The American Poets Project

            Reading The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus has made me think about the power and potency of poetry. There are times when simple words written on paper or spoken out loud can have historical significance; especially when the poem (or prose for that matter) connects to or echoes a strong emotion or state of mind in a group of people. In fact I think poems can even be driving historical forces. We have a rich history of American writers who have given our country some really wonderful poetry. I think I would be remiss if I let the opportunity pass by without giving you a taste of the inspiring, terrifying, sickening, enchanting and mysterious power of the history of American poetry.

Your assignment is to pick one poem that you like by an American poet from any time period of American history. You will present this poem to the class. You must read the poem to the class and display the text of the poem in an interesting and unique way. Think about how the author of the poem would like to see their poem displayed. I will ask you to explain in detail why you chose this method of display and what it represents about the poem. Posters and PowerPoint are not acceptable. Perhaps you will write the lines on shoe strings or gently print them onto last fall’s leaves. Almost any way of presenting these poems is acceptable, but if you’re going to do something really big or crazy check with me first (via email). Chances are that I’ll still let you do it.

Try to pick a poem that has some meaning to you or echoes an emotion or mood you have found yourself in.

  • If you’re considering using a poem read it out loud a few times, look up the words you don’t know, and if you can, listen to it being read by someone else.
  • Choosing a short poem is fine but make sure you put extra effort into the presentation.
  • Choosing a long poem is good too, but try not to pick something so long that you’ll have trouble getting it finished.
    • If you really like a poem but you think it many be too long come talk to me. I may be able to help.
  • This project is priming your creative juices for the End of the Year Project so I’m expecting similar creative effort.
  • You’re using someone else’s poem and no other research is necessary, put your effort into the reading and creating the final product.
  • You may not use the same poem as anyone else in your class. Any arguments will result in me assigning a poem to each party.
  • The only American poet you cannot use for this project is Shel Silverstein. 


  • Projects are due on the 30th of April
  • These will be graded mostly on neatness, creativity, and effort although there will be points added for the reading and subtracted for obvious mistakes or late projects.
  • This project is worth 40pts

Use the time you have in class today to look for poems and brainstorm creative ideas with your partner. You will be doing this project individually, but in these first planning stages I would like you to help each other out by coming up with ideas.

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