Poetic Justice

How can you become a poet of social change?

If more politicians knew poetry, and more poets knew politics, I am convinced the world would be a little better place in which to live. —U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Poetic Justice asks you to explore the relationship between art and politics, uncover the history of protest poetry, and understand its status and evolution within today’s political climate. The course begins with an introduction to two basic concepts – poetry and politics. We will discuss the differences between poetry and the other literary arts as we attempt to identify the unique qualities that make verse such a powerful medium for political expression. Along the way, we will read, hear, watch, and analyze political poetry from the past and present moments as we prepare to write and perform our very own protest poems. How will you use poetry to fight the power?

Students of Poetic Justice will pursue these Guiding Questions:

  • What makes poetry radical?
  • Where does poetry fight for freedom?
  • How will you protest with poetry?

Course Units

In our first unit, you will begin by defining the terms, poetry and politics. How are these two terms connected? What is political about poetry? How has poetry provoked political change? How has poetry evolved over time to address relevant issues?

You will become familiar with poetic devices and how they were and are used by influential, political poets to tell stories, unite people, and provoke change. You will read, dissect, and analyze poetry from a range of poets throughout history. With a well-rounded view of political voices and poetic styles, you will write your own protest poem.

Here are the unit sub-guiding questions you will pursue:

  • What is protest poetry?
  • What makes a poem effective?
  • How do you write a protest poem?

In our second unit, you will examine the role of performance in political poetry. What is performance poetry? How does performance enhance the message of a poem? How does performance make poetry more accessible? How has performance poetry evolved over time?

You will become familiar with performance techniques and how they were and are used to help spread the message of political poetry. You will examine the history of performance poetry and see how its evolved over time to reflect the political climate and the intended audience. You will study and analyze a range of poets and their performance style in order to gain a better understanding of the techniques and possibilities. At the end of this investigation, you will use your knowledge to develop your own unique style to perform the political poem you wrote in the Politics of Poetry unit.

Here are the unit sub-guiding questions you will pursue:

  • What is performance poetry?
  • What makes a performance effective?
  • How do develop a performance style appropriate for your poem?