Unrolling a Poem: Not My Business

image0121.jpg As with all the approaches to poetry I have posted (collapsing and fragmenting poems) this approach can be applied to any poem but I shall be relating it to a single poem. The aim behind this approach is to encourage enquiry by revealing a poem a line at a time. Here is a very simple PowerPoint for Osundare’s poem which will need adapting and beautifying. It includes some suggested activities:


 Essentially you reveal a line at a time and discuss it in depth before building on it line by line. This is a very teacher-led activity but much of the work is student centred as it is them that will be generating questions and answering them. If you have an IWB then you can annotate around the poem as you go. Rather than going through what you might ask line by line, here are a few of the things you might want to ask students about this poem (some of these link to the activities I have suggested in the PowerPoint):

  • What questions do you want to ask?
  • What things are you noticing?
  • What is the effect of the word ‘and’?
  • What do you notice about the verbs in the first two stanzas?
  • What do you notice about the structure? What is the effect?
  • What do you notice about the third stanza? Is it less effective because it is less violent? Is it more effective to have this shift in focus because it suggests a more widespread problem? (Encourage some disagreement on this – independent interpretations is what we’re hoping for.)
  • What do you think the title of the poem might be?
  • What do you think the final stanza might be like?
  • What is the effect of the change in the final stanza?

I think this is a particularly good poem to ‘unroll’ because it is a bit of a mystery and students will want to find out what happens. The beauty of revealing a poem line by line is that you aren’t losing lines in the midst of the whole poem. Furthermore, you are encouraging independent interpretation and the students are doing all the work – asking the questions and working together to answer them.


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