Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Happy birthday, Maya Angelou
Today is poet and activist Maya Angelou’s birthday. Her writing (beginning with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) has gained recognition world-wide and she is one of only two poets in U.S. history asked to read a poem at a presidential inauguration (the other is Robert Frost). Listen to Angelou read that poem, “On the Pulse of Morning." Extensive lesson plans and teaching ideas for using Maya Angelou’s writing with children and young adults can be found in the Web-based Teacher Resource File. In addition, I wrote about pairing her poem, “I Love the Look of Words” with the picture book, Papa’s Mark by Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert in my recent Book Links article, “Linking picture books and poetry; A celebration of Black History Month” (16, 3, pages 44-47). Here’s that excerpt:
Battle-Lavert, Gwendolyn. Papa's Mark. Illus. by Colin Bootman. 2003. 32p. Holiday House, $16.95 (0-8234-1650-X).
PAIR WITH: “I Love the Look of Words” by Maya Angelou from Soul Looks Back in Wonder selected by Tom Feelings. 1993. 36p. Dial, $17.99 (0-8037-1001-1).
Gr. 1 - 4. In this story set following the Civil War, an African American boy helps his father learn to read and write his name in order to be able to vote for the first time. Although there are still hurdles and prejudices to overcome, Papa gains the confidence to lead his people to the polls. Pair Papa’s Mark with Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Love the Look of Words,” that compares learning to read with popcorn popping, noting that “ideas from the words stay stuck/ in my mind.” The sights, sounds, taste, and smell of popcorn are paralleled to the “leaping” and “snapping” of words, ideas, and thoughts, a comparison that begs for discussion—and eating popcorn!
And here’s Maya Angelou’s wonderful poem:
I Love the Look of Words
Popcorn leaps, popping from the floor
of a hot black skillet
and into my mouth.
Black words leap,
snapping from the white
page. Rushing into my eyes. Sliding
into my brain which gobbles them
the way my tongue and teeth
chomp the buttered popcorn.
When I have stopped reading,
ideas from the words stay stuck
in my mind, like the sweet
smell of butter perfuming my
fingers long after the popcorn
I love the book and the look of words
the weight of ideas that popped into my mind
I love the tracks
of new thinking in my mind.