Saturday, January 5, 2013

January 2nd

by Patricia Smith

Hurricanes, 2005
Arlene learned to dance backwards in heels that were too high.
Bret prayed for a shaggy mustache made of mud and hair.
Cindy just couldn’t keep her windy legs together.
Dennis never learned to swim.
Emily whispered her gusts into a thousand skins.
Franklin, farsighted and anxious, bumbled villages.
Gert spat her matronly name against a city’s flat face.
Harvey hurled a wailing child high.
Irene, the baby girl, threw pounding tantrums.
José liked the whip sound of slapping.
Lee just craved the whip.
Maria’s thunder skirts flew high when she danced.
Nate was mannered and practical. He stormed precisely.
Ophelia nibbled weirdly on the tips of depressions.
Philippe slept too late, flailing on a wronged ocean.
Rita was a vicious flirt. She woke Philippe with rumors.
Stan was born business, a gobbler of steel.
Tammy crooned country, getting the words all wrong.
Vince died before anyone could remember his name.
Wilma opened her maw wide, flashing rot.
None of them talked about Katrina.
She was their odd sister,
the blood dazzler.
Patricia Smith, “Siblings” from Blood Dazzler. Copyright © 2008 by Patricia Smith. Reprinted by permission of Coffee House Press.

Source: Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press, 2008)
 This would be a great text to show students how to read just below the surface of a poem, how there are often codes and hidden meanings behind the words a poet uses. Also, to remind them that they have to read everything the poet puts on the page to understand what s/he is trying to say. The first time I read through, I skipped the italicized Hurricanes, 2005 and read the whole poem imagining it was about children, siblings, cousins. It wasn't until I reached the last stanza about Katrina that I started to realize the poem was about something else. 

Using this poem as the introduction to a unit themed around Hurricane Katrina would be a great hook to begin talking about the social justice implications of this tragedy. It's not entirely political, as lots of writing about Katrina is, so it's a little more accessible to start with.

Also, it would be great to read this poem and then have students practice using personification to describe weather, especially using strong, active verbs and vivid adjectives. 

No comments:

Post a Comment