Feelin’ Myself: Invoking the Hyperbolic Self in Poetry

In our last class of 2016, I decided to tackle a subject that we are all learning more about each day: ourselves. The first step in defining oneself is to establish one’s point of view. With that unique view of the world and one’s relationship to it, a writer is able to then establish voice.

In order to delve into the idea of voice, we began with a listening exercise. My 6th, 7th and 8th grade classes viewed a snippet from a 1991, episode of the sitcom, “A Different World”. I asked the students to pay close attention to the parts of the poem that were recited. In the snippet, residents of the newly built, Gilbert Hall perform in a dedication ceremony. They begin to define the evolution of the black woman’s experience in America, telling a story of “Mammie” to the modern day woman. The performance closes with the character, Kim, reciting excerpts from Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Trippin’” published in 1972. After watching the clip, we read the poem in its entirety. I asked the students to highlight the parts of the poem that they remembered hearing in the clip: an activity which we were able to complete as a group, identifying all the parts we had heard.

Together, we analyzed the poem, finding the hyperbole, which had been previously defined. Giovanni, calls herself bad, regal, capable of impossible feats and otherworldly…perhaps their favorite part of the poem was when Giovanni says “…even my errors are correct…” We discussed what Giovanni might literally mean within her figurative language. The 7th and 8th graders, as always, took to annotating new words, and we watched the music video of “I’m Bad” by LL Cool J. from 1987, while the 6th graders focused on the poem and its themes. Besides my age, I also wanted to show students the same thread of braggadocio that pervaded “Ego Trippin’” run through LL’s rhymes and today’s rap/hip-hop and even R & B with artists like Beyonce, Drake et al. who frequently “feel themselves” in their music, discussing their talents, power, prowess and possessions in over-the-top fashion.

In the moment everyone waits for in the classes, I gave the students the task of feeling themselves-to invoke the hyperbolic self and exaggerate their finest qualities in the tradition of Giovanni and LL Cool J. in their poems. It is sometimes difficult to brag, but my dear students “bossed up” and right in time for 2017, we know we “…can fly like birds in the sky…

8th Grade

Ashley A.

One thing about me is
that I don’t like the word we
because there is
never going to be you and me
I prefer to shine by myself
Because I’m the biggest star in the sky
I fly around like an angel
And as you can see
I’m the baddest eagle. I’m a
Queen, everyone will bow down
to me because many
people can’t resist me

Kaylah H.
All About Me

Its all about me, I’m smart as you can see
I’m so skinny I might as well hide in a tree
I’m so goofy, I fall out of nowhere, not stung by a bee
I’m so funny, I might as well have my own comedy show
You all should know
Sometimes I can be mean and sometimes I’ll help and clean
Add them string beans to bring
My goal is to get out of here and promote to the 9th grade
I’m not afraid, I’m brave
I love me and its all about me to me.

6th Grade

Takarionna G.

I’m Queen
I sit in my throne
I’m blue like a lake
I rap like Nikki
I have boys on me
I have kids that don’t like me
But that’s ok
because I get all the money
Ooh…Rich in my Jeep

Demarcus T.

I am the best
Anyone can guess
I am smart
As a 6th grade
I am tall as my mother
My ego is
To get my education

I am the best
basketball player
Ever alive
I am so
I can dance
play basketball
play video games
play baseball
And I can swim

Da’Najia W.
I am the Most

I am the most silly, picky
and energetic person.
I have a lot of energy
I run, play and jump around
A lot and I eat sweets.
I am so silly that when I make jokes,
I laugh at them myself.
I laugh for no reason,
I make my friends laugh.
I’m picky because there is certain
Things I like to eat, but I will tell you one thing
If there’s something I love, I will eat it.
Then, like peas and carrots
and things I won’t eat.
I might be skinny
Not afraid to say I
eat like a grown man

Jeremiah M.
I am the Best

I wear designer clothes and
I got diamonds on my
Everybody hating
Because I live in a huge
I also have 2 gigantic
Private jets and my own airport
I got two big
German shepards and have piled
Up money on my floor…

NiJayla Boyer
Baby Hair

I’m pretty but my baby hair poppin’
But sometimes my bun be floppin’
because of my bad hair days,
but I still be poppin’
I wear earrings
and necklaces because of
my style

7th Grade

Marshaun M.
I am the Baddest

I am colder than ice
I am not very nice
I thank Jesus Christ for my looks
That have most of the people shook
Girls walk past then take another look
I am so bad, I don’t have to read a book
I am the baddest

Jamaiya H.
“My Time to Shine”

I shine like a star and I’m pretty dark and evil like the night.
I take the frown off my face cause its time to shine.
When I rise to the crowd, its back down to a frown
Have to lock away the frown cause its time to smile.

Aniah P.
Yeah, She Bad!

I’m so bad, I make other people sad.
Yeah, food is delicious, but I’m so vicious.
I’m raised like a princess
Treated like a queen
Ballin’ like Jordan and not even 18
Light skinned people winning
And they just at the beginning.
I’m so fine, I will make you drop a dime.
I really don’t like to brag, but
I’m just pretty.

Tyrell G.
I’m Good/I’m Bad

I am good, I am bad
When I beat you at stuff, I say at least you tried
I’m good at games and I’m bad at sports
And I’m good at all things of that sort

I’m good at a lot of stuff ain’t that cool
But I really don’t play when it comes to school
I get good grades at the end of the day
But in the middle of school I still play

Sometimes when I’m down I get back in
Then I say to myself you’re determined to win
This is all for not but there will be more
There’s more to come so don’t shut the door

Had to show my friends I’m good at everything
When we’re playing the game, I showed him I am king

Briana C.
Me, Myself & I

I play basketball,
I’m the best,
on the court
They don’t even
guard me when I come
They all fall down
On the court, I’m a Queen
On the court I’m a Queen
Never let my crown tilt,
‘Cause that’s not the way
The Queen was built
I am the conqueror
Nobody can take that away
I like to be the best
Forget the rest
I’m the best in nest
I got the Queen
Never falling down
All the people love me
‘Cause I’m the queen
They are peasants
Nobody is able to compete
Because I’m the BEST!
But they all adore me
Never ignore me



“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.