Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
- Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus"; Words inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty
Poetry is challenging for many people, and interpreting poetry is an endeavor fraught with peril. So many possible meanings! But hang in there, Amerikkkans. It can be done.
When asked about the Trump administration's immigration policies and how they might compare and contrast with, say, the mythic vision of America communicated by the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty, Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, responded, "Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."
Okay, poetry students, here's your assignment:
1) Do you think Emma Lazarus, author of "The New Colossus," intended her words to apply only to the tired and poor who could stand on their own two feet? What words in the poem support your view, and why?
2) Do you think Ken Cuccinelli understands the poem? Do you think he should resign as acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and do something, anything that wouldn't directly impact people's lives, such as pizza box folder for Dominos?
3) Consider these words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Write your own poem.