I hope Vedder somehow reads your post. I can't wait to play some bootleg in the future and hear Vedder go: "Ehm... there's a... a.. a teacher in Maryland.. And she ehm... wrote us all an open letter, maybe you've read it on the website. And ehm... and she teaches our next song to her students, and they break it down to analyze the poetry in it ... .... etcetera "
well im in eighth grade right, and on friday my english teacher told us we are going to do poetry this week and to bring in our favorite lyrics so we could compare it to poetry and whatnot. anyways, i ended up printing the lyrics to black and the letter taht you wrote and asked her to read it. Today she came up to me and told me how much she loved your explanation and that she'll prolly will use it in class when we do the lyrics (i think tomorrow or thursday...)
btw i had like the hardest time choosing my favorite! haha i ended up choosing Sad (fav. song) Come Back and Indifference (ive been having a 'must listen to these songs' phase lately...)
Congrats, Mr. Bruno on getting a response. I am not surprised that Mr. Vedder got in touch with you. Another feather in the cap of a great artist if you ask me You both have inspired me as a teacher.
My respect for this band only depends with age.
Hats off to you and your students. Sounds like the '06-07 school year has been a true success!
The '06-07 school year was a long, crazy, wild ride. It left me exhausted, but I wouldn't trade a minute of it for the world.
I'm looking forward to using "Black" next year as well. I'll take the best parts of the poetry unit and keep them. I'll look at what worked, what didn't work, and why. Next year, I'll pour out even more passion than I did this year. But I don't think that I'll do another Open Letter to Mr. Vedder during the 2007-2008. I don't want to pester him.
But wouldn't it be great if he just happened to be in Western Maryland on business? And wouldn't it be great if he stopped by the school for 5 minutes while we were doing the poetry unit? And would it be great if he treated one of my classes to a few stanzas of Black, telling the kids to always reach for the stars?
But, if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. : )
Such are the ebbs and flows of life....
All of those things would be wonderful... and, as an aside, should that happen I do live in NoVa, I could be there in a flash I'm kidding!
Seriously though, I think what has already happened is perfection.
Hagerstown isn't too far from NoVa. However, I don't think that Mr. EV would announce any school visit in advance.....not like he would ever show up at my school, unannounced, and sing "Black." I'm not gonna hold my breath on that one--blue's not my color. : )
But, wouldn't that be the ultimate feel-good moment for my students? One can only imagine what kind of impact that could have on the lives of next year's students. What if one felt inspired by "Black" and ended up being the doctor who cured cancer? Of the scientist who changed the face of agriculture?
The gods own haughty laughter echoes in our dreams!
Yes, it certainly would be inspirational to say the least. My comment about "being there in a flash" was purely sarcastic (and off color, perhaps) It would diminish a genuine interaction.. and is probably a great example of why Ed dosn't entertain offers like yours. Although if there were ever a worthy exception...
Thanks for sharing this with all of us.
That is just amazing! Well done! The world should have more teachers like you! Rock has so much to teach our children and also in a funny way. TEACHERS, take Mr Bruno as an example, you'd be less frustrated!!
THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR THAT! I am sure even Ed would be flattered!
this is just beautiful... i have no words.
you're welcome! that is true love for the art of teaching and your students are very lucky. eddie and the guys would be so proud to see how much they inspired you as a teacher
today in class we finally did the interpretation of Black, and so everyone thought it was a poem, except me and my friend. omg aha ppl were like "who wrote this? a 2 yr old?" and all of this stuff about how bad it was aha my teacher comes up and pats me on the back, and she asked me to reveal the author, aha i refused but they all guessed since its me and pretty much everyone know i like pearl jam. it was a sad morning haha and when we went to play the song, my teacher forgot her speakers so we had to play a youtube video of it, and the one i picked was the pinkpop 92 which you cant rly understand eddie and theres a shot of dave drumming w/ a cigarette in his mouth, that was about the best part of the class today haha
wow, that post gave me goose bumps. You are so right when you said that "Black is one of the most powerful pieces of poetry in the textbook that is our world."
It might even be a good idea for your students to listen to a live recording of Black or to see it played on a DVD to get the full experience of the emotion that is carried through the song.
Eddie really "feels" it when we watch him singing it live
and when in the end he sings " we belong together" it's the perfect end for that song even thought it's not in the original one
Dear Mr. Vedder,
My name is Mr. Bruno. I'm a Maryland English Teacher.
