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Week 6 Assignment: Welcome to Poetry! 

Week 6 Assignment: Welcome to Poetry! 

Week 6 Assignment: Welcome to Poetry!


After reading the following poems answer the questions. (Links to an external site.)

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

BY LANGSTON HUGHES (Links to an external site.)

I’ve known rivers:

I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

  1. Why is the title important? What does it tell us?
  2. Explain what does the speaker mean when he says “My soul has grown deep like the rivers?”


“Mother to Son” (Links to an external site.)

Well, son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tacks in it,

And splinters,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor—


But all the time

I’se been a-climbin’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.

So boy, don’t you turn back.

Don’t you set down on the steps

’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now—

For I’se still goin’, honey,

I’se still climbin’,

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

  1. Explain in your own words what “message” the mother is trying to tell her son. (Remember to use examples from the text)
  2. Why does the mother repeat “life for me ain’t been no crystal stair” at the end of the poem? Is this the same technique that Frost uses or does it have a different purpose here?


Theme for English B (Links to an external site.)

The instructor said,

      Go home and write

      a page tonight.

      And let that page come out of you—

      Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?

I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.

I went to school there, then Durham, then here

to this college on the hill above Harlem.

I am the only colored student in my class.

The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,

through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,

Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,

the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator

up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me

at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what

I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you.

hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.

(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?

Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.

I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.

I like a pipe for a Christmas present,

or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.

I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like

the same things other folks like who are other races.

So will my page be colored that I write?

Being me, it will not be white.

But it will be

a part of you, instructor.

You are white—

yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.

That’s American.

Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.

Nor do I often want to be a part of you.

But we are, that’s true!

As I learn from you,

I guess you learn from me—

although you’re older—and white—

and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

  1. What does the speaker mean when he says “will my page be colored that I write”? (Remember to use examples from the text)
  2. What does the speaker realize about his place/position in society as he writes his “theme for English B”? (Remember to use examples from the text)

Gwendolyn Brooks

Hearing “We Real Cool” 

“We Real Cool” Gwendolyn Brooks 1959 poem LISTEN TO THE POET HERSELF! (Links to an external site.)"We Real Cool" Gwendolyn Brooks 1959 poem LISTEN TO THE POET HERSELF!

“We Real Cool” (Links to an external site.)

               The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

            We real cool. We

            Left school. We

            Lurk late. We

            Strike straight. We

            Sing sin. We

            Thin gin. We

            Jazz June. We

            Die soon.

  1. What is the message of the poem? Does this still ring true today?
  2. Why is “We” absent in the final line?
  3. How does Gwendolyn Brooks’ choice of line breaks in “We Real Cool” affect the poem’s sound, pace, and theme?

“The Mother” (Links to an external site.)

Abortions will not let you forget.

You remember the children you got that you did not get,

The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,

The singers and workers that never handled the air.

You will never neglect or beat

Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.

You will never wind up the sucking-thumb

Or scuttle off ghosts that come.

You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,

Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.

I have contracted. I have eased

My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.

I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized

Your luck

And your lives from your unfinished reach,

If I stole your births and your names,

Your straight baby tears and your games,

Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches, and your deaths,

If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,

Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.

Though why should I whine,

Whine that the crime was other than mine?—

Since anyhow you are dead.

Or rather, or instead,

You were never made.

But that too, I am afraid,

Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?

You were born, you had body, you died.

It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.

Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you


  1. What “message” is this mother is trying to explain to her children?
  2. Do you think that the speaker regrets having had an abortion? Why or why not?

“Speech to the Young. Speech to the Progress-Toward” (Links to an external site.)


Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
“Even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night.”
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.
Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.


  1. What do you think about the advice given by the speaker in the poem?
  2. In your opinion, what does the speaker think is in danger of being lost if young people do not follow the advice given in the poem?


Please submit your responses to Week 6 Assignment by Sunday, April 26 at 8:00 pm.


Week 6 Assignment: Welcome to Poetry!