What does modern poetry plus hip-hop equal? Associate English Professor Dr. Aaron Chandler’s course, ENG 287 Street Poetry: Whitman to Hip Hop!
I love poetry and hip hop so when I heard that this class existed, I put it on my bucket list of classes to take. I was so glad that it fit into my schedule this semester as it’s (probably) the most fun yet intellectually challenging class I’ve ever taken.
The course description explained that the class would “trace a vernacular lineage in the traditional canon from 19th-century visionaries, through modern masters of the idiomatic, to more recent experimenters. We will enrich and complicate our reading of these celebrated poets by listening to recordings of and studying the lyrics of hip-hop.”
Dr. Chandler facilitated discussions where we wrestled with the texts and the songs, dissecting the technical and thematic elements. That led into more tangential yet insightful conversations that forced us to connect the material to the world and our life experiences. Senior English major, Morgan LaMonica remarked, “Although the course matter was not in my wheelhouse at all whatsoever, I enjoyed discussions. Dr. Chandler is an amazing professor that afforded great insight and allowed students to take their time to express their thoughts and opinions.”
Students like Morgan took the class because they like Dr. Chandler (great professor), some took it to fulfill a requirement, and other students took it because they loved hip-hop. Junior Legal Studies major, Jaden Thornton, thought the class was “extra fun” because he grew up listening to hip-hop and enjoyed taking a “deeper dive into one of [his] favorite art forms.”
The last weeks of class were dedicated to groups facilitating a class-long discussion on an anthology where they curated a list of poems and songs of the same theme. Dr. Chandler became an audience member and let the students take the lead.
Unfortunately, the class didn’t convert all prior non hip-hop fans into enthusiasts. Morgan however now has “a greater appreciation for the art form, especially through the analysis of the lyrics themselves.”