The speakers’ perspectives in Gwendolyn Brooks’ “A Bronzeville Mother …” and in “The Last
Quatrian” are intricately tied to the effect of the poems on the reader and to the ideas that
are illuminated in their pairing. The mothers’ voices are poignant and very important in
drawing meaning from the poems.
For this assignment, you are to write in the voice of a witness, one who, as a bystander,
experiences an event from some distance. You must decide on the situation and context for
the piece and then create a persona. What does he/she witness? What is unique about his or
her perspective? How does it change him or her? How does the telling of the experience and
its aftermath effect the reader? Write about something that matters to you.
We’re going to try a poetry technique “From Prose to Poetry” for this.
STEP 1: After you find your starting point, you’ll write in prose, allowing yourself to find the
voice you want to refine. Let this flow freely—it could be like an interior monologue, but it
cannot be in in first period. No “I”. Instead, you must use the third person. You’ll be writing in
sentences, or fragments, or dialogue, or a combination. But must get two full pages of writing
before moving to the next step.
STEP 2: The second step will be to select and eliminate. You’ll go through your prose,
striking out everything that is non-essential and circling or highlighting everything that you’d
like to keep. While you do it, you can add and change things in the margins.
STEP 3: The last step is to transform your prose into poetry. Move the sentences, words,
phrases onto a new page, but this time give them structure. Use lines and stanzas. Be very
deliberate about placement, about negative space, about the way the words look on the page.
STEP 4: You have the beginning of a poem now—the rough sketch on the canvas of the story
of a witness. Be conscious of the effect you want your writing to have on readers. What do
you want us to understand about his or her experience? Go back to your lines and stanzas
and think like a poet and write like a poet. Find places for the following:
Use of figurative language
Concrete, precise imagery
Sound devices: alliteration, consonance, internal rhyme or close rhyme, for example
Meaningful syntax and use of punctuation: repetition, homeoteleuton, anaphora,
polysyndeton, asyndeton, end-stopped lines, enjambment, caesura, to name a few.
Pivotal words and tone shifts
Be willing to take some risks and think creatively! Your poem should take up 1-2 pages once
it’s typed. It can go longer if it needs to.
If you want to read yours aloud to the class on Wednesday, send me an email and let
me know. I’d like to have volunteers lined up!