Friday, May 3, 2013

What Do You Love about America? A writing prompt from Richard Blanco

I realize that many of us are winding our classes, but I couldn't resist recording some teaching ideas that I picked up at the Richard Blanco events on Monday.

Blanco pointed out that his first assignment in his first MFA poetry class was very similar to what he had to do for the Inaugural poem.  His class spent time reading Whitman, William Carlos Williams, and Robert Frost.  And then, the assignment:  write a poem about America.

You can read that first poem here.  Compare it to the Inaugural poem, "One Today," which is here.

Your Composition or Lit students could compare the two.  The webpages have ways to have Richard Blanco read the poem.  It would be interesting to have students discuss and then write about the difference in hearing the poem and in reading it.

And then, students could write their own poem about America.

Blanco said that the question that led to the rough draft of "One Today," was "What do I love about America?"

I've had good luck with the opposite question, and there's a long history of poets critiquing America.   My students react to Ginsberg's version as if he's a bit insane--which of course, you could argue that he was.  They can't imagine anyone being so angry about the atom bomb.

I ask them, "How would you fill in this blank today?  F--- you America, with your ________."

I like Blanco's question better these days.  What do you love about this country?  I'm tired of hearing about what makes people angry.

Tell me what you love.

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