On behalf of my three 8th grade classes, we have a story to share.
For the past three years, I have included the lyrics to your song
"Black" as part of my Journey Through Genres unit. Initially, I
introduce "Black" as a poem. In the end of the Journeys Through
Genres unit, I ask the kids if they want to hear "Black" being "read,"
and I play your song. They always seem stunned when they realize that a
song is really nothing more than poetry married to rhythm.
I must admit that teaching "Black" is one of the highlights of my
year, and the kids love it, too. My students actually whined when I
took the lyrics back from them (too much to go over during a 45 minute
block of time). They wanted to know how the "poem" ended: I only
let them examine the song stanza by stanza, and we only got through the
first two stanzas during the first day. Never before have I seen them so
hungry for more. One promising young student even asked for a copy of
the lyrics. As a teacher, those moments are pure gold. It makes me
proud to be an educator.
When we review "Black" we treat it to literary analysis: we go
over Imagery, Metaphor, Mood, Tone, and Symbolism. In addition, we
examine the emotional temperature of the piece. The kids seemed to be
right-on-the-money with respect to the mood of "Black." They both
felt and appreciated the Narrator's pain as he laments the loss of a
Here's what we came up with.
Empty canvas and untouched sheets of clay suggest that something is
incomplete in the Narrator's life, contrasting the two aspects of his
life. When she was in his life, the Narrator/artist was able to produce
his work. Now that the relationship is over, he lacks the steam
required to continue his art. The words empty and untouched suggest a
barren, austere emotional climate. They illuminate potential that goes
empty and untouched.
Comparing the Antagonist to the sun suggests that she provides heat,
warmth, and life to the Narrator, the proper "earthen bed" required
to nourish and promote the flower of happiness, growth, and
self-actualization. In short, she was everything to him. She completed
him. This totality can be seen in the fact that the word everything is
repeated several times during the subsequent portions of the song. The
line, "Now the air I tasted and breathed, has taken a turn" sharply
marks Tone. It is the Narrator dropping his mask and speaking directly
to us about how he feels about his loss. Not only was she his sun, she
was the air that sustained him. And with the souring of the
relationship, so sours the air. With the souring of the air comes the
souring of the Narrator. He gasps for breath, choking on his situation.
This slow, emotional suffocation is mute testimony to the honesty of his
pain, his loss, and the slow fragmentation of his security. The
Narrator can no longer breathe without suffering, and every breath
haunts him. The fact that he is required to breathe this sour air is an
ever-present reminder of the Narrator's all-consuming pain.
When we reviewed the lines, "And all I taught her was everything / I
know she gave me all that she wore," a few students echoed some of my
private thoughts. Those lines read as if a young art professor had
fallen in love with one of his students. Several students from
different classes came up with that interpretation. The bitter hands
chafing is testimony to the Narrator rubbing his hands together in a
compulsive attempt to cope with his loss. The "washing" of the
pictures is a metaphor depicting the destruction of what was once a
beautiful relationship. The image of destroying a painting is a
powerful symbol showing how one feels when love decays. The loss of
that loved one feels like the destruction of a beautiful work of art.
The reference to a tattoo suggests that the Narrator's pain is
permanent. The pain is being compared to a tattoo's ink. Even though
that pain will fade/run over time, the Narrator feels that it will
always be there, just like a tattoo.
I feel that, "I take a walk outside / I"m surrounded by some kids
at play / I can feel their laughter, so why do I sear?" is one of the
most powerful lines in literary history. Those words capture the slow
burn endured by those who are haunted by the fading echoes of true love.
It's as if the pain is both amplified by and juxtaposed with the
reminder that everyone around the Narrator has permission to be happy,
yet he is condemned to what he sees as an eternity of suffering,
slow-roasting over the white-hot coals of what was, and taunted by what
will never be. The juxtaposition of beautiful laughter and paralytic
pain eclipses the Narrator's happiness, highlighting his angst all the
The 'twisted thoughts' can be thought of as the manic replaying of
what the Narrator could have done/should have done to salvage the
relationship, second-guessing himself and dooming himself to torturous
self-examination. This self-questioning erodes the Narrator's
stability, leaving him reeling from his efforts.
