Justification of Poem

There are several reasons as to why “On the Subway” by Sharon Olds is a valid poem to teach in the AP Literature class.

As stated on the College Board website, the focus of the AP Literature course is to “deepen (student’s) understanding of the ways writers use language to provide both meaning and pleasure.” Yes, poets such as Langston Hughes and Claude McKay are, as they should be, celebrated for their work during the Harlem Renaissance. However, as explained on the website of the College Board, students in the AP Literature Course are expected to be able to analyze the duality surrounding separate pieces of literature that pertain to a general subject matter.

While the Harlem Renaissance poets give students insight to the creativity and talent surrounding the 1920s, “On the Subway” provides us with a contemporary struggle of facing our own implicit bias. Teaching two contrasting poems falling under the same general subject matter hones student’s skills in being able to analyze separate sources and form their own opinion. This helps to develop a student’s writing by allowing them to learn to find their own voice when analyzing poetry.

Additionally, the College Board tests student’s understanding of poetry by their ability to reference and explain literary terms such as “figurative language, imagery symbolism, etc.” “On the Subway” uses these techniques throughout the poem with descriptions of an expensive fur coat representing privilege and vivid colors highlighting the narrator’s sub conscience infatuation with skin deep appearances.

The clear examples of literary elements used in “One the Subway” enhance the narrator’s tone of shame caused by her initial judgement.

As someone who took the exam a month ago, it is completely fair and expected that a poem similar to this would appear. Allowing teachers flexibility in an English course is imperative to student’s learning. Especially when the poem chosen is relevant to the course. When has controversial discussion become negative? If we cannot expect students of Fox Lane to learn to defend their opinions in the classroom, when and where will they learn how to do so?

Fox Lane student class of 2018