Ofrenda to a dead Poet

Because our online format presented us with some significant issues gathering the Houses together for group projects, we’re going to do this House Project a bit differently. You will all create your own individual offering for the project, an ofrenda to a dead poet. To receive full points, you will comment on the work of at least two of your peers in your House–asking questions, providing feedback, giving compliments, and letting them know how you think they captured the spirit of their chosen poet in their project.

*Though this is due Thursday, October 29, you’ll need a couple of days to be able to respond to your peers, so try to get your individual project done by Tuesday, October 27 and post it then.

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El Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, for those of you who are unfamiliar, is a Mexican and Latin American tradition. The traditional holiday celebration goes back to Aztec practices, which celebrate and honor their dead, depicting the idea of the cyclical nature of life, that the dead are always with us, are ever-present.

For your House project, you will choose one of the poets we’ve studied who has passed on. Some of your options include: Paul Celan, William Shakespeare, John Donne, Elizabeth Bishop, Langston Hughes, Adelaide Crapsey, or Amiri Baraka (who was both a poet and a playwright). You may also choose to create an ofrenda to the real-life characters from Hamilton (Alexander Hamilton, Eliza Hamilton, Aaron Burr, George Washington, etc.).

Begin by reading the history of el Día de los Muertos below, and learning from the links I shared about ofrendas. Then, using credible sources online or from library books or books you might have at home, research your poet (or, if you chose someone from Hamilton, your historical figure). Find out what kind of food they might have liked, what some of their favorite objects might be (or objects that might show up in their poems, like the lost objects in Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Art of Losing”). What activities did the poet like? For example, Adelaide Crapsey played basketball–perhaps you also play, and have a basketball you could include in your ofrenda. What were their favorite places, and what objects could be use to symbolize those places? If you like to cook, try cooking something that this poet might want to eat in the afterlife. If you’re an artist, try creating an artistic tribute to your poet. Consider printing your favorite poem by the poet and including it in the ofrenda. Be creative! Look for flowers or objects in nature that the poet might pick up on a walk.

Create an ofrenda, using photographs of your dead poet (you could either print them or create a photo slideshow on a tablet or digital picture frame, or, if you’re an artist, you could create a portrait of your dead poet), flowers and other objects from nature, food they loved, drinks they might like, little tokens or offerings you think the poet might want to take with them into the afterlife. You can set up your ofrenda in a box turned on its side, or as in the video, on a small table decorated with colorful cut paper, tablecloths, or fabric. Once you’ve created your ofrenda, take some pictures that help us clearly see all the objects you’ve included.

Finally, write a paragraph of at least 5-7 sentences explaining the objects in your ofrenda and why you chose them for your poet. Cite your courses in MLA format. In this discussion with your House, share either a link to a Google folder that contains your photographs and paragraph, or type up your paragraph and reply to your own post with attachments of your pictures of your ofrenda. Try to share at least three images–one of the ofrenda from a distance, and a couple of close-up shots.

In order to get full points, you’ll post your images and paragraph in this discussion with your house, and you’ll respond to two of your peers in specific, detailed comments on their ofrenda. If you find this project inspiring, you might consider celebrating el Día del los Muertos in your own home this year, by creating tributes to the people you want to honor and celebrate who have passed on.

Some reading on the history of el Día de los Muertos:
https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/day-of-the-dead

Some links for reading on ofrendas:

https://zinniafolkarts.com/blogs/news/12957409-build-a-day-of-the-dead-ofrenda-to-honor-your-departed-loved-ones

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/meaning-behind-six-objects-dia-de-los-muertos-altars-180973442/

A video on how to make an ofrenda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibOtbj1_6EY

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