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Poetry Break #18: Native American Poetry

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Mrs. Mann's Poetry Corner

Introduction: Many Native American poems are passed down from one generation to the next through stories or songs. A rich tradition of songs and storytelling keeps words alive for centuries. This traditional Toltec poem discusses the difference between a good storyteller and a bad storyteller.

The true storyteller is a
TLAQUETZQUI
he says things boldly
with the lips and mouth
of an artist

The true storyteller
uses words of joy
flowers are on his lips
his language is noble

The bad storyteller
is careless
he confuses words
he swallows them
he says useless words
he has no dignity

Traditional Toltec poem
from "Celebrating America"
compiled by Laura Whipple

Extensioin: After reading this poem to your students it would be a good idea to discuss the importance of oral language and telling the same stories generation after generation, especially in the Native American culture. If you have any Native American children in your classroom or school maybe you could invite their parents or grandparents to come in and share a story from their culture.