The overall theme of the poems we read is the importance of teaching and learning and how they can impact us in different ways. The themes we learn from schools and from our teachers are life lessons about maturing and finding out the person we are. Accepting others and disregarding judgment of others are also themes discussed in “Fork”, “Queen, 1963”, “Theme for English B”, and “this morning (for the girls of eastern high school).” Students sometimes reluctant to learn or do an assignment that a teacher assigns but one never knows, you will possibly get something out of it. Teachers usually have a purpose for what they are teaching and they enjoy and encourage all the students to participate fully.
The poem “Fork” by Jeffery Harrison is written from the perspective of an adult man reflecting back on his years as a student and how they shaped his future. The speaker has a negative tone in the first stanza when reflects back his professor in college, who he despised at the time but with time has realized that this particular teacher had the biggest impact on the person he became. The tone of the speaker in lines 1-24 is that he has been defeated and beat down on as a student. This teacher who is not named but clearly not forgotten is reveal as an award winning writer who has a knack for tedious detail and unbelievably high standards for his students. When the speaker says “the fork was my prize” he is bragging to the teacher, so happy that he stole the fork without the teacher noticing. The instant the speaker grabs the fork in line 25 the tone of the poem bursts into energy “spurring” the speaker on. The teacher is mentally and physically present “in dozens of moves, and changes” in the student’s life.
The poem “this morning (for the girls of eastern high school)” by Lucille Clifton is about a young school aged girl who goes to school and finds herself. The poem can be interpreted that a girl finds another girl who is like her, “tree girl a me girl I met myself” or as a girl who has found the confidence in herself not to care what others think of her. The speaker of the poem has finally found someone who will not judge her. “I survive survive survive” can be interpretation as a sudden relief of not feeling so out of place and with the security of her new friend or her new self confidence, she will make it through school.
In the Langston Hughes poem, “Theme for English B” the speaker dives deep into the realities of societal life in Harlem and the race difference inside and outside of the classroom. The well known busy bustle life of the predominantly African American neighborhood described by Hughes allows the tone of the poem to reflect the fast pace life style. In line 25 the student speaker says “I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like the same things other folks like who are other races” acknowledging the racism in the classroom and in life. The poem’s underline message is that we are all parts of each other. The different races might enjoy different things but we all are individuals and we are all who we want to be. Races can separate people if they let them but people from different races can learn something from one another.
The poem “Queen,1963” by Julia Alvarez also deals with the hardships of coming into a new country and facing racism face on during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The melting pot of races and religions in America are all trying to find their niche in society. It’s ironic that the Jews, Greeks, Dominican are segregating the African Americans when they were once in the same position. The speaker describes the terrible discrimination in a free America.