School Arts

Homer 2 Hip Hop


In partnership with each school, we will build units of study based on one or more of the forms below:

*Poetry Duels: From the Lebanese zajal to the Puerto Rican décima tradition, from the South Asian beyt bazi to the Basque bertsolari competition, we will look at forms that embody elements of play and competition. We’ll drawn on the City Lore-produced documentary film In the Moment: Poetry Duels and Improvisations from Around the World.

*Epics, Myths, and Sung Stories: We will read selections from Homer’s Odyssey, the Sundiata epic, and the Persian Shahnameh; we’ll explore the influence of ancient epics on pop culture stories and films such as Star Wars and Black Panther; we’ll link to contemporary epic performances such as Julian Kytasty’s Ukrainian epics, and P’ansorri, the ancient Korean art of storytelling in verse.

*African Praise Poems: We will write praise poems based on the traditions of the Shona (Zimbabwe), Yoruba (Nigeria), and the Khosa and Zulu (South Africa) people. We will also explore American, English-language poets who have been inspired by traditional praise forms, such Walt Whitman, Sekou Sundiata, Joy Harjo, Lucille Clifton, and Martín Espada.

*Music: We will look at sung poetry and poetry set to music. We will study the language of the Blues and look at the influence of Blues music on poets like Langston Hughes, Jayne Cortez, and Kevin Young. We will also explore sung poetic forms like the Mexican corrido and the ghazal, which originated in Arabic but is now a global form.

*Occupational Poetry: Drawing on City Lore’s rich archive of recordings from our past citywide poetry festivals, we will introduce students to America’s rich body of occupational poetry, including fishermen, loggers, cowboys, taxi drivers, and police. We also look at contemporary poets who write about work, including poets from the Worker Writers School, a NYC-based institute that offers poetry workshops for labor organizations.

*Collaborative Poetry: We will explore group poem-making, from Greek choral traditions to the Japanese Renga tradition to the Italian cento. We also explore call-and-response poetry traditions like the Pakistani mushaira.

*Visual Poetry: We turn the written word into visual art in forms ranging from altar poetry to concrete poetry to zines, from broadsides to chapbooks, including the Brazilian tradition of “Literatura de Cordel” with its folhetos (booklets) hung on clotheslines.

*Poetry Games: We will work with game designer Fred Elman to create poem-based games, including card games such as City Lore’s Verbal Duels deck of poems in Arabic, Farsi, Turkic, and Urdu.

*Found Poetry: We turn to our physical environment and take students on neighborhood walks to look for “found poems,” to record sound poems, and to document the “overheard poem.”

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