Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Turn in poetry packages. Please stack neatly on the side of my desk or clip together. Some students might need to print. Since I am not there, they cannot use my computers for that, but allow them one or two at a time to go print in the library or in another teacher’s room.

After that, each student should get one of those green literature books that are littered about my room. Look up “Shooting an Elephant” in the table of contents of that text and read this nonfiction essay silently. Answer all questions at the end of the story in complete sentences.
Make coffee house plans!

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Here is the rubric you requested! It is for the poetry editor.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Please do the writing parts of the new assignment, due Dec.17 and 18, by typing it double spaced throughout.

Further, plan to present your art and poetry on A-day, Thursday, December 19, and on B-day, Friday, December 20, in a coffeehouse setting. Bring the poetry you have kept in the closet all this time, the paintings that reveal something true, the songs that will improve our day, the dramatic monologue or performance that will insert delight into the early morning of our lives. And a donut and a drink would be nice too.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


The next assignment:

Get out all your Donne poems (or look them up on the blog), and order them according to clear organizing principles.

You are about to edit a short student edition of the poetry of John Donne. Your job for the publisher is to group Donne's poems appropriately and put them in the best order both by groups and by contents within the groups. 

I recommend three separate groupings. For instance, you might have one group called "Jack Donne, the Rake." Have clear criteria for choosing poems for this group, but of course, some of the main ones should be that all these poems reveal a young, reckless voice and regard love with a distinct physical emphasis. Within that group, decide how and why you are going to order the poems in a certain way: "The Flea" first, "Song" second, and so on, with a clear critical principle guiding your decisions.  

Once you have decided upon your criteria for ordering the poems, physically do it with the physical copies of the poems. Then write a one-page overall introduction to Donne with relevant biographical and general critical information. Next, write a one-half-page introduction to each group of poems in which you explain your criteria for ordering and grouping as you have.  Give the entire collection a title and do the same for each group within the collection. Make a table of contents that you place right after a title page. Then provide the overall intro, then the first group intro, then the first group poems, then the second group intro, then the second group poems...

Work singly or in pairs – no threes! You will receive a project grade. Pairs will share.

Friday, December 6, 2013


As a class, you are just being awesome with this poetry project.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


For your presentations, remember to email me your FORMATTED poems in an attached document so that they will show on the whiteboard as you wrote them. That's the Donne model, your Donne emulation, and your Wilson response. Be prepared to answer questions about your artistic choices.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Look at this base rubric and see what looks good or bad about it. It is for the Donne/Wilson project:

Donne (50)


Strong contrasts manifest in wit, irony, and/or paradox

Memory as a theme or motif


Rhyme scheme

Numerical meter

Emulation of metrical variations

Emulation of sentence patterns

Emulation of image types and figures of speech

Wilson (50)


Strong contrasts

Memory as theme or motif

Rhyme as Donne poem rhymes (with flexibility)

Emulation of language patterns (omissions, verb use)

Truth of character

Friday, November 22, 2013


As we wind down the presentations, please bring in all your copies of John Donne poems. We are going to do something with them as soon as the arguments are over.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Would "Anonymous" on "Holy Sonnet 7" please email me to let me know who you are?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wednesday, Part Deux

You may turn in revised timed commentaries (if you have met personally with me) on Monday rather than Friday. The web assignments are due when the assignment says.

Here is a copy of the flipchart with the argument topics and names. Here are the plans, such as they are, for Thursday and Friday. You will see that they require a little independence.


Please continue your comments on "Hymn to God My God in My Sickness" here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


New assignment! This one is for December 5 and 6.

  • Create a "call and response" from Donne to a character in The Piano Lesson, or from the character to Donne.
  • Each pair of poems should reveal a powerful CONTRAST.
  • Each should contain something about MEMORY as a theme or motif.
  • Choose a poem from Donne. Closely examine its form, structure, style, and yes, even the meter. Emulate his style the best you can. You may add elements of humor that are more modern, but emulate the style of your chosen poem.
  • Choose a character from The Piano Lesson, and in the voice of that character, answer or respond to "Donne's" poem.
  • Use a similar structure to Donne, but make the stylistic and formal changes you think would be appropriate to the character. Do your best to capture the character's voice.
  • Due on December 5 and 6.
  • Assessment guides???

Monday, November 11, 2013


I have linked an argument guide and rubric in the list to the right. Let me know if you want a .docx. That assignment is due on November 19.

