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Recalling Recitation in the Americas : Borderless Curriculum, Performance Poetry, and Reading
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Spoken word is one of the most popular styles of poetry in North America. While its prevalence is often attributed to the form’s strong ties to oral culture, Recalling Recitation in the Americas reveals how poetry memorization and recitation curricula, shaped by British Imperial policy, influenced contemporary performance practices.
During the early twentieth century, educators frequently used the recitation of canonical poems to instill "proper" speech and behaviour in classrooms in Canada, the Caribbean, and the United States. Janet Neigh critically analyses three celebrated performance poets - E. Pauline Johnson-Tekahionwake (1861-1913), Langston Hughes (1902-1967), and Louise Bennett (1919-2006) - who refashioned recitation to cultivate linguistic diversity and to resist its disciplinary force. Through an examination of the dialogues among their poetic projects, Neigh illuminates how their complicated legacies as national icons obscure their similar approaches to resisting Anglicization. Recalling Recitation in the Americas focuses on the unexplored relationship between education history and literary form and establishes the far-reaching effects of poetry memorization and recitation on the development of modern performance poetry in North America.