Thursday, February 20, 2014

Poems from Personal Strength

          Karen Edmisten, the mom, writer and consumer of coffee is our host for Poetry Friday this week.Thanks Karen for hosting today! 
          And I also want to thank Laura Shovan of Author Amok, and say again what fun I've had writing poems for her birthday month colors.   HERE is where you can find out all about her plan.
        I'm preparing to give an assignment to a middle school class and thought you would like to see a few resources that I'll use for them. It's a creative writing experience that their teacher and I thought would be terrific to help the students take one added step and write for a spoken word/poetry presentation. Students will research their names and write from that research, connecting with the past, or geography, or something new.  I cannot guess what they will find and deliver to us, but want to share with them as many examples of people writing about names and naming as I can. I already have some picture books and poetry anthologies, some essays I've saved from magazines and newspapers. The challenge is to turn their words into poetry, good to present and to memorize. This class has written in varied genres often, and I wrote poetry with a small group earlier in the year.  Now they'll discover new ways to share their words.



         I found a beautiful spoken word piece by a young man from Africa. No matter how long and difficult, he refuses to change it into silly nicknames for another's benefit. I know the students will love it.  Here is the text and here is the video showing him performing.

      His poem begins:
My name is a song;
I can sing it as I want;
in Soprano High or Bass deep.
O-lo-run-fe-mi-ju-won-lo
Oh! It jars your ears.
(beat) I should shorten it?
I won’t. I will not reduce my name to F
A letter. And call it a nickname.
Or funkify it as P-h-e-m-m-y spelt P-h-e-m-m-y
Why?
Or change it to Famozo
…or its other version Famoshi
So that you might feel it?
My name is my identity.


          Every element of our names reveals parts about us, our family background and culture, our personal connection because of experiences, perhaps even unusual connections from why our names were chosen. Students will have the choice of writing about their given names, their surnames, their nicknames or all three. Each can be a powerful story by the time one is an early adolescent. 

         Here is another example of a poem I'll share.  When I Hear Your Name - Gloria Fuertes, (translated from the Spanish by Ada Long and Philip Levine) - is really a romantic poem, but shows the importance of a name for someone who loves. 
          It begins:

"When I hear your name
I feel a little robbed of it;
It seems unbelievable 
that half a dozen letters could say so much.
       the rest is here.

        If you have a favorite poem you would like to share about names, please tell me in the comments. I'll appreciate it!
       I found this photo on Photopin. There is a pizza place in a little mountain town we used to go to where one could scratch one's name on a brick. This makes me wonder if this is a picture from that place, but even more, it makes me smile to think somewhere on a brick wall, my name, my husband's and my children's names are written.  How important is your name to you? Do you know why you received your name?  If you have children, do you have their name stories ready to share?

photo credit: tugwilson via photopin cc

30 comments:

  1. Oh, these are lovely, lovely poems about names and identity, Linda! I love them! The first one is my favorite. A work of genius! These poems actually fit our next theme that has to do with identity! So glad you shared them! =)

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    1. Wow-Fats, I knew if I posted, there would be connections! And so happy you liked the poems. I agree, the first is beautiful! I was so excited to discover it.

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  2. The poem by Gloria Fuertes is a favorite of mine. I followed the link you gave to read the full text of the first poem and was a bit amused to see that he is listed by "Femi" at the top. More name poems for you: "Isn't My Name Magical?" by James Berry, “Old Names, New Names” by J. Patrick Lewis, and "One Day I Wrote Her Name Upon
    the Strand" by Edmund Spenser.

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    1. Thanks Tabatha for all the poems-love that you know more. I did notice the Femi also-there is a bio piece about him in another place using that 'short' name.

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  3. What a glorious project, Linda - as I was reading your post, I thought, EVERY child should be encouraged to do this! I'll bet these students come up with work which surprises and delights them (and you teachers!). Great suggestions from Tabatha, too!
    [You know, growing up as "Robyn Hood" made me especially sensitive to names! It's been a lot of fun, and I understand there's a convention in England because so many folks share that name. Maybe I'll go sometime!]

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    1. Thanks Robyn- I will do a little more research and tell the students what you shared with me, too! Hope the move oomph is winding down for you & you are beginning to love your new home!

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  4. What a fabulous assignment. Love all the resources you've pulled together, and both poems are wonderful. I've always been fascinated by names -- as you say, both given and surnames have stories and histories connected to them.

