Musician Jeff Tweedy recently turned Carl Sandburg’s poem “Theme In Yellow” into “an airy, idyllic folk song” that appears on Brooklyn musician David Nagler's tribute album, Carl Sandburg's Chicago Poems.
The poem describes a midwestern October and is filled with images of "prairie cornfields / Orange and tawny gold clusters" and children "singing ghost songs / And love to the harvest moon" while gathered around a pumpkin (or someone pretending to be a pumpkin), who serves as the poem's speaker.
I project the text of this poem on the screen while my students listen to the song. I tell the students very little beforehand, except that they should try and ascertain whether the poem develops a story from the images the poet creates. After the song, I ask a student to volunteer to read the poem to the class. Next we discuss the literary element of mood. Students define the mood of the poem and then provide lines from the poem as supporting evidence. It was interesting that half of the students found the mood to be peaceful and half found the mood to be sinister!
Lisa Levin teaches ninth-grade English at Holicong Middle School in Doylestown, PA.