Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Choices" by Nikki Giovanni


As noted on our class wiki, the readings and discussions we're going to have this year are all based on choices. To kick off our year and this thematic approach, we read and discussed Nikki Giovanni's poem "Choices".

To get the poem, I did not pass out a photocopy of it, but had you all take it down by dictation (meaning I read it aloud and you wrote it down). It would have been easier to just hand you a copy of this poem, but I want you all to have the experience of absorbing the words and structural decisions of other writers. Therefore, each Thursday or Friday, we will have a poem of the week, which I will dictate to you and you will copy down word for word, line by line. We will keep a running record of these poems and we'll use them for a variety of purposes.

I was impressed at the care and time you all took in copying down this poem. We had several conversations about the language and the structural choices made in the poem as we copied it down on paper. The most interesting observations prompted me to write on the board and take some notes to record what you were saying. This conversation centered around the author's use of ellipses, which are the dot dot dots (...) you sometimes see in writing. These are traditionally used to note an omission in text, but you thought that the author used them to:

-cause the reader to slow down
-show that the speaker was searching for the right word
-show that the speaker was unsure of herself
-show that the speaker was confused
-show that the speaker is searching for something
-show that the speaker is thinking hard about what she's saying

None and all of these explanations are the "right" answer, as we don't know why the author chose to use ellipses in this poem. All of these ideas about why the author may have used ellipses could be right though, and they show a deeper interaction with the structure of the poem.

Another exciting aspect of today's discussion came in the form of predictions. Some of you began to anticipate the next word or line of the poem and even spoke out with the way you'd have it read. I really enjoyed this, because I feel that these predictions showed that you were interacting with and understanding the text.

I am excited that we've started this process and I can't wait to see where we're going to end up at the end of the year.

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