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Multicultural Poetry
Multicultural, Poetry and Literature for Young Adults

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A poem by an African American poet.

Introduction: Here I looked for a poem that expressed feelings with a twist as it changes from one time to another and the characters have to change with the time.

Janeczko, Paul B., comp. 2002. Seeing the blue between. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press. p. 39. ISBN: 0-7636-0881-5.

"Sweethearts Dance"

He pulls her close
She strokes his face
Their thoughts fly to
Their starting place

The Sweethearts Dance
The day they met
He still remembers
She can't forget

The music plays
Just like before
The graying sweethearts
Young once more
Whirl and dance
Across the floor

-Nikki Grimes-

Extension: After several readings including choral, see if the students can discover the rhythm of dancing in the poem. This could also be read by two groups responding to each other.

A poem by a Hispanic or Latino(a) poet.

Introduction: Comparing and contrasting is one of the basic writing types for the TAKS. This poem leads to that through its unfamiliar familiarity.

Stavans, Ilan, ed. 2001. Wachale! poetry and prose about growing up Latino in America. Chicago, IL: Cricket Books. pp. 116-7. ISBN: 0-8126-4750-5.

"'Twas the Night"

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the casa
Not a creature was stirring, caramba! Que pasa?
Los ninos were tucked away in their camas
Some in vestidos and some in pajamas.
While Mama worked in her little cocina,
El viejo was down at the corner cantina.
The stockings were hanging with mucho cuidado,
In hopes that Saint Nicholas would feel obligado
To bring all the children both Buenos and malos
A nice bunch of dulces and other regales.
Outside in the yard, there arose such a grito
That I jumped to my feet like a frightened cabrito.
I ran to the window and looked afuera,
And who in the world do you think that it era?
Saint Nick in a sleigh and a big red sombrero
Came dashing along like a crazy bombero!
And pulling his sleigh, instead of venados,
Were eight little burros approaching volados.
I watched as they came and this quaint little hombre
Was shouting and whistling and calling by nombre:
"Ay Chato! Ay Pepe! Ay Cuca! Ay Beto!
Ay Pancho! Ay Chopo! Maruca y Nieto!
Then standing erect with his hand on his pecho
He flew to the top of our very own techo!
With his round little belly like a bowl of jalea,
He struggled to squeeze down our old chimenea,
Then huffing and puffing, at last in our sala,
With soot smeared all over his red suit de gala;
He filled the stockings with lovely regales,
For none of the ninos had been very malos.
Then chuckling along, seeming very contento,
He turned like a flash and was gone like el viento.
And I heard him exclaim and this is verdad,
"Merry Christmas to all, Feliz Navidad!"

-Maria Eugenia Morales-

Extension: Locate other versions of the poem from other cultures. Discuss how many words the students can figure out without using a dictionary because they are familiar with another version. This leads to developing a compare/contrast web with a paper being written either way. Students can find out how to say "Merry Christmas" in other languages. Students can study the ways other countries and cultures celebrate Christmas.
Students can share recipes of Christmas goodies that they found during their research.
Art can also be done on the different forms of Saint Nicholas.

A poem by an Asian American poet.

Introduction: In my search of looking for answers for students to read ( an age old question from reluctant readers), I found the following delightful poem.

Wong, Janet S. 1999. Behind the wheel: poems about driving. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books. p.24 ISBN: 0-689-82531-5.

"Need to Read"

need to read
to pass the test

those signs into my brain

steep grade

read the handbook
read it again
read it again

sleep on it

dream those signs

the license is mine

Extension: This poem would easily be understood as far as what the person in the poem is feeling. One could either go to other modes of transportation involve tests, or other poems can you find about modes of transportation. If you feel secure about discussions, you can even go to other things that would be important to read. Don't be surprised at the answers though! Students could write their own poem about learning to drive and share them on a bulletin board with pictures of their vehicle.

A poem by a Native American poet.

Introduction: I would use this poem to begin a unit on the environment in science. Stories can be found by the students that also use the term "mother" for the earth. As we share these, we can begin to discuss things that need to be done to preserve Mother Earth.

Begay, Shonto. 1995. Navajo: visions and voices across the mesa. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc. p. 9. ISBN: 0-590-46153-2.


The songs we sing, the prayers we chant
Far into the night,
The sounds of healings and blessings
Flowing from the lips of medicine men and women-
These are echoes of the ancient spirits,
That are woven into our stories.

When beings from the Third World
First arrived into the Fourth World,
magic and mystery came with them.
Cicada, Grasshopper, Coyote, Turkey, all their kin
Brought with them great power.

The songs we sing, the prayers we chant-
These were the first sounds in the first Hogan
Upon the new world.
Though different voices from different times-
The songs and chants are the same.
Their magic and power still hang in the air like fog.

First Man and First Woman
Appeared upon the Fourth World.
Life was given to them through these sons.
Blessings were given to them through these chants.

They were instructed to rule wisely
And to protect and respect
All that call the earth "Mother."

Extension: Students can decide on one of their environmental ideas and put it in to action in their school and in their homes. Students could also look for poems, folktales and short stories that give other versions from other cultures of the creation of the world or of man. These can then be put in to art form and a multicultural mural can be made for display in the hallway. Common threads would be looked for in the creation versions.

A poem by an international poet who is not an American.

Nye, Naomi Shihab. 1992. This same sky. New York, NY: Four Winds Press. P. 137. ISBN: 0-02-768440-7.

Introduction: While reading poetry, I have been looking for ones that would speak to all of my students. Here I found one that talks about a balloon which seems to be something known around the world.

For Luisa

A balloon! My Daddy brought for me
And it is like my Mama's belly,
And the cord and my arm are one:
It goes up, I go up,
I go down, it goes down.
I am the hummingbird awed
By that highest rosebud.
Oh my balloon, where may it be?
It hangs like a wrinkled wing
From the highest thorn of the tree
And the ground bruises and bruises my knees.

-Blanca Rodriguez-
Translated by Aurelio Major

Extension: To add to the universality of the balloon, one could show the film "The Red Balloon". This would be a great time to share a poem. For this each child would choose a poem that they like and print it up. Balloons would be aired with helium and the poems would be tied to them. A request would be added that the finder write back to the class with his/her favorite poem. These would all be released from the school en masse. A bulletin board would be prepared with copies of all the poems sent out and poems that are sent to the school would be added when they came in.