I must confess, I am a little partial to the poem "Revenge" by Taha Muhammad Ali because I was present for its English-language debut at the Dodge Poetry Festival in 2006. To hear a poem spoken first in Arabic, meaningless to a primarily English-speaking audience, reminded me first of the marvels of language; what is without meaning to one person is deeply, profoundly impactful to another. And when I heard this poem repeated, the second time in English, the power of Ali's words brought the entire audience to our feet, for here was a poem entitled "Revenge," crafted in one of the most conflict-striken regions of the world, that is actually about the power of choosing peace.
If you choose to share this entire video of the poem with your students, it will take a little more time than some of our Go Poem activities, but I think you will find it to be worth it. I share photocopies of the poem with my students, turned face-down until after the video has finished playing.
Part of what makes this poem so impactful is its structure. What we may refer to as a "plot twist" in a novel or a movie we refer to as a "turn" in a poem. Where does this poem take a surprising turn? What is the nature of that turn? By surprising us with these unforeseen turns, what do you think the poet wants us to leave the poem thinking about, wondering about, or believing? (That last question digs at the question of theme, but isn't it so much more interesting than asking "What is the theme of this poem?")
Brett Vogelsinger teaches freshman English students at Holicong Middle School in Doylestown, PA where he starts class with a poem each day. Follow his work on Twitter @theVogelman.