If you’re aiming to slam poetry into the hearts of your students, look no further than Elizabeth Acevedo’s renowned novel-in-verse, The Poet X. Acevedo writes in an entirely free-verse format, allowing the reader access to the thoughts and feelings of an Afro-Latina teenager struggling to find herself.

You can wield this uncommon narrative choice to your advantage in several ways. First, facilitate conversation about the effect the verses have on the reader’s experience. How would especially powerful moments, such as Xiomara’s confrontations with Mami, come across dictated through third-person, or even the traditional first-person point of view, instead? As a bonus, almost all of Xiomara’s poems can serve as standalone lessons on poetic analysis—”How I Feel about Attention,” “Ants,” “Haikus,” and “Verses,” to name a few. Interpreting poetry can be tricky for some students, but these poems, written from the perspective of a teenager, could certainly serve as an access point. You might even consider assigning your students to write their own free-verse poems and hosting an in-class open mic.

The Poet X features themes involving sexuality, religion, family, and identity that intersect in interesting ways. For instance, Xiomara’s poems on sexuality serve to both form her sense of self and rebel against religious ideals by which she feels oppressed; Mami’s religious beliefs cause a rift with her daughter, who fails to live up to expectations; and Xiomara comes to understand her version of church as “when we get together and talk about ourselves, about being human, about what hurts us.” These themes make for engaging and relatable discussions. Using an online generator like Wordle, you could have your class collaborate on a word cloud that connects the many big ideas the novel presents.

Xiomara faces many challenges, but ultimately finds her voice and discovers the power of words. Sound familiar? In fact, there are many female protagonists from fiction and nonfiction worthy of comparison. As part of a coming-of-age unit, you can compare Xiomara’s experiences to that of Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief, or The Hate U Give’s Starr Carter. What similarities do their stories share? How does each teenager uniquely affect her community?

Want more inspiration for bringing The Poet X to your classroom? Read on for details!

Summary of The Poet X

Key Facts

  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Length: 368 pages
  • Lexile Measure: HL800L
  • Recommended Grade Band: 9-12

Xiomara lives in Harlem with her parents and twin brother. She uses her journal as a vehicle for expressing her feelings, writing free verse on her complicated family dynamics, doubts about religion, and budding relationship with her lab partner, Aman. As sophomore year of high school begins, she discovers her school’s slam poetry club as a way to finally speak her truth and discover herself.

Content Warning: The Poet X contains instances of abuse and profanity, as well as mild sexual content.

What Your Students Will Love About The Poet X

  • Xiomara’s relatable experience as a teenager trying to figure out who she is
  • Xiomara’s heartwarming and funny relationships with Caridad and Twin

Potential Student Struggles With The Poet X

  • Navigating some of the poems that have unconventional structures
  • Scenes involving verbal and physical abuse from a family member

Learning Objectives for The Poet X

  • Trace Xiomara’s character development as she finds her voice in pursuit of slam poetry.
  • Analyze several of Xiomara’s poems as standalone works.
  • Discuss themes involving religion, family, sexuality, and shame.
  • Interpret key symbols in the text, including apples, the baby bracelet, and Xiomara’s burning journal.
  • Explain the effect the novel’s structure has on the reader’s empathy toward Xiomara.
  • Consider Caridad and Twin as foils to Xiomara.

Literary Elements in The Poet X

  • Allusion
  • Free Verse
  • Imagery
  • Metaphor
  • Poetry
  • Simile
  • Symbol
  • Theme
  • And more!

Major Themes in The Poet X

The Power of Words — Feeling unheard in her community, Xiomara uses slam poetry to speak about her personal experiences and connect with others.

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Family Expectations and Religion — Xiomara has doubts and questions about Catholicism, which puts her at odds with her mother.

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Identity — Through poetry, Xiomara breaks through others’ expectations of her to explore her own truth, becoming The Poet X.

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Other Resources for The Poet X

Order The Poet X Resources from Prestwick House

Resource Format
The Poet X Paperback Student Edition