    Like Robyn, I'm sensitive to names, too. No Jama conventions, though :), but I did finally meet someone else with the same name (but spelled "Jayma"). She was a caterer and made the most beautiful teddy bear out of butter for my tea party once. Up until then, I thought no one else in the entire world had a similar name. It was food that enabled me to find her :).

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    1. Oh how wonderful, another story that I can share. Names are special, I agree, Jama. Maybe I'll try to write my own story? Thank you!

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  5. This is a wonderful project, Linda - especially for middle schoolers, who are all of a sudden aware of their emerging identities. How lovely that somewhere is a brick with the Baie's name etched together for always - that's a thought worth lingering over. My name suited both my Indian father and my Irish mother - it's one that connects to both cultures. I think it's one of the few things that they agreed on! :)

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    1. I can see that this motivates all of us to ponder our own names-maybe a new poem or prose is in the future? Thanks for sharing about yours, Tara, at least a little bit!

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  6. What a fabulous idea, Linda! I may have to steal... er, borrow it one day. So great for kids... who doesn't have some kind of strong opinion about their name? Thanks also for sharing the Fuertes poem. The passion of it just about bowled me over!

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    1. Please do use the idea any way you wish, Michelle. I've done this 'name writing & research' before with my own class & they did love doing it.

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  7. I love this idea. Though it is not a poem, and written for younger ages, the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes comes to mind. Being a quick read, it might spark something in someone. My maiden name is Thistle, hence the "Thistles by the Sea" poem. http://mainelywrite.blogspot.com/2011/08/thistles-by-sea.html

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    1. I'm gathering so many stories, Donna-how wonderful about your name. I love it. And Chryanthemum is one of the picture books I use, too-wonderful story. Thank you!

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  8. Those kids are so lucky to have a teacher like you! And th poems are lovely!

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    1. Thanks Iza, love the compliment! I hope I'll be able to post about the result of all this, too!

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  9. Those lucky middle schoolers will love your project, Linda! All this talk of names reminds me of a line from the song, "Sway," by Bic Runga, who, in the midst of falling in love, admits, "I'm practicing your name, so I can say it to your face..."

    Thanks for sharing these!

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    1. So many of you have connections, which is terrific, Matt. Thanks for telling me about this song-will look it up!

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  10. Linda,
    I have done name research with students before but never made the connection to spoken word poetry. I love this idea and want to use it.
    My name came from my maternal grandmother who died three months before I was born. To me, she has always been my guardian angel. I've told this story before and shown pictures of her portrait that hangs in my parents' home.
    When I taught 3rd grade years ago, I had an African student whose name was Funke. As you can imagine, kids made fun of her name and pronounced it funky instead of making the e a long ay sound. So we did name research at the beginning of the year. She presented that her name came from an African princess. I will always remember this experience as being one of those times I did something meaningful and valuable for my students.

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    1. I love hearing all your stories, Margaret, & now this sweet one about the student too. The teacher and I thought it would be great for the students to create "their" stories into spoken word portraits. I hope they'll love the doing of it all! The picture books I've found, except for Chrysanthemum, all touch on "different" names because the child has come from another country, like your student. If you want the titles-e-mail me & I'll send them to you. I'll share your story with the class! Thanks!

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  11. I love that assignment! What a fantastic idea. I've always been fascinated by the power of names, of what they mean to us.

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    1. They are important, aren't they, Karen. Glad you liked hearing about the project.

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  12. Linda, thank you for the gift of that Gloria poem! What a wonderful project - rich and inviting. Are you familiar with the website where authors talk about pronunciation and history of their names? Might be something to add to your unit! http://www.teachingbooks.net/pronunciations.cgi

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    1. Irene, thank you so much! No, I don't know it. It will be a marvelous addition to our work.

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  13. Linda, this is wonderful! What a fabulous idea. I have used a piece with my students by Julia Alvarez on her name, and how she felt like a different person with each new variety of it she accumulated. I just Googled it and found it online here: http://www.humble.k12.tx.us/cms/lib2/TX01001414/Centricity/Domain/2400/Names%20Nombres.pdf My students really responded to it, as they are used to their names being pronounced completely differently at home and school!

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    1. Thanks very much for this, Ruth. I have several pieces by Sandra Cisneros & brought home Judith Ortiz Cofer's The Meaning of Consuelo hoping I could find a passage or two. It's been a while since I read that book. I appreciate your finding what you've used! Hope you're having a good weekend!

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  14. I"m so jealous of your students! I hope you will share some of their work on this assignment -- I'm eager to read what they discover about themselves.

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    1. I'll certainly try to share some. Now that I've given the assignment, they are so excited, finding more connections than I had thought of! Thanks Keri!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!