Sunday, February 26, 2017

Poetry Break: Let America Be America Again

I like to use poetry in the classroom when I can. As I've blogged before, I find Warsan Shire's Home to be a provocative entry into asylum law. And Psalm by Wisława Szymborska is an excellent kick-off read.

Langston Hughes' Let America Be American Again might also be worth a look. Here are some snippets to whet your appetite:

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.


O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

It is not a happy poem. While the title of the work speaks of an America that once was, the poem itself talks about an America that never was: "(America never was America to me.)" And yet, near the end, there is a stanza of hope:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!


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