ENG 4U: The Battle of the Subversive Poets

Poets are trouble makers.  They may look harmless in their  jaunty berets and black turtlenecks, but don’t be fooled: they are subversive to their cores.

Some are deliberate in their subversion: they take issue with the status quo,  question authority, and even call out the powers that be.  Langston Hughes, for example, told white America that the days of oppression were numbered.  The sneaky ones are just as dangerous. At first, their lines seem innocent. Read their work carefully, however, and you see what they are up to. They use language and subtleties to change the way you perceive, well, everything.  What could be more dangerous than that?

Have you ever read Emily Dickenson?  It’s like having a conversation with someone who has a secret, but doesn’t trust you enough to share it. It is maddening. Poe?  His lines–so unnatural, so disconcerting–feature images that are equally bizarre. Just wait until you find out what the Raven REALLY is.

Or, at least, what I think the Raven is. The problem is that with Poe’s poetry, I am never really sure.

What does this have to do with you? Everything.  

This week, 24 poets will engage in a ferocious battle of lines.  The battles will occur in  series of elimination rounds, with one round being completed every day. These rounds will continue until we are down to our final three poets, who will wage a war of words for the ages. No wagers, please.

Each day, you and at least one other student will make the case for one of the 24 poets. You will be paired against two other students who will represent their poet with equal tenacity. After having some time to read/discuss one of the poet’s works, you and your partner will have 5 minutes to make your case for this poem’s greatness.  Your argument must:

  • include a very brief summary of the poem (the audience needs context, after all)
  • explain how the poem is subversive (how does the poem challenge us to change the way we perceive the subject?)
  • demonstrate that the poet uses language and structure to heighten our perception

The audience will decide who advances. Best of luck to all combatants. I mean subversives. No, wait. Poets.

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One thought on “ENG 4U: The Battle of the Subversive Poets

  1. Too funny… More than just poets can be subversive. In truth, the name of my blog comes from a subversive animal trying to teach his peers that there may be a better way. Did I mention that this year, our U-8 soccer team is called the Ravens?

    Yielding influence in support of a subversive is an activity itself that is a bit edgy. I’ll be interested to hear how your students take to this activity.

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