Poems about America

Please answer each question in a well-developed paragraph. This message board is worth considerably more points than usual since it involves several reading assignments at once and since we are not having quizzes over these readings, so take your time! As always I encourage you to engage with the posts of your classmates.

1) What is the tone of Walt Withman’s poem, “I Hear America Singing”?  Notice the kinds of people/professions he mentions and how he describes them.  What is his view of America?  Why is he “singing” about it?

2) Langston Hughes is one of the most famous black poets to come out of the Harlem Renaissance (you can Google this if you want – we’ve talked about it before with Ralph Ellison).  Think of his poem, “I, Too [Sing America]” as a response to Whitman’s poem.  How does Hughes feel about America and what is the tone of his response to Whitman?

3) “The New Colossus” is engraved on one of our most famous national monuments: the Statue of Liberty.  It was commissioned as a symbol of the United States to people coming here for the first time through Ellis Island in New York. Do you think “The New Colossus” is still an accurate description of America?  Have our attitudes changed about welcoming in outsiders?  For the better or worse?

4) Billy Collins (who you read last week) usually writes funny poems. His poem “The Names,” however deals with very serious subject matter.  While he was serving as the national poet laureate of the US (like a national representative who writes poems for special occasions), 9/11 occurred.  Collins, as the poet laureate, was called upon by Congress to write a poem memorializing the event to be read on the floor of Congress on the one-year anniversary.  Did you find the poem a moving tribute?  Why or why not?

5) Martin Espada’s poem is also a tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11.  Espada is particularly paying tribute to the undocumented men and women who worked in the World Trade Center’s restaurant.  Because they were undocumented, on the yearly reading of names at the memorial service, their names are not read.  How does this affect your reading of the poem?  Do you think Collins’ or Espada’s poem is more powerful?

 
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