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Vol. 1 No. 1 (2019): The Salzburg Seminar and Its Legacies in American Studies

Poetry as a Strategy for Teaching English: Using Nikki Giovanni's Poetry in the English as a Second-/Foreign-Language Classroom

November 21, 2019


This article explores ways to introduce and integrate poetry in English classes in the context of second-language education. My aim is to spark interest in contemporary poetry while addressing general perceptions by both teachers and students that poetry is difficult to engage in. I thus argue for an approach that centers on "easier" poems and involves aspects of contemporary popular culture to introduce poetry, help students appreciate it, and eventually engage in creative writing of their own. Furthermore, I suggest ways in which poetry can be integrated in English courses at large, via the inclusion of strings of poems, within their broader cultural contexts, and by linking them to different, more popular cultural forms of expression, such as songs, films, and cartoons. I exemplify this approach by focusing on two poems by African American poet Nikki Giovanni. "Knoxville, Tennessee" and "Nikki-Rosa" are autobiographical poems which offer first-person accounts of the poet's African American cultural background. However, my intertextual approach interconnects these poems with other poems and cultural texts from different parts of the English-speaking world. Ultimately, I suggest that poetry, due to its brevity and open-endedness, can enhance the study of the English language and Anglophone cultures in a variety of ways beyond the close study of verse in terms of aesthetics.


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