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NOTHING BUT THE BLUES: WITNESSING THROUGH POETRY Writing to Witness and Poetic Form: The Blues Poem.

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Presentation on theme: "NOTHING BUT THE BLUES: WITNESSING THROUGH POETRY Writing to Witness and Poetic Form: The Blues Poem."— Presentation transcript:

1 NOTHING BUT THE BLUES: WITNESSING THROUGH POETRY Writing to Witness and Poetic Form: The Blues Poem

2 Anticipation Exercise – Interactive Notebook  1. Identify the literary device(s) used in each of the lines below:  “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child”  “Sun going down, dark gonna catch me here”  “They got me accused of forgery and I can’t even write my name”  “You’ve got a good cotton crop, but it’s just like shootin’ dice”  “I had religion this very day, but the whiskey and women would not let me pray”  “I can hear the Delta calling by the light of a distant star”  “Woke up this morning with the jinx all around my bed”  “Go down, old Hannah; don’t you rise no more. If you rise in the morning, bring judgment sure”  2. In the lines above, do you notice any common themes? A common tone? A common style? Describe/identify what you notice.  3. Listen to the sample song and list the literary devices you hear being used in the song

3 Listening Exercise  Robert Johnson Cross Road Blues Lyrics Robert Johnson Cross Road Blues Lyrics  I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees Asked the Lord above "Have mercy, now save poor Bob, if you please" Yeoo, standin' at the crossroad, tried to flag a ride Ooo eeee, I tried to flag a ride Didn't nobody seem to know me, babe, everybody pass me by Standin' at the crossroad, baby, risin' sun goin' down Standin' at the crossroad, baby, eee, eee, risin' sun goin' down I believe to my soul, now, poor Bob is sinkin' down You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown That I got the crossroad blues this mornin', Lord, babe, I'm sinkin' down And I went to the crossroad, mama, I looked east and west I went to the crossroad, baby, I looked east and west Lord, I didn't have no sweet woman, ooh well, babe, in my distress

4 Synthesize  Based on the lines and the song, write a definition for the blues in your notebook

5 If you ask … But if you was to ask me How de blues they come to be, Says if you was to ask me How de blues they come to be – You wouldn’t need to ask me: Just look at me and see! ~Langston Hughes

6 What does it sound like to be blue?  Roots in oral performance and African American oral traditions, such as the call and response patterns of rural field hollers.  A twelve-bar musical sequence featuring flatted 3 rd and 7 th to produce ‘blue’ sounds  Three lines of iambic pentameter, rhymed AAa or AAB (Capitals denote same word, lowercase a rhymed word).  Iambic pentameter: 5 feet of unstressed-stressed pattern: ba BUM ba BUM ba BUM ba BUM ba BUM

7 What does it mean to be blue?  First line makes a statement and second repeats it, perhaps with slight modification.  Third line responds to statement through:  Reveals reason for emotion  Provides irony (sometimes humorously so)/ironic alternative  Give meaning to statement by providing the larger context (social/political/personal)  Themes include: struggle, depression, despair, love  But also, the determination to overcome these obstacles through the resilience of spirit.

8 What does it mean to be blue? “The blues is an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one’s aching consciousness, to finger its jagged grain, and to transcend it, not by the consolation philosophy but by squeezing from it a near-tragic, near-comic lyricism. As a form, the blues is an autobiographical chronicle of personal catastrophe expressed lyrically.” -- Ralph Ellison in Shadow and Act

9 What does it mean to be blue? Kevin Young On his poem “Charity" “I really wanted to capture... the blues; the way the form of the blues fights the feeling of the blues in the way that the kind of rhyme in the poem fights this chaotic feeling. And even words like "colossal" and "forgetful," they don't exactly rhyme but they really have this kind of... connection with the consonants in the poem. And I also wanted that kind of repetition, that feeling of sameness, of dailiness, of anticipation, even — which is what I think rhyme can create.” -- From NPR Books Fresh Air episode “Kevin Young On Blues, Poetry And 'Laughing To Keep From Crying”From NPR Books Fresh Air episode “Kevin Young On Blues, Poetry And 'Laughing To Keep From Crying”

10 What does look like to be blue?  Blues comes in two forms:  The blues poem form, which adheres to the rules of meter, rhyme, and patterns we discussed as well as the general content and themes of blues  Some blues poems are blues by content, using free verse, diction, and rhythm (though not iambic pentameter).  Others are a hybrid, maybe using the repeated lines, but not iambic pentameter, for example.

11 Works Cited  Patterson, Raymond R.. "The Blues." An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate th Diversity of Their Art. Ed.. Annie Finch & Kathrine Varnes. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, Print.  "Poetic Form: Blues Poem." Poets.org. poets.org, 11 Apr Web. 11 Apr  "Poetry: Blues Style." pbs.org. PBS, Web. 11 Apr

12 Analyzing the blues  You will be writing a blues poem.  Before that, we will analyze some blues poems.  Doing so will provide you with a better understanding of how to implement the rules, how to use diction to create a bluesy tone, and how to construct a blues poem.  Follow the steps on the handout / next slide to analyze the poems. Annotate the poems with your responses to the prompts.

13 Analyzing the blues  Title: Look at the title and note expectations.  Paraphrase: Put each stanza in your own words, then the entire poem. You all may not agree and that is OK.  Figurative language: Identify any figurative language/literary devices.  Attitude/Tone:  Diction/Word Choice /Connotation/Denotation  Imagery – all senses  Details/Facts  Language Level – slang, jargon, academic, formal, etc.  Syntax/Sentence Structure – Dialect, standard grammar conventions, fragments, ‘normal’ word order, etc.  Shifts in Tone: Does the tone or style of language change anywhere? How? What does that mean?  Title: Revisit the title. Any new insight or understanding for the title or poem? Is it a good title?  Theme: What themes are addressed? What is the writing saying about this(these) theme(s)?  Write a brief statement of what you learned from this poem about how to write a blues poem.

14 Making the blues  You poem must be at least four stanzas.  You must incorporate at least two elements of the blues form (i.e. meter, rhyme, the three line stanza with repetition), use specific diction to create a bluesy tone, and include literary devices (metaphor, assonance, etc) as much as possible.  The content of your poem should be about a struggle, a lesson, and might be derived from journals, news, history, or personal experience.  It is a poem, so you may mix fact with fiction in order to fully incorporate poetic elements. Remember, a poem is not about retelling, but recreating experience and emotion in words.


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