Walker extends the oral tradition, emphasizing the folklore in her poetry. In Walker's poetry, she takes actual people, events, and traditions and transform them into her own. She uses traditional ballad forms in her poetry. Her volume of poetry, October Journey, includes several examples of ballads in her poetry. Many of her poems include emphasis on the South as an "ancestral homeland" and juxtaposing the past with the present. However, she does not romanticized previous Southern culture.
Her poetry includes reclamation - an unpleasant experience for some readers. Often not apologetic, Walker's poetry tends to be bold. Humanity and dignity is constantly used through her poetry. She emphasizes the humanity of it all. Typical southern gothicism exists in her poetry. Images of the violent south exists throughout her poetry. She proves to be a "southern gothic writer." Walker's poem, "Delta," provides a unique combination of various elements related to the south.
Elevated rhetoric, literary tools, parallelism, and language beyond normal use is important in Walker's poetry. Biblical cadence, which can be heard in sermons, can be heard in Walker's poetry (e.g. "Delta" and "Hosea"). Walker has a unique connection to visual artists.
Applying Walker in the Classroom:
- Teaching literary elements: Take one of Walker's poems and have students identify literary elements.
- Writing about your life: Have students read one of Walker's poems and create a poem about their life, referring to the chosen poem.
- Comparison: Compare poems "For My People" and "I've Known Rivers" by Langston Hughes. Have students write their comparison, while playing the sound of a river running. Have students applying the literary tool, parallelism.
- Teaching Poetry and Establishing Confessional: Use Walker's poetry to identify your own bias and have students identify their own vulnerability and bias.
Poems discusssed in today's discussion:
- For My People
- Yalluh Hammuh
- Long John Nelson and Sweetie Pie
- Street Demonstration
- Girl Held Without Bail
- For Andy Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney
- Amos (Postscript, 1968)
- Ballade of the Hoppy-Toad
- October Journey
- I Want to Write
- For Gwen 1969
- Ballad for Phillis Wheatley
- Medger Evers
- Jackson State