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A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer; it sings because it has a song. -Lois Holtz

Civil Rights Poets

February 17, 2014 by · No Comments · Uncategorized


Black History Month is coming to a close all around us. This is a time to reflect on the lives of those who worked to bring peace and reconciliation between African Americans and White Americans. These leaders came out of poverty, despair, and slavery. However, they came with passion, with literacy, and with love.

Love was a defining feature in Martin Luther King’s non-violence campaign for Civil Rights. Martin Luther King knew that no lasting peace could be made unless it was made with peace and with love and forgiveness.

“The Negro needs the white man to free him from his fears. The white man needs the Negro to free him from his guilt.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King asserted that both sides needed to do something. It was a complicated issue where both sides must be respectful and loving to the other side. This was no simple battle against good and evil. When humans are involved, things are always more complicated than good and evil.

This tension between good and evil is something that the Civil Rights Poets often tried to express in their poetry. Writers such as Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and Gwendolyn Brooks, all took into account the full complexity of the situation. No one was perfect, but something had to change.

Amiri Baraka discuss some of the tension felt in the Civil Rights Movement. This poem discusses feeling neither entirely African no entirely American.

Notes For a Speech

African blues
does not know me. Their steps, in sands
of their own
land. A country
in black & white, newspapers
blown down pavements
of the world. Does
not feel
what I am.


in the dream, an oblique
suckling of nerve, the wind
throws up sand, eyes
are something locked in
hate, of hate, of hate, to
walk abroad, they conduct
their deaths apart
from my own. Those
heads, I call
my “people.”

(And who are they. People. To concern

myself, ugly man. Who
you, to concern
the white flat stomachs
of maidens, inside houses
dying. Black. Peeled moon
light on my fingers
move under
her clothes. Where
is her husband. Black
words throw up sand
to eyes, fingers of
their private dead. Whose
soul, eyes, in sand. My color
is not theirs. Lighter, white man
talk. They shy away. My own
dead souls, my, so called
people. Africa
is a foreign place. You are
as any other sad man here


Respond to the following prompt:

Write one paragraph (at least 5 sentences) in response to this poem. What does the author feel about being from Africa? What does the author feel about America? Where does the author feel like he belongs? What is going on in the poem? Does the poet feel lost and confused or bold and empowered? Why? Make sure to quote the poem.

No new blog until after TCAP!

February 3, 2014 by · No Comments · Uncategorized


Writing and Reflection

January 18, 2014 by · 18 Comments · Uncategorized

Ideally, writing is an on-going process. Leonardo Da Vinci once said that “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”

I want us to take that thought process when working on our essays and portfolios. We worked on two essays for over three weeks because writing is about trying to find the best way to say something and not the only way to say it or the fastest way to say it. We revisit old essays and old poems. We revisit them because we become better writers as we go. We find better ways to say something. We learn new words that move us and inspire us.

As we grow, our writing grows.

I want you to take this time to reflect how you have grown as a write and how you hope to grow as a writer in the future. We will have more portfolios and more chances for you to showcase how much you have grown.

Please answer one of the following prompts:

1.) How have you grown as a writer? What is one piece of writing you have submitted this year that you are proud of? Why are you proud of it? What in the past unit has helped you to grow as a writer? Why?

2.) Where do you want to grow as a writer? What are of your writing is a big struggle for you? What piece of writing do you wish you had a second chance at in order to improve it? Why? What in the past unit has helped you to grow as a writer? Why? Where would you like us to focus on in future writing lessons?

Solitude and Creativity

January 1, 2014 by · 57 Comments · Uncategorized

We have begun to talk about poetry. We are talking about solitude in class these past few days with Thoreau and Walden. I wanted to combine these two fields. Many poets believe that they need solitude in order to truly work and to do their best work. One such poet is Mary Oliver. She writes primarily poems about nature in very simple terms. She does not worship nature. She likes to pay attention to the details of trees, snow, and animals. Here is one of her poems.


The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?


Mary Oliver believes that most of her poetry comes from the fact that she spends time alone. Solitude is where she draws her strength and inspiration. Here is a famous quote from her about solitude and creativity:

“Wherever I am, the world comes after me.
It offers me its busyness. It does not believe
that I do not want it. Now I understand
why the old poets of China went so far and high
into the mountains, then crept into the pale mist.” – Mary Oliver.

