Friday, March 6, 2009

The Labourer

The country of Mauritius
Module 3
POETRY CHOICE: POETRY THAT DOES NOT RHYME—Post a Poetry BREAK with a poem of your choice that does not rhyme OR a Poetry BOOK REVIEW on a poetry book of unrhymed poetry of your choice

The Labourer

The labourer is back from the field
when sunset dies away from the sky
opening the way to darkness.

The labourer is back from the field
with his huge tiredness
hanging on his shoulders.

Night finds him sleeping
under a blanket of boredom.

Life starting at dawn,
ending at dusk.

He prays for courage.
May his bit of food
not slip from his plate.

Toolsy Daby

This poetry break takes a more serious tone. Use this poem with high school students to begin a study of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. The poem is a wonderful introduction to the hardships faced by the sharecroppers in the novel, but adds an element of multiculturalism since the poem is found in a poetry collection from around the world, compiled by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Give a copy of the poem to a student who is a strong reader beforehand so he or she can practice reading the poem with feeling and emphasis. After the student reads the poem, pull down a map of the world and let the students find the country of Mauritius.

Extension Lesson: The poem and the novel combined helps young adults realize that sorrow and hard times span centuries and cultures. A quote from Wikipedia provides insight: “Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers, the Joads, driven from their home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agriculture industry” ( As the students read the novel, have them do a research project focusing on themes garnished from the following information:

Steinbeck had unusual difficulty devising a title for his novel. "The Grapes of Wrath", suggested by his wife, Carol Steinbeck, was deemed more suitable than anything the author could come up with. The title is a reference to some lyrics from "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", by Julia Ward Howe: [. . . ]. These lyrics refer, in turn, to the biblical passage Revelation 14:19-20, an apocalyptic appeal to divine justice and deliverance from oppression in the final judgment. (

Tie in the poem by including research of Mauritius with emphasis on why the author, Toolsy Daby, wrote the poem. What might the country of Mauritius be like? Have the students create a Power Point featuring one aspect of their research:

Ø The story behind the title, The Grapes of Wrath
Ø Revelations: the scripture concerning the grapes of wrath
Ø The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Ø The country of Mauritius
Ø Sharecroppers and Sharecropping
File:LocationMauritius.png. 2009. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Nye, Naomi Shihab. 1992. This same sky: A collection of poems from around the world. New
York: Four Winds Press. 176.

The grapes of wrath. March 2009. Wikipedia. com. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. (accessed March 5, 2009).

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