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The Study of Poetry and Literature for Children & Young Adults

Poetry Break #4: A Poem that can be Matched with a Novel

Introduction: I chose this poem and book combination because I thought it went together really well. In the school district we reside in, this book is required reading in middle school. But, when I brought the book home, both my children said that it was the worst book they had ever read. The teacher overemphasized the symbolism without explaining the culture and time of the setting of the book. They liked the poem better because it was more positive and easier to understand.

For the Hog Killing
By Wendell Berry
Let them stand still for the bullet, and stare the shooter in
the eye,
let them die while the sound of the shot is in the air, let
them die as they fall,
let the jugular blood spring hot to the knife, let its freshet
be full,
let this day begin again the change of hogs into people, not
the other way around,
for today we celebrate again our lives' wedding with the
for by our hunger, by this provisioning, we renew the
Poetry Extension: Even though this book is required reading for the area middle school classes, I think a high school class may get more out of it. Read the poem first and discuss the subject of survival. What different cultures eat and the rituals involved with preparation.
Have the class read the book next and discuss the father and his job of "hog killing" which he did in order to provide for his family.
Have the children each choose a culture to research, then have them bring in a food that they made from that culture for a snack/break time. Invite the principal and have the students take turns explaining their choices.

Marconi, Catherine Lewallen. 1991. Handspan of Red Earth: an Anthology of American Farm Poems. Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press. ISBN 0877453268


Peck, Robert Newton. 1994. A Day No Pigs Would Die. New York: Random House. ISBN 0679853065


Click on the following link to proceed to the next poetry break.

Module 4: Poetry Break #5