I have one pair of "Love Song" by Sara Barielles and "Valentine for Earnest Mann" both having the same theme of "You can't ask for that!" I'm looking for some other similar things to give my students some options. I'd like to provide several options for songs that are recent and yet school appropriate that will allow students with differing tastes in music to all find something.
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You might consider the theme of exploration as presented in Stan Rogers' Northwest Passage, a song that is often taught in Canadian schools and has lots of pedagogical resources, and contrast this with the attitude in Tennyson's "Ulysses".
Another possibility would be to contrast Carolyn Arends "Seize the Day" with more common literary carpe diem poems such as "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" or "To His Coy Mistress". I like the contrast between her sense that the lost opportunities are for self-realization and helping others rather than for sensual gratification.
Folk ballads would be another good resource -- especially contrasting some of the original Childe ballads with the Romantic and later poems imitating them, e.g. some of the Ballads of Mad Tom (Steeleye Span, Boys of Bedlam is a good version) with Houseman's "Her Strong Enchantments Failing".
How about some protest poetry and protest songs? Of course, they don't necessarily have to be about the exact same issue. You might have a song about women's rights and a Civil War era poem about abolition.
You could try Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est" with an anti-war song like U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" or take your pick from a number of Rage Against the Machine songs. U2 has a lot of songs to choose from which would be easily applicable to a wide range of issues. "Stuck in a Moment" - going through a difficult time, although this was specifically about the suicide of Michael Hutchence. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" - a gospel song about the quest for meaning.
If you do use "Dulce et Decorum Est" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday," they go well together because the refrain in the song is "how long must we sing this song." Owen expresses the same frustration, essentially saying, "how long will we continue to say it is right and fitting to die for one's country?"
I often put my eighth graders in groups of four to help each other find the modern song that would fit the poem each had selected. I found that they could find songs for each other of which I was not aware. We did some examples together first to discuss which kind of songs would be school appropriate as I believe they need to practice that skill. The groups found good combinations which had to pass their inspection and mine. If their inspection was minimal at best, I made them each choose a different idea because they had not been helpful to me or their group. I often loved their ideas more than what I could have chosen since I didn't know all the music they listen to. I know that it takes more work and risk this way, but I found that they learned more about themselves, boundaries, and poetry than me providing for them.
Definitely have them come up with their own! They can either start with a poem or start with a song. There are many web sites out there that have collections of poems by theme. Usually it is easier for kids to find a song they like first and then look for a poem that matches it.
I would also suggest that they are allowed to come up with groupings of songs and poems on their own. All of your students have a favorite song (I am sure). the song part will be easy. Once they choose a song, they only have to search for related poetry with the same themes/symbols/meanings.
I have to ask what your goal is in this assignment. I wanted the poetry to be first because that is what they resist the most. The poem had to be the central idea with the song matched to the poem. I know it is easier the other way by choosing the song first, but I thought they needed to focus on poetry, its message, the devices used, the beauty of the language, and then find those same things or some of them anyway, in a poem of their choosing. I wish you good luck. I found this to be a fun assignment for the students. They learned to really help each other find what they needed.
Edward Arlington Robinson's worthy poem "Richard Cory" of the mistake of judging people by appearances has a counterpart in the song "Richard Cory" by 1960s famous duo, Simon and Garfunkel. The lyrics can be obtained on the internet, for sure. Probably the rendition by Simon and Garfunkel can, too. Students may have heard this song in some movie, and they can draw several parllels as well as make contrasts.
On of my favorite poems is "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by W.B. Yeats. There are several recordings of this song. The two that I have heard are by Joan Baez and Donovan.
It would be a perfect assignment to bring in Henry David Thoreau's nine bean row idea and a discussion of Walden.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles
Nine bean-rows I will have there, a hive for the
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
Then follow up with the beautiful song by one of these artists.
Another good assignment for this unit is for the students to decide where in their past would they like to go to spend time outdoors as Yeats did as a teenager, rowing over to Innisfree and lying on the ground looking up at the stars and the fireflies. They can write a poem about it or a descriptive paragraph.
Follow that up with the song "Memories" or "The Way We Were." Even though they do not have the memories of an adult, they can be shown the importance and the feelings that one gets when he returns to a favorite spot from childhood.
Get away from the sentimentality and have them get in groups and write a rap using the poem. Yeats might like to have his poem brought into the 21st century. Anything to get these children to enjoy literature.
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