Performance, vernacular culture, & feminist poetries: This week in A Social History of Spoken Word Poetry
As an inveterate reviser (writing is never done, it's just due), I'm not surprised as I go through a semester and start seeing all sorts of other choices I could have made in designing a course, in selecting topics and readings and emphases and activities and assignments. It happens whether I create a new syllabus in one stressful week or ruminate for months, jotting notes in excited bursts of inspiration and pulling it all together in measured sessions full of careful thought.
I don't always remember to document these alternative ideas when they occur, which means I'm not always refining and revising course plans as fruitfully as I might. As an aid to my own distracted memory, then, please enjoy the first installment of a new sometimes-series I'm thinking of as "other courses, other texts."
This post features 2 books we're reading for the Spring 2018 graduate seminar "A Social History of Spoken Word Poetry," and an increasing number of books that come to mind as I prepare for our conversation tomorrow. Note: Diana Taylor, author of 2 of the "other texts" below, is a scholar I've mentioned several times in class as we discuss the challenges of generating thick-enough (to paraphrase Geertz) description/representation of performance events to be able to describe and analyze them usefully in our research.
Current Course Readings
Resources: Black Vernacular Verbal Performance
The Dirty Dozens
Collected skits from In Living Color
"Daddy Dozens" by Jamila Woods
"Daddy Dozens" written text
"Daddy Dozens" audio performance
The Signifying Monkey
Performed by Rudy Ray Moore
"The Name Game" by Shirley Ellis
Diana Taylor, 2016, Duke UP
Prophets of the Hood:
Politics & Poetics in Hip-Hop
Imani Perry, 2004, Duke UP
The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas
Diana Taylor, Duke UP, 2003
After Mecca: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement
Cheryl Clarke, Rutgers UP, 2004
Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America
Geneva Smitherman, Wayne State UP, 1977
Some Well-Known Black Proverbs and Sayings
Get Down Exercise On Black English Sounds
Black Semantics: A Selected Glossary
Love & Theft
Eric Lott, Oxford UP, 1983
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
Gloria Anzaldua, Aunt Lute Press, 1987
Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts
James Scott, Yale UP, 1992
More on Spanglish...
A Hidden History of Spanglish in California
An episode of the podcast The World in Words from PRI (Public Radio International).
The Games Black Girls Play.
Kyra Gaunt, NYU Press, 2006
Yi-Fu Tuan (1977 ) first explored and articulated how ideas of space and place depend upon one other for definition, arguing that if ‘‘we think of space as that which allows movement, then place is a pause’’ (p. 6). Tim Cresswell elaborates on this claim, noting that ‘‘When humans invest meaning in a portion of space and then become attached to it in some way… , it becomes place’’ (2004 , p. 10). This place, then, can take the form of home, for Tuan, a fundamental concept to people around the globe.
Influences and references in
The Hate U Give
Trayvon Martin & Rachel Jeantel
Angie Thomas says of Jeantel, "I remember being so angry at how people characterized her just because they didn't think she presented herself the way they would have presented themselves."
With Starr, "I wanted to say, Here's a black girl who is saying things the way you think that she should say them, but are you listening?"
The semester got underway a week ago Wednesday, but then we had 2.5 snow/frozen roads days this week, so I've taught a total of one class meeting so far. It's a little strange, but the good news is that I'm getting my desk copies ordered for the first time in awhile!
Read: Dec. 3, 2017
Thumbs: Middling to downward
But why, Sue? It's a challenge to work events so recent into a piece of writing, and I'm afraid Reynolds and Kiely don't fully pull it off for me. The Quinn character doesn't work, ultimately; his connection to the central events of the narrative are weak, and while his internal struggle is occasionally compelling, it feels strained toward the end. Quinn's reaching for Rashad in the final scene is... strange. It feels like Rashad has become something of a hollow symbol for Quinn, something he can touch to become fully part of something he wants to understand.
Read: Dec. 4, 2017
Thumbs: Middle Up
But why, Sue? I enjoyed this book and found myself making lots of connections to other texts and genres, including Sister Soulja's The Coldest Winter Ever (a book I don't love, but whose popularity is significant) and blaxploitation cinema of the '70s. The Hate U Give draws from such sources, but creates something contemporary, rich, and intense.
My main issue is the book's length, which doesn't seem necessary enough to make up for the readers it might put off - readers who, possibly, would love this book most.
Book: Ghost by Jason Reynolds (2016)
But why, Sue? This is a satisfying story about a boy's process toward figuring out who he is and who he wants to be through mentoring, friendship, and track. There are a lot of opportunities for teaching here, and compelling minor questions around measurement and categorization that add depth to the narrative. I want to read its sequel/partner Patina now.
A note on Reynolds' style: Here and in the Reynolds co-authored All American Boys, there's what I assume is a purposeful choice to almost never use race labels as a way to identify characters. Tell me if I'm wrong, because I haven't gone back and done a careful study of it. But I like it.
Poetry and musicality
Lesson plans for "Music in Poetry"
Artist Study: Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes: "Jazz as Communication"
NEA: "Jazz Poetry & Langston Hughes" (a brief study of "The Weary Blues")
Poets.org: "Langston Hughes: The Songs on Seventh Street"
Cover art for The Room Is on Fire
Thanks for visiting Poetry/Pedagogy. This site blog is where I'll post notes and thoughts about the critical pedagogies and literacies work happening in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and around the world. - Sue
All American Boys
Book A Day
The Hate U Give
The Weary Blues