Fear, Courage, and Poetry

Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell, the creators of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, have designed the coolest image to go with my poem Fear Factor.  It is just the right resource for sharing poetry throughout the year.

They have also given me permission to share the Take 5 lesson they have designed to go with the poem.  If you are interested in another example of an apostrophe poem, a poem in which the poet talks to someone or something, read below.  The Prisoner In Aghmat Speaks To His Chains is a poem that I selected to model this style of writing in my book, Practical Poetry.
Imagine the lesson extensions on this one!  But don’t just imagine, put it to good use!

King Al-Mu’tamid, ‘The Prisoner In Aghmat Speaks To His Chains’

The Prisoner In Aghmat Speaks To His Chains

I said to my chains,
don’t you understand?
I have surrendered to you.
Why, then, have you no pity,
no tenderness?

You drank my blood.
You ate my flesh.
Don’t crush my bones.

My son Abu Hasim sees me
fettered by you and turns away
his heart made sore.

Have pity on an innocent boy
who never knew fear
and must now come begging to you.

Have pity on his sisters
innocent like him
who have had to swallow poison
and eat bitter fruit.

Some of them are old enough
to understand and I fear
they will go blind from weeping.

The others are now too young
to take it in and open their mouths
only to nurse.

by King Al-Mu’tamid of Sevilla
Translated by Cola Franzen
from the Spanish version of the Arabic by Emilio García Gómez

Al-Mu’tamid, the “Poet-King” of Sevilla, reigned from 1068 to 1092. He was dethroned and then exiled to Aghmat (Morocco) by the Berber Almoravids whom he himself had invited to Spain to help the Moorish rulers fight Alfonso VI. He died in captivity in Aghmat in 1095. With his exile the great age of Islamic culture began to decline in Spain.
— Cola Franzen, “Poems of Arab Andalusia”, 1989


4 responses to “Fear, Courage, and Poetry”

  1. Ruth says:

    I read this poem with my seventh graders yesterday from the PFA, and posted about it on my blog today. Thanks for writing it!

  2. Love this poem. I am thinking of having my students try out this strategy for their own poems as a way of addressing the issues they are researching for their PYP Exhibition of Learning projects. Although the speaker in your poem is talking to his chains while a prisoner (not a lighthearted topic), listening to these kinds of poems will give them a different lens from which to view poetry.

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