Poetry Friday: Poetry 2.0 & Langston Hughes

Here at TeachingBooks.net, we think a lot about the wonderful ways that technology, the Internet, and Web 2.0 can enhance student and teacher enjoyment of poetry and poets (and books and authors in general). There are excellent web tools and strategies for using technology to help connect with the work of deceased poets and to nurture student enthusiasm for poetry.

Below you’ll find a few ideas to try. Each features a poem from Langston Hughes. Please feel free to add your strategies for bringing poetry and poets to life via technology in the comments section, and I look forward to your Poetry Friday posts!

Give poets a voice!

Hearing poetry read aloud is important to comprehending and connecting to it. In some cases a deceased poet’s voice has been captured on an audio recording, like the clip below of Langston Hughes. However, just hearing a skilled actor perform Shakespeare’s sonnets aloud is invaluable. A wealth of audio poetry resources exist online. I found the following audio clip by searching the TeachingBooks.net database:

Listen to Langston Hughes himself share the backstory for and read his poem THE NEGRO SPEAKS OF RIVERS.

Remember, too, that there are some great (and free) poetry podcasts available. Two that I found are Classic Poetry Aloud and Poem of the Day.

Give poets a face!

Watching video of a poet performing a poem enriches a listener’s connection to both the poet and to the poem’s message. I realized this for myself when I recently watched online videos of Lucille Clifton reading selected poems. On TeachingBooks you can search for video Author Programs with poets (hint: use Guided Search). Various other sites, such as Poetry.org, are also including videos of poets reading and/or discussing their work.

For less contemporary poets, video is still an option to enhance connections to poetry. For example, I found a multitude of YouTube videos somehow tied to the poetry of Langston Hughes. I especially enjoyed watching actor Danny Glover read Langston’s “Ballad of Roosevelt.”

Danny Glover reads “Ballad of Roosevelt” by Langston Hughes.

Encourage students to interpret poetry through art!

TeachingBooks.net has recently begun recording audio clips with illustrators of children’s books. We ask the illustrators to choose a page and speak about their thought processes and media choices when illustrating the text on that page. Hearing directly from illustrators who are working to create imagery of poems is fascinating.

For example, listen to illustrator and photographer Charles R. Smith, Jr. describe his approach and the challenges he faced in taking the photos to illustrate Langston Hughes’ poem, “My People.”

As an activity, imagine asking students to create an illustration for all or part of a selected poem.

Charles R. Smith, Jr. shares how he illustrated the book My People (S&S, 2009).

Socially network with poets and poetry!

Twitter updates and Facebook statuses are a great place to share poetry and to disseminate online poetry resources. And, many poets have Facebook fan pages, including Langston Hughes, where individuals can connect to discuss and analyze the work of their favorite poets and share news of poetry events. On Langston’s discussion board, for example, fans post about their favorite Langston Hughes poem.

Check out the Langston Hughes Facebook fan page.

And an image from a Twitter search for “Langston Hughes”:

Go mobile!

Poets.org has created a mobile site for cell phone web browsing of poems.

Here’s the mobile site version of Langston’s amazing poem “Dream Variations.” It’s a pared down version of the site to make for easy reading on your mobile phone if it has web browsing capabilities.

There are also poetry iPhone applications, such as the free Poem Flow.


Put ’em in your pocket!

April 29th, 2010 is Poem in Your Pocket Day. You can find many great poetry resources and activities to celebrate the day here. Essentially, Poem in Your Pocket Day encourages creative ways to integrate poetry into your daily life, many of which advocate for the use of technology in creative ways.  Some ideas include, “add a poem to your email footer” and “post a poem on your blog or social networking page.”

Other ideas are “offline” strategies, such as “post pocket-sized verses in public places” and “start a street team to pass out poems in your community.” Sounds like fun! Which Langston Hughes poem will you put in your pocket?

What strategies do you have for bringing poetry and poets to life?

Posted by Danika Brubaker, MLS, Web 2.0 Content Producer

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12 Responses to Poetry Friday: Poetry 2.0 & Langston Hughes

  1. Elaine Magliaro March 5, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    Thanks for doing the roundup this week!

    At Wild Rose Reader, I have a poem that I wrote about the lovely wedding of my friend Grace Lin that I attended last Sunday.


  2. Greg Pincus March 5, 2010 at 3:25 am #

    Thanks for hosting the roundup today! Besides leaving a link to my new original (well, kinda!) poem above, I wanted to add in two resources for National Poetry Month.

    At the Miss Rumphius Effect, Tricia will be bringing back The Poetry Makers, a series profiling a different children’s poet every day of the month. You can see her lineup for this year here:


    Over at my own blog, I’ll be bringing back 30 Poets/30 Days which features a previously unpublished poem by a children’s poet every day of April. I haven’t shared my list yet, so I’ll link to last year’s fun:


    Looking forward to April, and thanks again for hosting.

  3. jama March 5, 2010 at 3:30 am #

    Thanks for hosting today, Danika!

    Today I’m sharing “A Poem for Will, Baking,” by Susan Rich.

    Have a nice weekend.

  4. Laura Shovan March 5, 2010 at 5:44 am #

    Hi, Danika. Thanks for all of these resources. I’ve used the clip of Langston Hughes reading in the classroom. Kids love hearing his voice and how it draws you in.

    I’m sharing an online program called SPARK: art from writing, writing from art with an original sestina.

    Have a great poetry Friday!

  5. Laura Purdie Salas March 5, 2010 at 6:04 am #

    Love these ideas, Danika–so fun to bring poetry to life for kids through many different formats!

  6. Laura Purdie Salas March 5, 2010 at 6:05 am #

    Oh–and thanks for rounding us up!

  7. Danika Brubaker March 5, 2010 at 7:17 am #

    Hi Elaine,

    I loved your wedding day poem! I added it to the link tool list, too.

    Thanks for your great post,

  8. Andromeda Jazmon March 5, 2010 at 7:37 am #

    Danika, you are fabulous!! I have been celebrating Langston Hughes in my school library this week too and I love your links. We have a subscription to TeachingBooks.net and we absolutely LOVE it. Keep up the great work! Thanks for doing the poetry roundup.

  9. tanita March 5, 2010 at 9:01 am #

    Hey! Thanks for hosting, Danika! I love the poetry.org videos a LOT – giving poets a face and a voice can really help you understand their work. And I just LOVE that Charles R. Smith, Jr. book. One of my favorites for the Christmas season – everybody got that one.


  10. Laura Evans March 5, 2010 at 9:02 am #

    Hi Danika,

    Great ideas!I have an original haiku to share at http://teachpoetryk12.com/taking-a-count-haiku/

    Thanks for hosting Poetry Friday!


  11. Sara Lewis Holmes March 5, 2010 at 11:20 am #

    I left my link early this morning, but I stopped back by to say how wonderful your tips for making poetry come alive are. This post is eminently bookmark-able.

    Also, I got to hold Charles Smith’s “My People” in my hands for the first time a few weeks ago—what a gorgeous book. Thanks for the link to his creative process!

  12. Danika Brubaker March 5, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    Thank you to everyone for your amazing posts, poetry resources, and comments! What a wealth of knowledge this community is sharing each week! It thrills me every time.

    Thank you all again!

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