English “B”

Lesson 89 Chapter 5 Module 8

Today’s lesson is a bit shorter, after yesterday’s longer chapter from the Pixar storytelling book.

As we learned in Week 3, about Structure and Flow, that is often what happens with poetry.

Even though it is shorter, that doesn’t mean that it has less to say. In fact, themes and lessons are often the most important component to a lot of poetry.

It is written to share a poet’s thoughts and feelings about a subject.

Very similar to the lyrics from earlier in the week, though songs are more inclined to actual storytelling. Poems can (and often do) capture a snippet of a moment or an important observation.

But they do it with a careful attention to language and detail.

Remember, every word in a poem has to earn its place.

The very nature of most poems (Greek epics and modern format aside) is that they have a set rhythm and flow.

So while it is a bit shorter, the lesson is not less important.

Especially when we consider how it applies to our own writing and sharing of advice and messaging.

In “Theme for English ‘B’” by Langston Hughes, we learn from the first line that this is a poem the poet has been assigned for some sort of class.

And the instructor has directed the students that through writing, they will find their “truth.” For once something is written on a page, it becomes true for the author.

But what Hughes wants to investigate further is how does that truth apply to others?

Hughes is a Black youth in Harlem in the 1920’s, and though he attended a historically black university, this particular instructor is an older white man.

How, wonders Hughes, can the truth he shares in his poem be a truth that this reader can identify with and understand? Can Hughes’ truth ever be the professor’s truth? Where do they find a common ground?

There lies a whopping theme around “what is truth?,” that has been pondered by writers and leaders alike for millennia.

Then we take that a step further.

How, we have to wonder ourselves, can the truth we share in our writing be a truth that our readers identify with and understand?

Likely our readers are not cookie-cutter carbon duplicates of ourselves.

Sure, they may have similarities. You may be a writer who writes what you wish someone had written for you, or what you’d want to read.

But can our readers ever really know our truth?

As you’ll note in the rest of Hughes’ poem, he spends a fair bit of word real estate explaining more about himself. About his experience. About his background and setting.

So, while there will never be a universal truth between ourselves and our readers, by giving them enough background and information, we can at least discuss things from a common understanding and perspective.

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