Title:  Poetry of History

Grade Level:  9-12

Subject and California State Standards met:  Social Studies, English, Spanish, Poetry

Overview:  This lesson will introduce students to the poetry of Pablo Neruda as a tool for recording history.  Students will learn about the Augusto C. Sandino while discovering the power of poetry.

Purpose:  To demonstrate that poetry can be a powerful voice for history or social movements while learning about Sandino's life and the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.



  1. Copies of Neruda's poem X - XIV from his book Epic Song.  Neruda Poems: (I have included 5 of Neruda's poems concerning the Augusto Sandino so teachers can chose the best one for their class or use more than one if time permits.)
  2. Copies of a history book account of Sandino's life.
  3. The Sandinista Revolution background reading for teachers.
  4. Other books and websites of interest:  Pablo Neruda by Raúl Silva Castro(1964), The Poetry of Pablo Neruda by René de Costa (1979),  Pablo Neruda and the U.S. Culture Industry, ed. by Teresa Longo (2001), www.nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/1971/neruda-bio.html , www.sandino.org

Activities and Procedures:

  1. Choose students to read the history version of Augusto C. Sandino's life to the class.  
  2. Have students make a timeline on the board listing the main events.  
  3. Introduce Pablo Neruda, possibly using the poem Such Is My Life.  Pablo Neruda was born Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto on July 12, 1904 in a small town in central Chile.  His father was a railroad worker and his mother a teacher.  His mother died of tuberculosis when he was an infant.  He began writing poetry at the age of 10 using the pen name Pablo Neruda due to his families disapproval of his chosen profession.  Beginning in the 1940s, his works reflected the political struggle of the left and the socio-historical developments in South  and Central America.  He is considered on of the major poets of the 20th century and has produced more than forty volumes of writings.  In addition, this Chilean poet, and diplomat, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.   On September 23, 1973 Pablo Neruda died of leukemia in Santiago, Chile, but his voice lives on in his poetry.
  4. Students read poem X That Friend.  Have the students underline common themes in the poem and the history selection, circle  unknown words, box in main characters that appear in both representations of the history, and put a squiggly line under sarcasm in the poem.  They should also identify and write down three ideas that are expressed in the poetry but not in the textbook version and vice versa.  
  5. Discuss.  Have students define unknown words for each other.  Which part of Sandino's life is the focus of the poem?  Discuss Neruda's use of sarcasm and emotion.  Which version are you more likely to be moved by and why?  
  6. What role has poetry played in social movements in the USA?  For example, song writers and poets in the 60s, Bob Dylan and Allen Ginsberg.  Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes in the African American Movement.  How was poetry used to express September 11th  in the United States?  List examples of songs and poets.  for your reference this website has poems that are a tribute to the victims of Sept. 11th  www.pages.ivillage.com/tribute911/tributewriting/id1.html .  This site is organize by a group of poets who oppose the war with their poetry www.poetsagainstthewar.org/default.asp .  
  7. How is poetry used in your lives?  Possible answers:  to sell me something in commercials, songs, rap, or poetry slams at coffee houses to promote free expression.  

Tying It Together:  Students write their version of an event of their choice in poetry - or you can assign a specific event.  Give bonus points for presenting the poetry to the class or share it in small groups.