Tag Archives: poetry

Cultural Literacy: Muhammad Ali

Here is Cultural Literacy worksheet on Muhammad Ali. He was the greatest, you know? This is a full-page worksheet that can be used as independent practice.

Muhammad Ali really requires (or I hope he doesn’t) much explanation or amplification. He was ubiquitous in the media in my childhood, meeting with The Beatles and appearing in a series of photographs with them, and writing a poem with Marianne Moore in addition to his public and principled refusal to fight in the Vietnam War (even as a little kid, this thrilled me). So when an actor friend argued that Ali was one of the most exposed figures in the history of media, I had to agree. My friend’s point, though, was this: it took real courage for Canadian actor Eli Goree to take on the role of Ali; how does one portray such a profound, well-known, and ultimately sui generis personality? If you want to see, take a look at Regina King’s great new film, One Night in Miami on Amazon.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

African Music

“African music: Music of sub-Saharan Africa. Though a vast geographical area with diverse cultures, Africa’s music has a number of unifying traits. Its traditional music, including its ‘art music,’ is orally transmitted; thus, pieces do not exist as finished works, but are conceived of as recreated differently with each performance. Another general characteristic is the prevalence of ‘call and response.’ Aside from its spiritual and celebratory and dance-accompanying roles, African music has a distinctly political role; the griot sings the tribe’s history and creates songs of praise for the leader, or mocking songs when community feeling is running against the leader. The association of words with music extends to the existence of words to be thought while performing purely instrumental pieces. Being largely improvisational, African music employs only limited counterpoint (including roundlike imitation that may be an outgrowth of overlapping calls and responses), though melodies are often accompanied in parallel intervals, creating a chordal texture, and truly polyphonic music is played on the mbira, where the melodies performed by the two hands are conceived as separate. Rhythm is highly developed in Africa. Whereas Westerners tend to perceive simultaneous patterns as sharing a common meter, Africans think of such patterns as cycles with different starting points. Outside influences have played a role in African music, most importantly Islam. In recent times, compatible elements of Western music have mixed with indigenous elements, though in popular music these Western influences more likely arrived via Arabic and Indian examples. The music of North Africa represents a separate tradition.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Sterling Allen Brown

“Sterling Allen Brown: (1901-1989) American poet, folklorist, editor, and critic. Brown was one of the first writers to identify folklore as a vital component of the black aesthetic and an important form of artistic expression. His first collection of poems, Southern Road (1932), was a critical success, fusing elements of ballads, spirituals, work songs, and the blues into narrative poems generally written in a Southern dialect. Two of Brown’s works written in 1937, Negro Poetry and Drama and The Negro in American Fiction, are major books of criticism on African-American studies. In 1941, Brown, along with colleagues Arthur P. Davis and Ulysses S. Lee, edited the The Negro Caravan, which was considered by many “the anthology of African-American literature.” With the publication of The Collected Poems of Sterling A. Brown (1980), Brown won the 1982 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and received widespread and deserved recognition.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Cultural Literacy: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

If you teach it, or perhaps even better if you don’t, but still want to add if to your students’ fund of prior knowledge, here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Samuel Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” It serves as a short, general introduction to the work.

And if you want to take this a step further and familiarize your students with the literary term rime, you’ll find a squib on it under that hyperlink.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Book of Answers: Willing Suspension of Disbelief

“Who coined the term ‘willing suspension of disbelief’? Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his critical treatise Biographia Literaria (1817). Coleridge used the term to refer to the ‘poetic faith’ of a reader in accepting imaginary elements in a literary work.”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Vorticism

“Vorticism: An English movement, founded by Wyndham Lewis in 1912 and named by Ezra Pound, which reacted against Cubism and Futurism (while owing much of its outlook and style to them). The compositions were abstract geometric forms organized in arcs around a focal point (vortex). The chief aim seems to have been to make the British aware of advanced movements in modern art on the continent and elsewhere.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

Cultural Literacy: Iambic Pentameter

On a sunny, cold December morning, here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on iambic pentameter. By the time young people reach their college English classes (if not their advanced English classes in high school), this is a term of art and a concept they should understand and be able to recognize and discuss with facility. This is, after all, the most commonly used poetic meter in English.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Alexander Pope on Education

“Tis education forms the common mind/Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined.”

Alexander Pope, Moral Essays: Epistle to Richard Boyle, Earl of Burlington

Excerpted from: Howe, Randy, ed. The Quotable Teacher. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2003.

Art for Art’s Sake

“Art for Art’s Sake: English equivalent of the French l’art pour l’art, which is embodied in The Poetic Principle by Edgar Allan Poe:

There neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified…than the poem which is a poem and nothing more—the poem written solely for the poem’s sake.

 The doctrine which this represents, that the aim of art should be creation and the perfection of technical expression rather than the service of a moral, political, or didactic end, has been evolving ever since the romantic period. It was adumbrated by Coleridge and given early expression by Poe in the above treatise, flowered among the French symbolist poets and their English associate Walter Pater, and reached its culmination in the aesthetic theory of I.A. Richards. It was the dominant theory of art and especially of poetry until the 1930s, when the proletarian and Marxist movements in literature threatened for a time to revive the 18th-century didactic theories. After the beginning of World War II in 1939, the latter movements began to lose much of their influence.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Common Errors in English Usage: Sarcastic (adj), Ironic (adj)

Moving right along on this sunny, autumnal morning, here is an English usage worksheet on the adjectives sarcastic and ironic and differentiating their use. I hear these words misused frequently; they strike me as a pair of adjectives that represent abstractions (the nouns, and you know, are sarcasm and irony) that students should understand deeply and use correctly.

If nothing else, understanding these two words and concepts might help students produce solid literary exegesis.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.