Ahh, April. Longer days. Warmer temps. And National Poetry Month.
Founded in April 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, National Poetry Month has grown to be the world’s largest literary celebration. There are posters. Poem-a-day offers delivered straight to your inbox.
For many of us, April is also the beginning of test prep season (cue dramatic music). Poetry pairings offer a quick way to review those reading literature standards.
In my experience, students learn best when they can see the connections between the texts that they’re reading. Bonus points if they can make relevant connections to their own lives. Combine the poems with short stories you’ve already taught and voila. Analyzing Different Mediums standard – check. Relevance? Check? Figurative language, theme, and word connotations standards? Check, check, and check.
Last year, I wrote about pairing poems with other poems. This year, I want to expand the list a little to focus on two different genres – poetry and prose.
Keep reading to find poetry pairings for popular short stories.
Coming-of-age short stories poetry pairings
Simply put, a coming of age short story is one that focuses on the growth of the protagonist from childhood to adulthood. These stories typically focus on internal conflict and monologues over action, and involve the protagonist undergoing emotional changes.
Many secondary students can relate to these stories because many times, the characters are teenagers just like them. Grappling with identity. Making reckless and poor decisions. Struggling to find their place.
These short story/poem pairings are perfect for helping students see themselves in the literature they’re reading.
- Short Story: “Araby” (James Joyce). Poems: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (T.S. Eliot) and “When You are Old” (William Butler Yeats)
- Why they work: Both Joyce and Eliot wrote in their texts during the onset of World War I. Both deal with longing.
- How to pair: Yeats’ poem, while written about 20 years prior to Joyce or Eliot, tackles the topic of unrequited love – much in the same way as “Araby”.
- Short Story: “Marigolds” (Eugenia Collier). Poem: “On Turning Ten” (Billy Collins)
- Why they work: While “On Turning Ten” is written for a lower grade level than “Marigolds”, the same topics run throughout.
- How to pair: Both texts examine the loss of childhood and innocence. This pairing would be great for struggling students, providing them with a grade-level text as well as one that may be more accessible.
- Short Story: “The Story of an Hour” (Kate Chopin). Poem: “The Mortician in San Francisco” (Randall Mann)
- Why they work: Although the protagonist of “The Story of an Hour” is an adult, not a child or teenager, the text still focuses on the other hallmarks of a coming of age story – internal conflict and an emotional change, making it perfect for close reading analysis.
- How to pair: discuss the irony of the deaths in each text. (Note: “The Mortician” references suicide [the death of a cop] and homosexuality [one of the poem’s subjects as well as the author]).
Poetry pairings - female authors
Much of the canon in English classes is dominated by men. These short story/poem pairings include texts written by women, providing their unique perspective on the topics and themes at hand.
- Short story: “Miss Brill” (Katherine Mansfield). Poem: “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (Eliot)
- Why they work: both explore decisions and their emotional consequences.
- How to pair: Pair with Eliot’s poem (written five years prior) to discuss the topics of embarrassment and loneliness.
- Short story: “The Yellow Wallpaper” (Charlotte Perkins Gilman). Poems: “The Lady of Shallot” (Alfred, Lord Tennyson) and “I Felt a Funeral, in my Brain” (Emily Dickinson)
- “The Yellow Wallpaper” is one of my favorite Gothic short stories. The focus on mental health, especially that of women, is such an important divergence from the norm. The story lends itself to great close reading and analysis .
- Why they work: All three texts focus on women – their thoughts, emotions, struggles
- How to pair with Tennyson: explore the role of women in society and the isolation they often feel.
- How to pair with Dickinson: examine how each treats the mental experiences of women.
- Short story: “Everyday Use” (Alice Walker). Poem: “Legacies” (Nikki Giovanni)
- Why they work: Both deal with the relationships between family members.
- How to pair: Examine the importance of heritage and family heirlooms and traditions.
world literature poetry pairings
Unless you’re specifically teaching a World Literature class, these texts often get overlooked in many classes. However, they can provide some valuable starting points for discussion.
- Short Story: “The Sniper” (Liam O’Flaherty). Poems: “Anthem for Doomed Youth” (Wilfred Owen) and “Dreamers” (Siegfried Sassoon)
- Why they work: Written with a six-year span by men of two different nationalities, all three texts deal with war and the effect it has on the speaker.
- How to pair with Owen: Compare and contrast the way each portrays death. What role do the soldiers play in each text?
- How to pair with Sassoon: Examine the portrayal of the soldiers and how they are affected by the war in which they serve.
- Short Story: “The Bet” (Anton Chekhov). Poem: “Burning a Book” (William Stafford)
- Why they work: Written almost 100 years apart (Chekhov in 1889, Stafford in 1986), both examine the critical link between books and knowledge
- How to pair: Examine the connections made between books and knowledge. Discuss the goal and importance of education in shaping a society.
- Short story: “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” (Gabriel Garcia Marquez). Poem: “I’m Nobody! Who are Are You?” (Emily Dickinson)
- Why they work: Another vast difference in publication times (Dickinson in 1891, Marquez in 1972), both texts examine vulnerability and identity
- How to pair: Discuss the challenges and struggles of relationships.
poetry pairings- human emotions & fallacies
The last two stories are ones that are staples in pretty much every ELA curriculum ever. Oldies but goodies. While I’m all for trying new things, there’s something to be said for the tried and true.
- Short story: “The Cask of Amontillado” (Edgar Allan Poe). Poem: “A Poison Tree” (William Blake)
- Why the work: Written almost 50 years apart (Blake prior to Poe), both deal with basic human emotions and examine the consequences of these emotions
- How to pair: explore the treatment of revenge and hatred
- Short Story: “The Necklace” (Guy de Maupassant). Poem: “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” (Robert Browning)
- Why they work: Written 4 years apart, these two texts, like Poe and Blake, examine one of humanity’s most common flaws/downfalls
- How to pair: examine the topic of greed and how it is developed in each text
There you have it. Eleven short story and poem pairings. What are your favorite paired texts? Respond below and let me know!
Looking for more poetry ideas? Check out 18 Poetry Pairings for Secondary Students.
Want a comprehensive list of poetry pairings, including poem/poem pairings, poem/short story pairings, and poem/novel pairings? Sign up for the newsletter and receive your free Poetry Pairings Cheat Sheets.
Looking for some no-prep paired poem resources? Check out “Sympathy”, “Hope is The Thing With Feathers”, and “Caged Bird” Poetry Pairing and “Women”, “Mother to Son”, and “Ain’t I a Woman?” Poetry Pairing