Slice of Life 2020: Day 27

My creative writing students begin the study of writing by looking at Langston Hughes’ poem, “Negro.” It is a powerful poem with a powerful message about overcoming obstacles, growing strong in the face of adversity, and being comfortable in one’s own skin. We look at how the poet uses repetition, punctuation, allusion, metaphor, and place to establish the tone and theme of this piece.

Then, I ask each student to write a poem in this same style. Each student becomes the speaker, “I am…”

Everybody comes from somewhere and each of us has a unique reference point from our histories that guides, to some extent, where we are going. This is one of their favorite writing exercises each year.

I always share my poem, from the perspective of a mom who is now comfortable with that role and how it has shaped my life for years.


I am a mother:
distinctive in the products I make,
traditional in the methods I use.

I’ve made children:
my brush has combed five heads,
my face has carried the wrinkles of many sleepless nights.

I’ve made food:
my stove has rocked five burners,
my breasts have nourished five mouths.

I’ve made beauty:
my hands have braided locks of hair,
my mouth has delivered devoted direction.

I’ve made a home:
I’ve clothed my inhabitants with love,
my paycheck is made from smiles.

I am a mother:
distinctive in the products I make,
traditional in the methods I use.

Once the students see and understand the structure, they are usually very excited to begin.

Here is a link to Hughes’ poem:

6 thoughts on “Mother

  1. Your poem was so good. I also used the link to read, “I am negro,” too. Our nuclear family is diverse. My youngest son is black. He prefers black over other descriptive terms. Compared to my skin tone, he is very dark! We were given custody of him at 10 hours old. I was able to breastfeed him, as I did his older brothers. We do not see color and I forget about it. Sometimes people are shocked when they first meet him because I just tell them he is my son! The social worker asked us how we would raise him to be a good black man. My husband’s reply was that we would raise him to be a good man.
    We’ve provide black-oriented literature for him as he’s grown up. His favorite saints are St. Moses the Black and St. Martin de Porres. He’s now 21 and I think he’s an amazing young man. I am so proud he is my son. He’s a 5-year fire fighter and a 2nd year Iron Worker apprentice. He had his FF1 and EMT1 by 17 and hasn’t looked back. ( He’s working intensively FF3 and EMT3 now). It’s been a wonderful life and he’s been our joy. He bought his first truck. It is black and even has all black bumpers, etc. His license plate is “Dark Man.” He’s so funny. Great kid. Thanks for the journey you gave me today!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We love St Moses the Black at our house. I love that your family is color blind. We strive for that in our home as well. So far, I think our boys our of the same mind. Thank you for taking the time to respond 🙂


  2. Your poem is wonderful and as the mother of five, I could easily relate to it. What a great lesson for your students. Thanks for sharing the link to this poem. I love Langston Hughes!

    Liked by 1 person

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