Write a full paragraph (at least 5 lengthy sentences) in response to one of the following questions:

1.) If you believe that solitude improves your life, why does it improve your life? What do you do when you are intentionally alone? How do you re-center yourself and find ways to connect back to yourself without all the hustle and bustle of other people? What brings you a calming peace when life gets too hectic?

2.) Read the following short essay, http://thisibelieve.org/essay/42000/. Do you agree or disagree with the author? Why or why not? Is it harder to find solitude in today’s world or is it easier? What is so wrong with being with people all the time?

3.) Some people need to be with others more than they need solitude. Solitude for these people is more like depressing loneliness. If you feel that solitude is more of a curse than a blessing, explain why. How does being with other people rejuvenate you and bring you peace? What about being in solitude bothers you?


Introduction to Poetry

December 1, 2013 by · 80 Comments · Uncategorized

The school year is going through some changes. We now end at 3 PM and the Holidays are upon us. Whether your celebrate Hanukah, Christmas, nothing at all, or something entirely different, December is a magical time. People gather to celebrate. There are two weeks of no school. It may snow. Hot chocolate and sweaters fill homes. These are some of my favorite things.

The final change is that I, Mr. Hatchel, will now be working through our Blog Posts and guiding you through a mystical journey of cyberspace and language. Now, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I love poetry. I love to write and read poetry. I love to hang out with poets and daydream about poetry. I keep poetry with me always. I want to share my love of poetry with you all today and hope to continue to share poetry with you in the following months.

Dead Poet's Society

So I would love to start with one of my favorite poems of all time, “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins. It is a magnificent way to start any worthwhile discussion about poetry.



Introduction to Poetry



I ask them to take a poem

and hold it up to the light

like a color slide


or press an ear against its hive.


I say drop a mouse into a poem

and watch him probe his way out,


or walk inside the poem’s room

and feel the walls for a light switch.


I want them to waterski

across the surface of a poem

waving at the author’s name on the shore.


But all they want to do

is tie the poem to a chair with rope

and torture a confession out of it.


They begin beating it with a hose

to find out what it really means.


So for your post this, there are two possible entries:

1.)    Where else besides poetry do you think people focus too much on what it “means” and do not enjoy it as it is? What good is poetry if it doesn’t have to mean anything? How else should we approach poetry besides looking for what the poem means?

2.)    If you write poetry, do you think people should read the poem and only focus on what it means? How does it ruin the poem to become obsessed with meaning? Do you write poetry only to get a message across? Why else would you write poetry?

No new blog this week. Just sayin’ that I love you guys and hope you enjoy your break.

November 25, 2013 by · 3 Comments · Uncategorized


#5 November is Native American Heritage Month

November 11, 2013 by · 56 Comments · Uncategorized

I have always been enamored by Native American culture, so this post is particularly special to me. I actually traveled alone two  summers ago to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon and meet with the natives of the Hualapai tribe. The natives invited me around their campfire to share stories, talk about their culture, and discuss how they felt about tourism.  They even invited me along with them on a horseback ride around the ranch; my horse’s name was Yellow.  (Psst:  It was my first time on a horse, so admittedly, I was a bit terrified.)

(<—– Yes, I took this picture!)  This post is also special to me because I plan to introduce you to one of my favorite contemporary writers, Jimmy Santiago Baca, a poet of Chicano and Apache descent.  Baca grew up in an orphanage after being abandoned by his parents.  At age thirteen, Baca ran away and  was later convicted on drug charges.  It was in prison that Baca discovered his love for reading and writing poetry.

Baca primarily writes about heavy themes–immigration, addiction, marginalized groups, various forms of imprisonment, and the power of language to understand human identity.  You may find a link to his poem “Cloudy Day” below:


For credit on today’s post, answer one of the following questions:

1.)  Read Baca’s poem and write a reaction to it.  What do you think the poem is about?  Why do you think he gave the poem that title?  Where is the speaker?  What do you make of the poem’s ending? Did you like the poem?  Explain.

2.) Go to a website and provide three facts about any Native American tribe.  Is Native American culture part of your family’s heritage?  Which tribes do you know the most about?


