When You Read This Poem

For Citizens Opposed to Book
Censorship, Baton Rouge, La.

The earth turns
like a rainbow
And the smell of autumn
drifts down Yellow
leaf on my arched back

The light touches
I see it with my skin
feel it lean
That furrow of trees
casts its shadow—long
as the night, the wind,
the river

Truth has many faces
My friends, don’t honor me
without passion
I will not be wheat in the summer’s fire
I will not lie fallen
like autumn fruit
or die in the evening sun

let us band together
and fight evil We
cannot let it burn
the earth We
cannot let it guide
the sun

The world is a bird
in flight

When you read this poem,
love me


Pinkie Gordon Lane
from her book Elegy for Etheridge
Louisiana State University Press, 2000

reprinted with special permission from LSU Press


For a History Class

Lesson Plan for Pinkie Gordon Lane’s “When You Read This Poem”
by Laurie A. Williams

Before reading this poem in class, discuss censorship in general. What is it? Why does censorship occur? How does censorship affect our understanding of a time period? What kinds of information are censored and for what purposes?

Then pass the poem out in class, read it aloud, and have students discuss how the poem relates to censorship. What is the poet saying about censorship? What lines in the poem seem to directly relate to censorship?

How does the epigraph, “For Citizens Opposed to Book Censorship, Baton Rouge, La.” after the title inform the reader about the poem’s subject?

How do the images of earth, autumn, light, trees, shadows, and fruit relate to censorship?

As an activity, have students choose a time period and a region and research censorship at that time and include the types of information censored, how the information was censored, the effect of that censorship on the political power in that region at the time, any groups working against censorship, was the censorship justified.

As a current event, have students choose a region and explore if censorship is occurring in that region at this moment.

For either activity, have students write a poem that includes images, an epigraph, and a position about censorship.

For an English Classroom

Lesson Plan for Pinkie Gordon Lane’s “When You Read This Poem”
by Laurie A. Williams

This is a great poem to explore simile, metaphor, synaesthesia, image, turn, rhythm, and line breaks.

Most students will be familiar with simile and metaphor, so have students go through the poem and look for examples of similes and metaphors.

Write a list on the board. Underline each of the two contrasting ideas, images, etc.

As students how the comparisons inform or deepen the overall meaning and/or image?

Have students make a list of the images in the poem. Many of them are already on the board as part of the similes and metaphors.

How does the imagery of earth, autumn, light, trees, shadow, night, and river inform the overall theme?

If students have not already, have them number the lines on the left-hand side.

Have students look at lines 6 and 7 “The light touches/ I see it with my skin”

Ask students if seeing with skin is possible? Is this image clear? Introduce or reinforce the word synaesthesia with line 7 as an example.

Ask students to look back at the poem and think about what other contrasts the poem presents. If they need help, have them look at the epigraph, “For Citizens Opposed to Book Censorship, Baton Rouge, La.”

Where does the poem turn (shift in thought)? Does it have more than one turn?

Does this poem have a rhythm?

What creates that rhythm?

This poem has no punctuation, so have students decide which lines are end-stopped (end a thought) and which are enjambed (the thought flows into the next line).

Have students choose a subject for which they have a strong opinion, such as censorship, and write poem that uses image to underscore their overall position. Use Ms. Lane’s poem as a model.

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