As the Antagonist is being compared to his sun, the line, "How quick
the sun can drop away" shows a bitter, clipped Tone, capturing the
sarcastic hemorrhage felt by the Narrator. The sun's dropping is
testimony to the fact that the relationship is over. Love's glow has
faded. In her absence, in the sun's absence, the image created is
that of a man trying to scratch out an existence in a bleak word devoid
of warmth, light, love, and hope. Trapped within the bleak ruins of his
own emotional wasteland, the Narrator feels that he is at risk of drying
out and shriveling up. The Narrator identifies with Sisyphus, condemned
to an eternity of rolling his emotional boulder up life's steep
If the antagonist can be referred to a precious glass statue, then the,
"bitter hands that cradle broken glass," shows how the Narrator
cannot heal, despite the end of the relationship. The image created is
that of a masochist who cannot release the sharp fragments of something
that was once dear to him, trapped within a vicious cycle of
self-injury: he holds love's broken pieces, and they lacerate him.
Going against both intuition and friends' sound advice, he hugs it
again, perpetuating the cycle of self-mutilation. The word cradle
suggests that the Narrator will pursue any hope, however fleeting, of
resuscitating the relationship. The fact that the relationship keeps
slicing him is as powerful as it is self-defeating.
When the Narrator's world turns to black, he bears his soul, naked to
the world. He allows the readers a rare glimpse into the true depth of
his woe. This hurt, this emotional tattoo, ruins all that he sees, all
that he is, and all that he will ever be. This pain is symbolized by
the tattoo. His pain is so pervasive that he sees this grief as having
amputated part of his future, pillorying hope for what tomorrow could
"Black" ends with a failed coup-de-grace. Unable to admit defeat
and move on, the Narrator cannot shake hands and walk away. While the
Narrator recognizes that the Antagonist will be the star in someone
else's sky, he laments that she will not be the star in his sky,
agonizing over the fact that it wasn't meant to be. "Why can't it
be mine?" eliminates any chance of moving on, uprooting any growth
made towards closure. Buried within the wasteland of his heart, the
Narrator cannot see that he cannot see beyond the immediacy of it all.
"Black" captures all the emptiness, all the ache, and all the doom
felt by most young people when they look back on their clumsy first
attempts at love. It is my opinion that "Black" is one of the most
powerful pieces of poetry in the textbook that is our world.
My 8th grade classes are deeply interested in knowing what inspired
"Black." From where did it come? From what? That, and they
just wanted thank the person who found a voice for those who had
previously suffered in silence.
That was great! Ever want to show them a great video of Black.......http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFVlJAi3Cso
I start teaching 8th and 9th grade English this fall and may use some of your ideas. Thanks for being a great teacher.
Black is such an amazingly beautiful song, both musically and lyrically. After reading your interpretation of the lyrics, I realise further just how moving they are. I was quite literally stunned when I read your interpretation. I don't usually enjoy reading long posts, but I was compelled to read on with yours! I'm glad I read the whole post. I wish I'd had a teacher like you when I was at school. I think it is truly inspiring that you can use music, particularly lyrics, and create such a strong connection and focus with your students. Music is something that can be so powerful, whether it be through lyrics which convey emotion or trigger thoughts, or it can be through the rhythms and melodies which can draw appeal and attention to the listener. The fact that you can grip the attention of your students through the lyrics alone goes to show just how amazing Black really is and how competent and confident you must be as a teacher to use such methods in the classroom.
Top marks my friend!
wow this is downright amazing! this is my favorite song and i just love how in-depth your interpretation goes... i wish i had you as a teacher.. hehe... are there any more pearl jam songs that you've done? post more
I've been following this thread for a while, and there's something about your attitude that's equally offensive and insensitive.
What you did was a very nice teaching effort, but consider that there are thousands of teachers who work like dogs also coming up with lessons to reach unreachable kids, and there have been for generations. Teachers do use popular song lyrics for students to make a connection to the power of prose. You didn't invent this method. And those teachers don't go on endlessly about how they're a new breed and how they're changing the world, one kid at a time. All good teachers do that; you're not the only one. Consider the possibility of not fishing for accolades here or at least stop slagging off thousands of teachers who historically and currently do the exact same thing as you.
You seem like you keep desperately searching for pats on the back, and maybe you're not getting enough, so you keep posting here so people can attest to how awesome you are.
There are lots of dedicated teachers who take chances and reach kids; you're not reinventing the wheel. I know that I have the option to stop reading the thread, but consider how much you denigrate hardworking and creative educators and how self-serving you appear when you keep posting about the huge difference you're making and how you're a new breed.
You can always be genuinely proud of your efforts. But consider that it's possible that the reward is in doing the work.