Ode to a Drum Topics for Further Study
by Yusef Komunyakaa

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Topics for Further Study

(Poetry for Students)

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During slavery times, whites passed a law prohibiting the ownership of drums by blacks. Research other laws slaveholders passed that affected the ways blacks practiced their culture or religions. Write a paper detailing these laws. When did these laws change? What was the immediate impact?

Odes have a long and storied history in poetry. Odes have been used to address important objects and ideas, and they were often written for important occasions. In contemporary times, poets have come to use odes ironically. Research the poetry of the past twenty years and find examples both of the serious uses of odes as well as ironic uses. Then, try writing each type of ode yourself using techniques you have read about.

Drum making and playing were considered sacred to many African societies. Research the backgrounds of African and Native American drumming and drum making. What are the similarities between the uses of the drum, and what are some of the differences?

The poem makes a reference to ghosts. Research how different cultures view ghosts and spirits. Write a paper comparing your findings. Consider how religious, economic, and racial influences affect a culture’s belief in ghosts. Have people’s ideas about ghosts changed from generation to generation?

Both in the opening and closing lines of the poem, animals are mentioned. How is Komunyakaa using these animals and for what purpose in his poem? How is he making use of personification? How is the speaker showing respect to both these animals? Why do you think Komunyakaa specifically refers to the gazelle and the panther? What kind of symbols are attached to these animals? Look into how different cultures treat animals and write an essay about your findings.