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The Study of Poetry and Literature for Children & Young Adults

Poetry Break #4: A Poem by a Native American Poet

Introduction: Use this poem for middle school and up. If possible begin with an introduction about the local (or nearest) Native American tribe.

 

At Navajo Monument Valley Tribal School

By Sherman Alexie

 

 .........................

from the photograph by Skeet McAuley

 

 

the football field rises

to meet the mesa. Indian boys

gallop across the grass, against

the beginnings of their body.

On those Saturday afternoons,

unbroken horses gather to watch

 

their sons growing larger

in the small parts of the world.

Everyone is the quarterback.

 

There is no thin man in a big hat

writing down all the names

in two columns: winners and losers.

 

This is the eternal football game,

Indians versus Indians. All the Skins

in the wooden bleachers fancydancing,

 

stomping red dust straight down

into nothing. Before the game is over,

the eighth-grade girls' track team

 

comes running, circling the field,

their thin and brown legs echoing

wild horses, wild horses, wild horses.

 

 

 

 

Poetry Extension: Read slowly twice, pay particular attention to the verbal queus exhibited in the sentence structure and the line breaks.
 
Break the class into groups for a choral reading. Each group has a designated reader which can be alternated with subsequent readings. It is important that the readings flow so everyone must pay attention and be ready to read. Let the students decide which words to emphasize through voice or action as they read aloud. For example, some will choose, "stomping" some will run the words "wild horses, wild horses, wild horses" together or whisper them.
 
Follow up with a local Native American presenter. The local tribe can be contacted ahead of time to request someone willing to speak to teens. If the speaker is a poet or an author, invite them to share their work. Make sure to verify ahead of time if they are willling to answer questions.
 
In preparation for the visit have the class research the history of this tribe. Have each child prepare one question, checking to make sure they are not duplicates or offensive. A preparatory talk on manners and appropriate audience behavior is always a good idea when having a visiting speaker.
 
After the visit have the students write thank you notes and enclose poetry if they so choose on what they gained from the talk.

Alexie, Sherman. 1992. The Business of Fancydancing. United States, Hanging Loose Press. ISBN 0914610007

fancydancing.jpg

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

Poetry Break #5