January 17, 2019

Learning from the Source: The Declaration, Her Declaration, Your Declaration

Photograph of the Declaration of Independence

Discuss the Declaration of Independence. Why was it written? What meaning did it have in 1776? What meaning does it have today?

Read the Declaration of Independence and highlight words and phrases that stand out to you. Read over the words and phrases you highlighted. In what ways does the language you selected help to clarify or distill the meaning of the Declaration of Independence for you?

Read over the words and phrases you highlighted again. In what other context of your life might these words and phrases have meaning? How else does this founding document speak to you? Jot down some ideas.

Read along as you listen to Library of Congress poet laureate Tracy K. Smith recite her poem “Declaration“. Then jot down your first impressions of the poem, it’s meaning, and what it made you think or feel.

Listen to Smith as she discusses her poem “Declaration” with The New Yorker and then listen to her recite it again (begin at 8 minutes and finish at 11:25).

Describe your reaction to the poem. How did the interview and recitation change your first impressions of the poem? What new thoughts and feelings do you have?

Listen from 11:55 to 13:42 hear what Smith has to say about what erasure means to her “as a process and a poetic technique”, particularly when used with historical documents.

Review the words and phrases from the Declaration of Independence that you highlighted earlier and your ideas about its meaning for you today. Then create your own Declaration erasure poem that speaks to your thoughts, feelings, and experiences, giving careful consideration of language and tone.

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