Poetry Friday:The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

Poetry Friday is hosted by Penny @ A Penny and Her Jots!

We are in a new normal now – first, Trump issues another edict in blatant disregard of our Constitution and values, then we rise up to protest.  No sooner had news of the Immigration Ban been announced, than more news followed: spontaneous rallies at airports and cities, petitions being taken up, and social media flooded with new petitions to sign and information to forward.  To #Resist is my new normal:

As the weekend unfolded, I knew that there was only one poem I could share with students for our Poetry Thursday:

The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I knew that some of the words and references would be difficult for my sixth graders, but I have come to rely on their ingenuity, curiosity, and our class philosophy: when in doubt, look it up!  The main thing was to get at the heart of Lazarus’ message, and why it should resonate  powerfully today.

Here’s what some of them had to say:

FullSizeRender (59).jpg


What can I say? My kids make me weep.  They are so good and want what is good…and our world has turned dark. So, how to keep their faith, tell the truth, and shepherd them through this time?  Thank goodness for poetry, and the way it provides a venue to keep the faith, tell our children the truth, and shepherd them through dark days.


13 thoughts on “Poetry Friday:The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

  1. I must agree – Thank goodness for poetry. I turn to it daily for inspiration and a way to keep the faith in dark times. Here’s to a continuation of lifting the lamp. We memorized those words in sixth grade.

  2. I feel good when I hear what you’re doing with your students, Tara. “We are all exiles”, yes! Wonderful to read these words today.

  3. Tara, I was at a meeting in support of making our Maryland county a Sanctuary City last weekend. One of the young women who spoke — an undocumented member of our community — paraphrased Emma Lazarus’ poem: “We the huddled masses are going to resist. We the huddled masses also have a dream. We the huddled masses are Americans. United, we are Colossus, unimaginably powerful.” It brought tears to my eyes. It’s wonderful that you guided your students to engage deeply with this poem.

  4. It’s heartbreaking, isn’t it? What kind of world are we creating for our young people, especially those who don’t fit into Trump’s idea of what a proper American should be? As educators, all we can do is try to inspire, strengthen and support students, so they have the skills and confidence they need to move forward into this topsy-turvy world.

  5. geesh, your kids make me weep too. How profound. You know, I had a meeting with a group of nine kids to plan a kindness week last week. There were several nationalities, native languages and religions represented in that group. I came home feeling like….if it’s up to THESE kids….we’re going to be OK. We’ve just got to remind them that we will continue to make it so. So glad these kids have the freedom and encouragement to respond as they have in your class. Have a great and well deserved weekend.

  6. What is at your students’ core is so decent and good. They know what is right and are being given the instruction and the resources to build powerful citizens who don’t walk away from what we stand for. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  7. I can’t remember if I ever read the full text of this poem. How appropriate that Lazarus names her “Mother of Exiles.” Your students’ responses are so moving, Tara. And thank you for this: “Thank goodness for poetry, and the way it provides a venue to keep the faith, tell our children the truth, and shepherd them through dark days.”

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