Poems on immigration
Many poems and songs lyrics have been written about immigration, immigrants' experiences and related issues. This lesson invites you to explore a few selected poems and song lyrics. You may find that you want to explore more poems and songs by one or more of these writers in preparation for an individual oral or HL Essay.
- Place each poem on a different table in your classroom. Walk around the room and visit each table and read each poem. At each table, there should be three mind maps: one labelled 'perspective', another labelled 'representation' and another labelled 'culture'. Write your ideas around these words and other words that people have added to the mind maps before moving around the room to the next poem in this 'gallery walk'.
- After having read all of these poems and making your class's mind maps, compare and contrast the mind maps on the three concepts: perspective, representation and culture. How might these other concepts be relevant to these poems: transformation, communication, creativity and identity? Discuss the similarities and differences between these poems as a class, with regards to the concepts.
- Can you find another text, either literary or non-literary, that relates to this theme of immigration? Do an individual search and place a copy of your text on a wall in your class or a virtual wall (such as Stormboard, Padlet or Pinterest). Give everyone in your class 2 minutes to explain their contribution to the others.
- Where on your class' (virtual) board do you see connections between texts that you have found on immigration? Form groups of 2-3 students. Take one of the six question from Intertextuality below and discuss your answers as smaller groups about the texts that you have chosen:
|Whose perspective does this poem take? How does this poem||How are immigrants represented in the poem?||How does this poem challenge or reinforce people's culture and value system?|
We came from our own country in a red room
which fell through the fields, our mother singing
our father’s name to the turn of the wheels.
My brothers cried, one of them bawling, Home,
Home, as the miles rushed back to the city,
the street, the house, the vacant rooms
where we didn’t live any more. I stared
at the eyes of a blind toy, holding its paw.
All childhood is an emigration. Some are slow,
leaving you standing, resigned, up an avenue
where no one you know stays. Others are sudden.
Your accent wrong. Corners, which seem familiar,
leading to unimagined pebble-dashed estates, big boys
eating worms and shouting words you don’t understand.
My parents’ anxiety stirred like a loose tooth
in my head. I want our own country, I said.
But then you forget, or don’t recall, or change,
and, seeing your brother swallow a slug, feel only
a skelf of shame. I remember my tongue
shedding its skin like a snake, my voice
in the classroom sounding just like the rest. Do I only think
I lost a river, culture, speech, sense of first space
and the right place? Now, Where do you come from?
strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate.
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
and even then you carried the anthem under
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you would not be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one would put their children in a boat
unless the sea is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
wants to be beaten
wants to be pitied
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one's skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe it's because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
or the insults are easier
than your child body
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
your survival is more important
no one leaves home unless home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here
Shopping in London winter
is a real drag for the fat black woman
going from store to store
insearch of accommodating clothes
and the weather so cold
Look at the frozen think mannequins
fixing her with grin
and de pretty face salesgals
exchanging slimming glances
thinking she don't notice
Lord is aggravating
Nothing sof and gright and billowing
to flow like breezy sunlight
when she walking
The fat black woman curses in Swahili/Yoruba
and nation language under her breathing
all this journeying and journeying
The fat black woman culd only conclude
that when it comes to fashion
the choice is lean
Long ago, from the sun-rising sea
When they ask'd for a lodge, and we did not refuse
Happy then was the red man, and free.
He could then choose a spot for his wigwam to stand,
Where the forest was crowded with game;
For the blue-rolling lake and the ever smiling land
Were his own till the palefaces came
For the broad grassy plains and the forests deep and grand,
Were his own till the palefaces came.
They came! they came! like the fierce prairie flame,
Sweeping on to the sun-setting shore:
Gazing now on its waves, but a handful of braves,
We shall join in the the chase nevermore
Till we camp on the plains where the Great Spirit reigns,
We shall join in the chase nevermore.
We receiv'd them with gladness, as Sons of the Sky
We believ'd them of heavenly birth;
But alas! to our sorrow we found by and by,
That like us they were born of the earth.
By their false traders wrong'd, by their firewater craz'd,
There was no one our braves to restrain;
So the swift flew, and the tomahawk was raise'd
While we both mourn'd the blood of our slain;
So the smoke-wreath did cease from the calumet of peace,
While we both mourn'd the blood of our slain.
When the oaks, pines and cedars were fell'd to the ground,
'Twas a sight that with sorrow we saw;
For the game fled affrighted, and no food was found
For the old chief, the papoose and squaw.
Driven westward we came, but the paleface was here,
With his sharp axe and death-flashing gun;
And his great iron horse is rumbling in the rear
"O, my brave men!" your journey is done.
Like the beaver and elk like the buffalo and deer
"O, my brave men!" your journey is done.
How can texts be typical or atypical, conventional or unconventional?
How can the conventions of a text type evolve over time?
What can diverse texts have in common?
To what extent can a text be considered a ‘classic’?
How can different texts offer different perspectives on a topic, issue or theme?
How can comparing and interpreting texts be transformative for the reader?
Approaches to teaching
One of the approaches to teaching is: Teaching for conceptual understanding. This lesson shows you how a few mind maps, a (virtual) wall of texts and a few discussion question from the areas of exploration encourage conceptual thinking.