Curriculum Connections

Connecting Your Safari to the Curriculum: Music

Poets are like musicians since they often create a musical effect in their poems. By repeating patterns of sound (as in rhyme, alliteration, regulation of line length, the use of refrains, and the repetition of words or kinds of words) they create rhythm; and by fashioning the sequence of the words on the page into lines and stanzas, punctuated to control the way they are read, they also dictate the tempo, which, along with the meanings and sounds of the specific words chosen - onomatopoeic words, colorful and descriptive words, and words that elicit emotion - and their context, determine the tone and the mood - all components of music.

Language Arts/Music Connection: Have students tap a quick one-two-three-four beat and challenge them to read Punda Milia to the beat. The poem is designed to be read as such and can easily be rapped or changed into a song. Why? Because repetition is a key element - giving the poem its steady rhythm. Have students read through the poem again - this time going on a 'repetition scavenger hunt.' Have them identify as many instances of repetition in the poem as possible. Some are: end rhymes (point out to students that rhyming is a kind of repetition; ask them what is being repeated in rhyming words), internal rhymes, line length, stanza length, words, kinds of words (synonym-adjectives), phrases (If you sliced me up, arranged the parts...), inverted phrases ('claim to fame'/ 'fame to claim;' 'alternating colors'/ 'colors alternating,') and alliteration.

Try tapping a beat and doing 'repetition scavenger hunts' in several different poems. Nyumbu and Fisi are obvious choices, but many others will also work. In some cases, students may need to stretch out a word or squeeze a few together quickly, but normally they will be able to find a rhythm that fits - because of repetition.

Alliteration is the repetition of letter sounds in a line or series of lines.  For a clear example, go to the Bonus Poems and read Duma II. Share this poem with your students. It uses alliteration to add spice to the haiku recipe. (Cross reference: See Duma II in Formulaic Poem Writing Activities, in Rebel Poets, and in Connecting Your Safari to the Curriculum: Science.)

Have students identify rhymes, alliteration and repetition of words in the poem Mamba. What vowel sound is repeated throughout line 7? How do these techniques add to the effect of the poem? Do humor, irony or exaggeration help to set the tone?  How does the shape of the poem add to its effect? Note that the pace and the rhyme pattern change after the words, 'Chomp!' and 'MMMM!' How does the change in meter reflect the poem's action?

The poem Tai examines the nearly sacred lifelong devotion that the vulture has for carrion in the form of a crescendo - a musical piece (in this case, a love song) which gradually increases in volume and intensity. So, for the full effect, make sure you read it with increasing volume and intensity.  8-) The love song format intentionally tries to mislead the reader, but, still, there are word clues that might make the reader aware of what's going on. Have students identify key words that help them to identify the vulture ('wrinkly bald head, talon-sharp feet, circling the sky, etc.) and words or phrases (before the giveaway last stanza) that might provide a clue about what the vulture's devotion is really all about (sweet, appetite, my prize, the ballet macabre, etc.).

Besides the sense of devotion and the vulture addressing its 'love' directly, how else is the poem like a 'love song,' for example in structure. What words act as a refrain? How do they contribute to irony of the concluding stanza? How does the structure lend to an increase in intensity and drama as the poem proceeds?

Creative Writing Activity: Scavengers and predators - and all living things for that matter - are naturally devoted to the food that sustains them. Assign each student an animal and, writing from the perspective of that animal, have students write a love letter/poem/song to its prey/food. Challenge students to follow the crescendo format - and to make there compositions tricky to figure out, but at the same time accurate. Have students share their finished products, allowing classmates to guess the correct animals. Or, for a fun variation, have each student choose a favorite food of their own and challenge them to write a love letter/poem/song to that particular food. When sharing, see if classmates can guess the favorite foods by listening to the descriptions of 'devotion.'



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