands drifting of their own will to soothe skin stretched tight
over my bones.
I am wound like the guts of a clock,
waiting for each hour to release me.

Sherman Alexie
The Powwow at the End of the World

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam
and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam
downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you
that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find
their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific
and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon
waiting in the Pacific. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and
 so I shall.
after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and and abandoned reactors of Hanford. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after the salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River
as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives
in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.
I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after
that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws
a lightening bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire       which will lead all of the lost Indians home. I am told                   
by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon
who has three stories it must tell before sunrise; one story will teach us
how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours;
the third story will give us reason to dance. I am told by many
of you that I must forgive and so I shall when I am dancing
with my tribe during the powwow at the end of the world.

Salmon on Fish Latter Photo Source


By Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike
I am not cruel, only truthful—
The eye of a little god, four-cornered
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers. 
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes. Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish. (1963)


by Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


by Robert Frost

When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
So low for long, they never right themselves:
You may see their trunks arching in the woods
Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
But I was going to say when Truth broke in
With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
(Now am I free to be poetical?)
I should prefer to have some boy bend them
As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
Whose only play was what he found himself,
Summer or winter, and could play alone.
One by one he subdued his father's trees
By riding them down over and over again
Until he took the stiffness out of them,
And not one but hung limp, not one was left
For him to conquer. He learned all there was
To learn about not launching out too soon
And so not carrying the tree away
Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

Robert Frost Reading 


Read Para Teresa
 Homework (Your Choice: 500 word minimum):

  1. Why is "Para Teresa" written in English and Spanish?
  2. According to the narrator this fight takes place when the narrator was a child and the poem is written when the narrator is an adult. What do you think triggers this reflection and why does the narrator now have a greater understanding of Teresa?
  3. Make a connection between the Introduction to Rereading America and what you learned about the influence of culture to any aspect of "Para Teresa." For example, think about how family influences the narrator's decisions in the poem. Be sure to briefly summarize the information about culture first. 
  4. Summarize the article that is assigned to your team
  5. Answer one of the questions at the end of the chapter on any of the assigned readings
  6. Summarize the article that you researched on Proposition 30
  7. Read and write a meaningful comment to five of your classmates' "I am..." post

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