Harvard Magazine Features National Pilot


This is a story about kids succeeding, about the success of an experiment,” says Cabot professor of American literature Elisa New, describing the online poetry course she taught last fall to an unusual set of enrollees: eleventh- and twelfth-graders from more than two dozen Title I high schools (serving mainly low-income students) across the country. At the end of the semester, roughly 250 students came away with four credits from the Harvard Extension School and a wider sense, New suggests, of what other possibilities might lie before them.

The 12-week course was titled “Poetry in America: The City from Whitman to Hip Hop.” Lesson by lesson, it walked students through poetic expressions of the ever-changing American metropolis: Walt Whitman’s New York (and Langston Hughes’s, Maya Angelou’s, and Frank O’Hara’s), Robert Hayden’s Detroit, Gwendolyn Brooks’s Chicago, Kendrick Lamar’s Compton, California.

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