by Zachary Sibel
In the world of spoken word poetry, it is hard to beat the work of Rudy Fancisco. His work is powerful, brilliant, and highly entertaining. While his videos are incredible -- and I suggest you use as many as you can -- his recently published anthology, Helium, presents a number of written texts that fit well as a warm-up in any class.
One text that I have used recently is a poem he first published via social media and later used in his book.
|Find this poem in Rudy Fransisco's book, Helium, or in the original tweet.|
This poem is simple and presents an abundance of opportunities to talk about language and narrative.
Before introducing this poem, I talk to students about some fears that I have, things like flying and heights. I ask students if they have any fears and discuss whether they are rational or not. I end the brief discussion with what seems to be a surprising statement for some students: that I am terrified of spiders. I then show them this poem on my screen. I read the poem aloud and ask for a student reading.
The discussion can go a number of ways. Focus on the first half: "How does the poet react when asked to kill a spider, a task we all have probably done without giving it much thought?” Or focus on the second half of the poem: “What profound statement is made about the refusal of a simple task, killing a spider”.
I start with these questions but also allow student to just talk about the poem and what they got out of it. I close the discussion with the fact that since reading this poem a year ago, I haven’t killed a spider. Because of the way Fancisco addresses the idea of being “caught in the wrong place/at the wrong time, just being alive” I have tried to treat all things with a greater sense of kindness and mercy. Poetry can change us.
A suggested pairing: Read this text alongside William Blake's "The Fly" and allow students to analyze “How does poetry allow us to see large concepts in the smallest of creatures?”
Zachary Sibel is a hip-hop fan and an eighth-grade English teacher at Tohickon Middle School in Bucks County, PA.