Lessons

Fighting Words: Poetry as a Response to Conflict [Contest and Workshop]

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Image by Jordan Roth. United States, 2016.

Image by Jordan Roth. United States, 2016.

Announcing the Pulitzer Center Poetry Contest!

How can poetry be an effective response to conflict and current events? How can we use poetry to connect global issues to our local and personal contexts? Students are invited to explore these questions in their entries to the Fighting Words Poetry Contest.

Prizes:

Eligibility: Any current K-12 student in the United States or internationally may submit.

Deadline: Friday, May 18, 2018 11:59 PM

Submission guidelines: Go to the Pulitzer Center website and select a story (see workshop guide below for suggestions). Write a poem of any form and length that includes lines from the story. Use “With lines from “STORY TITLE” by JOURNALIST NAME, a Pulitzer Center reporting project" as your epigraph.

The poem should be on the theme of peace and conflict, but you are welcome to interpret that theme creatively and to make connections between international reporting and your own life/community.

Send poem(s) to hberk@pulitzercenter.org as a Word document, PDF, GoogleDoc, audio file, or video. If you choose to submit an audio or video file, please include a transcript of your poem as well. Do not include your name in the document.

In the body of your email, please include your full name, school, grade, state and/or country, and phone number.

Judging criteria: Poems will be judged by the following criteria:

  • Success of the poem on its own terms (craft, linguistic style, emotion, etc.)
  • Successful inclusion of lines quoted from a Pulitzer Center story

Schedule a Workshop to Prepare: Teachers and after-school activity leaders who would like to prepare their students to craft poems for this contest can contact hberk@pulitzercenter.org to schedule a workshop for their students facilitated by a Pulitzer Center education team member, or may use the workshop guide outlined below.

Workshop Description:

In this workshop, students will examine the intersections of poetry and journalism. They will have the opportunity to explore multimedia international news stories about conflict, analyze poems that respond to those stories, and write their own poems using a pressing story that speaks to them.

Poems produced in this workshop can be revised and submitted to the Fighting Words Poetry Contest for the chance to win cash prizes, publication, and an invitation to perform at the Pulitzer Center's Beyond War: Causes of Conflict, Prospects for Peace conference in June.

Objectives:

Students will be able to…

  • explain the connection between journalism and poetry
  • analyze the connection between a poem and the news story by which it was inspired
  • make a personal/local connection to an international story about conflict
  • write a poem about peace and conflict that includes lines from an international news story

    Discussion Questions:

    1. What is conflict?
      • What conflicts are you aware of in other parts of the world right now?
      • What conflicts are present in your community?
    2. What are effective responses to conflict?
    3. What is journalism’s role in responding to conflict?
    4. What is art’s role in responding to conflict? What can poetry contribute, specifically?
    5. How would you compare the job of a journalist and the job of a poet?
    6. How would you compare journalism and poetry?

    Reading/Listening/Watching:

    1. Read and listen to the audio (1:55) of “Permission” by Noel Quiñones

    2. Watch 0:00-5:05 of the New York Times documentary “Inside a Suicide Prevention Center in Puerto Rico.” While you listen, highlight the lines in Quiñones’s poem that are taken from the documentary.

    3. Discuss the poem:

    • What lines jump out at you as important, interesting, beautiful?
    • What is the subject of this poem? How could it be interpreted as a poem about conflict?
    • What does “119 syllables” refer to?
    • How does the speaker of the poem express personal connection to the subject matter?
    • Why do you think Quiñones chose to construct this poem as a pantoum?
    • In what ways is the poem similar to the documentary? In what ways is it different?

    4. Read Quiñones’s commentary on the poem:

    “In the aftermath of Hurricane María, Puerto Rico has been struggling to rebuild and been denied federal grants to do so. While reporters and news stations have focused on people’s access to food, water, and electricity we are seeing a new crisis develop. The New York Times published a mini documentary entitled ‘Inside a Suicide Prevention Center in Puerto Rico’ at the beginning of January highlighting the mental health crisis now taking hold. As a third generation Puerto Rican, I have never been able to shake the pain of being from a place that is not quite a country and not quite a state. We have always lived in a precarious identity and while many state Hurricane María as the beginning of our traumas, we have suffered since America’s invasion 119 years ago.”

    Discuss:

    •  Does Quiñones’s commentary change your perspective on the poem in any way? What about your perspective on how it fits into a larger narrative of conflict?

    Exploring Your Story:

    Now you will have the chance to choose a story of peace and conflict that speaks to you.

    1. Take a few minutes to explore the headlines/images/article summaries for the articles listed below. Select the one that most interests you.

    2. In the next 10 minutes, read the corresponding article. While you read, highlight phrases that jump out at you as important, interesting, or beautiful.

    3. Find a conversation partner with a different article and discuss:

    • What is your story about?
    • How does it relate to peace and conflict?
    • What local and/or personal connection can you make?
    • What is one phrase that you highlighted, and why?

    Writing:

    1. Take 5 minutes to create a cento from the lines you highlighted and other language in your article. A cento is a poem comprised entirely of quotes from other texts. (Find example centos here.)

    2. Take another 15 minutes to write a poem that includes lines from your cento and your own original writing.

    Sharing:

    1. Share your poem with the class and receive your peers’ feedback. See if they can guess what your story was about.

    2. Here are some suggestions for how to give good feedback to your peers:

    • Mention lines or words you thought were especially powerful or beautiful.
    • When you say that you “liked” or “didn’t like” different aspects of the poem, say why.
    • Consider the question: How did the poem address the subject of peace and conflict?

    Suggested Stories:

    Text and photo stories:

    Video stories:

    Educator Notes: 
    • Workshop Norms:

    Writing, especially writing poetry, can be a very personal experience. As a result, it is important to create a space in which students feel free and supported in expressing themselves. Before beginning workshop, students should agree to a set of workshop norms. Time permitting, you may wish to establish these guidelines collaboratively with the class. A basic sample set follows:

    1. During reading and discussion time, I will be an active participant. I will listen to my peers and to my teacher with the understanding that they will do the same for me.
    2. During writing time, I will respect silence and my peers’ concentration.
    3. During sharing time, I will listen to and be supportive of my peers.
    4. During feedback time, I will share at least one positive comment before making suggestions for improvement. When making suggestions, I will state them not as things my peers did poorly, but as things they could do better.
    5. After this workshop, I will not share anything that my peers have said or written with anyone outside the workshop unless I have asked for and gotten the consent of the person who said/wrote what I would like to share.

    Students should additionally be introduced to good ways of expressing support for their classmates while they share their poems (snapping their fingers, etc.).

    More Suggested Resources:

    Students may use any story on the Pulitzer Center website to write their poem. However, those seeking guidance may find it easiest to explore via the On War and Peace issue portal.

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