Week 55: College Reading and Writing: Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Week 55: College Reading and Writing: Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

Lillian-Yvonne Bertram: Annotating, Summarizing, Analyzing, Imitating

to annotate: to make notes on something to help you understand it better
to summarize: to put something in your own words
to analyze: to consider a question on the text, providing supporting examples from the text
to imitate: to create an original piece of writing based on something you have read

Exercise: Read and annotate

1. Read the poem out loud and underline any words you need to look up
2. Write any questions you have in the margins or in your notebook
3. Put tricky parts into your own words in notes in the margins or in your notebook

Exercise: Questions for comprehension of the poem

1. What is the role of zombies in this poem?
2. What is the relationship between the government and the military?
3. Who is the speaker in this poem? Why is it important?

Exercise: Summarize the poem

Write a paragraph summarizing the poem with quotations, in-text citation, and a Work Cited Page.

Example too-short summary, incorporating quotation and in-text citation:

Brenda Hillman’s poem “The Family Sells the Family Gun” tells the story of siblings getting rid of their father’s gun after “his ashes...were lying” (87). The speaker questions what it means to own and get rid of a gun in America, saying, “[w]e couldn’t take it to the cops even in my handbag” (Hillman 88).

Work Cited Page (for today’s poem)

Bertram, Lillian-Yvonne. “Zombie Nightmare.” Figure 1, Figure 1 Journal, 2018,

Exercise: Write a Response

The title of the poem is “Zombie Nightmare”: what is the “nightmare” in this poem? What is the “real” scary thing in this poem? Do you agree with Bertram? Why or why not? What does this poem remind you of? Do you relate to this poem’s message? Why or why not?  Remember to use quotations from the poem to make your points, and cite them!

Exercise: Analysis

Question for analysis: This poem is about the personal and national experiences of imagination, race, and power dynamics in the US. Closely examine the poem:  what is experienced by the speaker?  What is viewed by the speaker? Write an analysis where you explore the position of the speaker in relation to imagination, race, and power in the US.

Exercise: Imitation

Write a nightmare poem. Do you have a recurring nightmare? Maybe you can remember that big childhood nightmare or you have a real fear that feels like a nightmare. Maybe it’s being in jail, maybe you’re being chased, maybe it’s the things that go bump in the night. You are the expert on you. Use elements from Bertram’s poem that you admire to make your own poem stronger.

  1. Summary of Poem                   
  2. Response to Poem
  3. Analysis of Poem        
  4. Imitation of Poem       

About this class:
Your notebooks belong to you; you can write first drafts in them, and make notes for yourselves.  To turn in homework, revise your work in a blue book or sheets of paper you can get from your instructor. In this class, you are welcome to submit homework for a grade. If it’s not strong enough to earn an A, I’ll give you some comments to help you revise it, and let you do it over again. You have as many chances as you want to complete and perfect the work in this class, and you are welcome to do more than one week’s worksheet for homework at a time; ask me for sheets you’ve missed. Students who complete 15 weeks of graded assignments and a longer paper can qualify for college credit. When you get close to completing 15 weeks, I’ll help you get started on your longer paper.
Zombie Nightmare
By Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

The zombies are sponsored by the shadow government run by the military but we
do not find this out until after the resistance is formed. The resistance is formed
after millions of people—even Americans—have been killed into zombies. They
zombie walk the streets in the clothes Americans wear, but covered in dirt and salt
and fashion of past seasons.

I am surrounded by white people I’ve never met and they keep turning on the
lights. No, I say, the zombies will know we are here. We want to watch TV, they
say. We want to run the microwave. You fools, I say, they will come for us. We
want to watch TV, they say, and use the microwave. I must arm myself and get going. I dig in the closet for the baseball bat that isn’t there. I dig in the closet
for rain pants and rain jacket. I won’t be back.

I go alone, switching off lights as I leave. The white people turn them back
on. They wear sweaters and lip-gloss and watch TV and pop popcorn.
From tree to tree I scurry like a beetle. The zombies do not see me. You
are safe if you cannot be seen and if the lights are off. Where did I get this baseball bat.

Zombies move among us or we move among them and smash their
heads at convenient moments and continue down the street for
coffee, breads, and jams. They get tricky, sneak around at night,
waiting to bite you and turn you zombie. I am surrounded by white
people who will not turn off the lights and the zombies are coming.
We are trapped in a stairwell. It’s a trap! I yell but no one can see the
trap I am yelling about.

The military take control over civil operations. They take over the
White House to protect the president and his family. They direct
all communications. The army needs fighters for the zombie war.
Just like the zombies they will grab you if you are out walking
alone and enlist you by force into their ranks.

Once a week Obama and his family broadcast a radio
message to keep up national morale. Locked in the syllables
and pauses there is a code. When they say we are happy and safe, well-treated and well-protected by our esteemed military, I hear that there has been a coup and they are prisoners in the White House. I leave the hand-crank radio on the windowsill. I
will go to the meeting point, alone if I have to.