The poem "How to Fight" is in the picture above. I chose to upload a picture instead of a link because I could not find the poem set up like this anywhere else. The first thing I noticed about this poem was the way the stanza's are staggered and on opposing ends of the page, it gives the effect of a "fight" I believe. Each stanza is like it's own thought, but it is also continuous from the previous thought, adding more on to the "argument" before it. Smith starts his poem out with a personal connection talking spelling bees.
"My favorite part of class was always the spelling bee."
Smith uses personification frequently throughout the poem to give his messages, he personifies words. He first gives the words physical meaning when he says in line 4
"...slip on syllables..."
He continues with this trend in the third and fourth stanza's saying lines such as:
"words were the only way I ever knew how to fight"
"Spelling bees were a battleground were teachers trained be to wield a language as a tool & fist & weapon..."
In the second stanza Smith talks about how he used to "use my fingers to trace an outline in the air of words Mrs. Roberts read from her blue dictionary" and in the fourth stanza he says "...yarning to those who would rather make an outline out of me"
By including the teacher holding a dictionary, he is saying these words he only knew how to spell, had meaning. He was merely spelling them out, trying to "trace an outline" of them for his teacher, without knowing their true meaning, only what he needed them for. This means that his final phrase "... yarning to those who would rather make an outline out of me"
is about racism he has faced in his life. People trying to "trace an outline in the air" of who he is based off racism. This poem talks about how Clint Smith learned how to use his words to clearly express his emotions and fight against: the single story, systematic racism, oppression, social problems, he and others face. He learns how to speak out against these things on paper, with great affect because as he says in stanza 3
"...we were told they could hurt people..."
Spelling bees taught him to use his words, which is why this poem is so powerful and meaningful. He talks about this false outline he is being put into and shows us how he was taught to fight against it.