For Wednesday, B-day students should each comment on the poem linked here as a Google Doc. Comment on the doc itself using the comment feature in Google Docs.

For Thursday, A-day students should each comment on the poem linked here as a Google Dox. Comment on the doc itself using the comment feature in Google Docs.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Compose a single, full, handwritten page in response to one question from the group you are assigned to. Be ready to share it with others during the next class. Bring it on paper, not posted to this site. As you answer, remember that characters in a play are tools in the hands of the playwright. He uses them to accomplish his purposes. Give your response plenty of TEXTure. Let’s start with the idea that one of the play’s primary themes is the importance of history to the future of a people.
  1. Avery, who is from Mississippi like the Charles family takes to the city “like a fish to water,” according to the stage directions on page 22.  First, he wants to be a preacher, but also he presently has a job operating an elevator. Comment on the role of Avery with special attention to the suggestiveness of his day job, and then continue to evaluate his role, function, and purpose within the play. (Hunter, Morgan, Justin)
  2. Reread Wining Boy’s story on page 63 that relates him in some way to Lymon. Was it a good choice to leave this speech out of the movie version? How does its absence change the play and its ramifications? (Rebekah, Kendall, Sydnee)
  3. Why does Sutter’s ghost haunt the Charles family? Why does he show up when Boy Willie moves the piano, when Berniece attacks Boy Willie over Crawley’s death, and when Avery tries to exorcise it? How about his appearances to Doaker? And why does he leave when he does? What powers come into play? How is all that connected to Berniece’s history and the power of history? (Dara, Quay, Leo)
  4. What do both The Piano Lesson and Beloved say about history and making a start? (Abigail)
  5. Wining Boy plays the piano enthusiastically. Maretha plays it as a novice. Why do their songs (even Wining Boy’s song “in MEMORY of Cleotha”) have no effect on the ghost? (Natalie, Meagan, Rebecca)
  6. Why is Sutter so interested in keeping that piano where it is? Consider Boy Willie’s hopes and Berniece’s final use of the piano. (Victoria, Daniel O, Quay)
  7. The play makes the juxtaposition clear: first comes Avery (starting on page 65); then comes Boy Willie and Grace (what a name, huh? starting on page 72); and then comes Lymon (starting on page 75). Observe Berniece’s reactions to each situation – each with implications about Berniece’s attitudes toward intimacy or sexuality – and comment on those reactions. What do Berniece’s reactions have to do with the larger thematic unity of the play? (Patrick, Eve-liina, Jesse
  8. Why do so many aspects of Boy Willie’s and Lymon’s characters remain unexplained? (Did either of them help kill Sutter? Whose truck is it? Did they steal the watermelons or the truck? Consider these things especially in light of Boy Willie’s apparent strong tendencies toward integrity about his intentions). (Kelcey, Dee, Katie)
  9. ON page 70, Berniece says, “Sometimes late at night I could hear my mama talking to them. I said that wasn’t gonna happen to me.” On page 91, Boy Willie speaks about his father’s hands. The movie changes the lines to say, after Boy Willie imagines Boy Charles saying, “I got these big old hands but what I’m gonna do with them?” to read, “I ain’t gonna be like that.” Comment on that change and the way it alters the play to have both Charles children saying they are not going to be like their parents. (Samuel, Daniel, Shelly)
  10. ON page 88, Boy Willie makes a speech about death. It was not included in the movie version. Say you are the director of the movie. Explain to August Wilson why that speech must be cut and how you think it will better preserve the integrity of the play. (Maddison, Dale, Gabe)
  11. Reread pages 90-93. See the argument between Berniece and Boy Willie over Maretha’s future. Decide whose case has the better merit: Boy Willie’s or Berniece’s, and convince us that you are right. (Berniece’s last words to Maretha here before wheeling on Boy Willie are “Hold your head up!”) (Alexis, Jawaun)
  12. Why does Grace run away on page 103? Think interpretively. She is a tool in the hands of a playwright. What is her function and role in accomplishing his purposes? (Jeb, Sam, Yarhiel)
  13. Comment on Doaker’s railroad speech on page 18 and his words on page 45 that Boy Charles “didn’t know they was gonna come down there and stop the train.” How are these two speeches to be reconciled? Do they express a problem Wilson attempts to address? (Loftin, Justin H, Sam)
  14. What is The Piano Lesson? (Will, Preston)