One of the major themes that we will deal with in the first portion of this class is identity, how it’s constructed, by whom, and for what purpose. Often it seems that society dictates or constructs our identities for us instead of allowing us to speak our truth about our identities. As a pansexual man, I generally use the term “gay” to describe my identity when in the company of straight folks because it’s easier, better understood, and because I’m married to a man. But when hanging out with people of the LGBTQ+ community, I’ll identify as pansexual because they “get it” more so than straight folks. In this way, society dictates my public identity. Even certain types of official documents that I fill out ask for the name and gender of my spouse. Anyone reading the document would probably assume my I’m gay because the document doesn’t allow for a full explanation of my identity. Such erasure/invisiblizing of one’s identity can be frustrating and even emotionally harmful.
Another important consideration is that identity is intersectional. We hold a bunch of identities, and some might even be conflicting identities. For example, we can add cisgender male, and white to my pansexual identity. But we can also add, teacher, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, and son to my list of intersecting identities. Each one of these identities carries different meanings and different relationships at different times.
The point I’m getting at is that identity is complex and intersectional instead of singular and monolithic.
For This Assignment
This assignment has two parts.
First, Construct a short poem about two or more of your intersecting identities. The poem, Tonight, In Oakland Links to an external site.by Danez Smith is a good example of intersecting identities in poetry, i.e. race, sexuality, gender identity. Here’s a list of Heritage and Identity Poems Links to an external site.that you could read through for a couple more examples before you jump into creating your own poem. The point here is to speak your truth about several of your intersecting identities, whatever they may be.
“Why do WE have to write a poem?” you might be asking . . . Well, trying to write poetry will give us a better understanding of the hard work that goes into creating a piece of literature. It’s not easy, and when we read literature, it’s important to keep in mind the hard work that goes into creating it.
In addition to your poem, please produce a one to two page explanation of the poem in which you discuss:
- your goals for the poem
- how you want to affect the reader
- any unusual/creative word choice, rhyme, or form used in your poem
Please submit your poem and explanation in one document. For your explanation use MLA format: Times New Roman 12pt font; 1″ margins all around; a header with your name, my name, the class, and the date; a creative and interesting title for the poem and for the explanation; if needed, a works cited page (not required).
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