I Iz 2 Kwl 2 Reed

October 27, 2013 by · 50 Comments · Uncategorized

Before we left for winter break last year, a student approached me and said, “Ms. Martin, all we ever do in your class is read and write. I get tired of reading and writing all the time.”

Interestingly, this comment reminded me of something:


Okay, so I’m just giving him a hard time–seriously, though, if I wasn’t running behind for a meeting, I would’ve responded with these facts:

1.)  In the United States, an estimated 30 million people over the age of 16 read no better than the average elementary school child.

2.)  More than 70 percent of Tennessee’s eighth-graders read at or below the basic level of proficiency for that grade, according to a report by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Offices of Research and Education Accountability.

3.) In Memphis, more than 120,000 people are considered functionally illiterate.  “Functionally illiterate” does NOT mean that the person cannot read at all; it means that the person reads BELOW a fifth grade level.

What does this mean to society?

1.) More than 45% of all inmates in local jails did not graduate high school.

2.) Over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.

3.) 18 million adults in the United States do not read well enough to earn a living wage.

4.)  44 million adults in the U.S. can read a little, but not well enough to fill out an application, read a food label, or read a simple story to a child.

5.) Low literacy costs the United States $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.

6.) 774 million adults around the world are illiterate in their native languages.


For response on today’s post, respond to at least one of the following questions:

1.)  Write a response to the statistics above.  Why do you think illiteracy rates are so high?  What factors contribute to this problem?  What are some solutions?

2.)  Mark Twain once said, “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.”

Explain what is meant by this quote.

3.)  Describe your relationship with reading.  Do you like reading?  How old were you when you first began reading?  What is the best book you’ve ever read?  What is the book about?


Scary Story Contest!

October 13, 2013 by · 46 Comments · Uncategorized

The Scary Story contest is beginning!  We need intelligent, creative authors to scare the scholars and champions of KHS in this unique writing competition!  Poems, research papers, and short stories are all welcome!

(Pssst:  I found this ghost on a craft website.  It was made from a tampon!  Haha!)

In addition to writing, we need people to help with art:  painting the bat cave, setting up the haunted exhibits, etc.!  If you are interested in the artistic part, please see Ms. Mathis in the library.

For credit on today’s post, answer one of the following.  IT MUST BE AT LEAST FIVE SENTENCES FOR CREDIT!

1.)  Do you like scary stuff, such as movies, stories, haunted houses, etc.?  In at least a paragraph, tell me about your favorite scary movie or story.  What did you like about it?

2.) What sort of story are you thinking of writing about for the scary story contest?

3.) If you celebrate Halloween, write at least a paragraph of one of your favorite Halloween memories.  What sort of things did you dress up as when you were a kid?  Did you ever go trick-or-treating?  Do you like Halloween?  Explain your answer.



Remember the time…

September 21, 2013 by · 58 Comments · Uncategorized

Everybody feels lonely sometimes.



It’s part of life.  Sometimes, it seems like nobody cares for us. Or, heck, in this increasingly interconntected technical world, we might even feel that our computer loves us more than our friends and family.

But it passes.  There is one thing that you can always count on in life:  change.  When things are going great, wait a little while–yup, you can bet that life will throw a curve ball at you.  Luckily, it works the other way, too.  The bad times pass if you wait them out.

As many of you know, one of my closest friends killed himself this time last year.  There isn’t a day that passes where I don’t spend a significant amount of time thinking of him.  He was young, played the piano, sang beautifully, and had a great sense of humor.  I wish he could’ve seen all the people who showed up to his visitation–there’s no way he would’ve thought that people didn’t care about him.

That’s the worst part about depression; it biases your perspective into thinking the worst about everything.  Unfortunately, a lot of teenagers struggle with depression, but I’m here to tell you that things get better.

For credit on today’s post,  describe one of the best experiences you’ve ever had in life.  Was it the day you met your best friend?  Did you travel somewhere extraordinary?  Did you spend time with your family?  Was your experience during a holiday or birthday?

You must write AT LEAST FIVE sentences! Actually, I would rather it be much longer. Give descriptive details, including imagery that relates to the five senses.

Life is a beautiful thing; don’t take it for granted.