Educators’ Corner Studies on Nimah’s work

Latest Study   2014 – Arab World English Journal-  Cultural Representations of Muslim Women in Contemporary Arab
Anglophone Poetry: A Study of Nimah Nawwab’s The Unfurling  by Dr. Hessa A. Alghadeer  

Several lesson plans based on Ni’mah’s work by educators in the field of literature

Two Poems, one Person

A comparative lesson on the poetry of Ni’mah Nawwab By educator Linda E. Edwards

Poems to be read:Grandma, (page 40) The Leave-Taking (page 42) from The Unfurling”

Objectives: To read, understand and compare the two poems on the same person at different points in life. To make connections to our own lives.

( words in parentheses are answers to questions and points the teacher could make.)

Methodology: Students should download copies from an available website, or have The Unfurling available.

Students will read the poems silently for about five minutes, then a volunteer or selected student reads each one aloud. The longer poem could be read by two different students, with the break occurring in the fourth stanza.

Discuss the qualities that Grandma had that made her a lovable person to her family. (Ability to forgive, generosity of soul, faith, healing, knowing people, a specials scent)

Then discuss the family in response to her passing, in The Leavetaking.

Who is taking leave, grandmother or the family? (Both)

How do the bereaved show their grief? (Aloneness, wrapped in their own thoughts, while in the same room. Each remembering her in their own way.)

How does stanza four change the tone of the second poem? (After the burial they turn to each other for solace. They become one in grief.)

Her unexpected passing has connected the family in two ways, the gathering of mourners, the shared comfort. It’s a mixture of joy and sorrow.

How does that connect to your own family’s way of grieving? Answers will vary Example: people coming from far, who had not seen each other for a while, will experience joyful moments, despite the sorrow.

Notice that the last four lines of Grandma could be easily fitted into the second poem.

Can you find the place where you can put it with the least changes? ( Stanza four, where memory and connections come together.) The white cocoon of her Hijazi dress foretells the white shroud of the second poem.

Assignment connection: Write a short essay describing how you grieve the loss of a loved one. Use your own special voice. You could do poetry or prose.

Essays could be discussed after writing, or students could read their pieces aloud. In the latter mode, not everyone would get theirs read.


Poetry exercises: 7th -12th grade By Pit Pinegar

 The Ebb

Nawwab’s poem, The Ebb, is prefaced by the words of Pablo Neruda: I happen to be tired of being a man.

She goes on to write about being tired of being a woman, especially tethered to the pull and twist of world politics in a murky world, especially with all the demands made on a woman’s time, often coupled with her conflicting desires for connection and solitude. ( Searching for solitude//Looking for time to assess changes .)

What does it mean to be male/female in the world(s) you inhabit (home/workplace/culture/country/world)?

What are the particular burdens of gender that you experience?

What would you borrow from your gender opposite?

What are some of the changes you’d like time to assess?

Writing exercises:

(1)Write a persona poem or interior monologue in the voice of your gender opposite.

Put yourself as clearly/objectively/fairly into the mind/experience of the other, as you are able.

(2) Now, respond (in poem or free-write) to what the other has said.

Food for thought/discussion:

What did you learn about yourself?

About your gender opposite?

Did your thinking shift as a result of “walking in other shoes?”

What have you been provoked to consider by what you have written?

Beyond the Borders

In Beyond the Borders, the poet contemplates what it means to lose oneself, not in the sense of detaching from one’s core, but in the sense of merging with something greater. She suggests we can lose ourselves in poetry, in music, in books, in a world of make-believe, feelings and stories.

She speaks of losing ourselves in the mysteries of sea and sky, moving beyond the borders of our world, even our imaginations. And finally, of moving past the borders of our bodies, even our individual spirits and connecting to the One//Connecting to the Prophets and Angels/…Bridging the path//Between the world of the living and the everlasting.

Where do you lose yourself, in the way Nawwab suggests?

In what activities/subjects/places to you lose track of time, become, as one, with what you do/observe?

How would you describe that level of engagement?Is it/How is it related to a sense of your spiritual self?

Writing exercise :

Choose a specific time/place/activity in which you lose yourself. Be specific. Example: listening to YoYo Ma play Bach; writing a poem; listening to thunder roar; drumming, etc.

In a two-part poem or free-write describe first the physical sensations of your experience and then the spiritual effect of your experience.

If language seems to fail you, consider simile and metaphor as ways to articulate spiritual effect.

Food for thought/discussion:

Was it difficult or easy to think of times/places/activities where you lose yourself, lose track of time?

Do you lose yourself many times daily, daily, frequently, infrequently?

How would you describe the kind of engagement in which you lose yourself?

Are such engagements integral to or separate from what you consider to be your spiritual life?


Poetry Lesson Plan – Arabian Nights Designed by: Dr. Anna Marie Amudi 

This poem could be incorporated into a study of Saudi Arabia.Objectives for the poem: Arabian Nights page 51 of The Unfurling.*SWBAT pronounce, define and use in their own writing and speaking:Nouns: palm fronds/mists/ steeds/ evergreen palms/cardamom/toilVerbs: All the present continuous, vivid verbs in the poemSWBAT identify vivid verbs that help the reader visualize what the poet is trying to say.SWBAT identify the words the poet uses for their sound effects to convey mood, establish meaning, create music and unify a work (ideas taken from Scott Foresman World LiteratureSWBAT identify stanzas in poetry.   *SWBAT: Students will be able to        Procedure:

  • Read the poem without telling the students the title. Have the students guess where the poem might be taking place stressing such words as: hudhud/palm fronds/ endless sand/oasis/ ”Dana, ya dan dan/ cardamom coffee/ partitioned tents
  • When I read this poem to students, the following points had to be clarified for them to get a clear picture.
  • What is a hudhud? What does a sea of sand mean?
  • What are caravans? Where do you find cardamom?
  • What are steeds? What does crisscrossing mean?
  • Where have you heard, “Dana ya dan dan? Ask students what the poem describes.
  • Talk about how a poet uses words for their sound effects-to convey mood—to establish meaning – to create music and unify a work.
  • Write the following verbs on an overhead or board: carrying–crisscrossing-rushing-washing-weaving-cooking-sewing, scampering –cascading – casting-illuminating- thumping-singing-carrying –warming-sizzling-peeking-flickering- flying-(sweeps – blown away – echoes – consumed)
  • Have students act out the verbs to get a feel for the vivid verbs the poet has used.
  • These words would be useful to help with the concept of the present continuous tense. (Incorporating grammar from context.)
  • Help students understand the concept of a stanza. Helping them to recognize the parts of a poem.
  • In pairs, allow students to practice reading the poem several times until they can feel the rhythm.

If the students keep a vocabulary bank of words, students should write their favorite words in their word banks for future use.*SWBAT: Students will be able to

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