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"Lady Fine Is for Sugar"by stephanie roberts

Introduction to The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext with editor José Olivarez

To find out more about LatiNext, stephanie roberts, and other poetry assignments, go to the next page

Think-Pair-Share

Listen to stephanie roberts read her poem "Lady Fine Is for Sugar"

Lesson created by Steven Arenas

Reread each section of the poem and the associated question. Write a collaborative response to the question.

Closing Question

In your opinion, whose point of view regarding women do you think the speaker aligns with—her grandmother's or her mother's—and why?

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Close Reading in Four Steps

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Close Reading Step 4

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Collaborative Discussion

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Steven Arenas is a high school teacher in Phoenix, Arizona.Follow him@sjarenas_

Based on the first section, how does the grandmother think a woman should present herself? Which words or lines support your answer?

Describe what the speaker’s mother is like.

How does the description of Cardi B contrast with the grandmother’s idea of “success”?

What does the line “star spangled fantasy” imply?

Read the poem silently without stopping.

Read each section aloud with your partner. Be sure to share any commentary you made throughout the poem.

Divide the poem into 4 sections. Read each section and provide commentary that helps you make meaning of each section.

Think about how you speak depending on the audience.Consider one or two things you say only around your friends. Why might you do this?Now consider one or two things you say only around your family. Why might you do this?In each of those settings, how do you believe people treat you depending on how you speak?

Lady is Fine for Sugarby stephanie robertsMy grandmother believed in itdelicate laugh perfectly pressed blouseblouse not shirt and proper grammarbillowing it outYou are well, not fine. Fine is for sugar!Shorthand typing secretarial positionwith some florid-faced boss drew successmy mother stormed like rainteen pregnancy loud laugh bellicoseswore freely in front of her childreni am the sky that could fall either wayLady passé and enduring mythologyi feel some sorta way over Cardi Bprecisely because she levitated up a stripper polelike a fuckin phoenix against the stenchof respectability politicslike a motherfuckin phoenix through the ceilingburning on the hydrogen of unwavering respectbricks of dollar signs gainplush in the same country where abuela believedyou had to play the Lady gameStar spangled fantasymy mother knew the dangerthe voice that can't be heardthe suspect testimony of that pressed blouseflesh-tone foundation obscuresblack and blueswhite peter pan collarcrossed anklestheI'm well, thank you.

Hello my name is stephanie roberts, coming to you today from Quebec, Canada. I'm going to read my poem "Lady Fine Is for Sugar" and then talk a little bit about it afterward. Click the media player to listen. A copy of the poem and the transcript is located below.Lady is Fine for SugarMy grandmother believed in itdelicate laugh perfectly pressed blouseblouse not shirt and proper grammarbillowing it outYou are well, not fine. Fine is for sugar!Shorthand typing secretarial positionwith some florid-faced boss drew successmy mother stormed like rainteen pregnancy loud laugh bellicoseswore freely in front of her childreni am the sky that could fall either wayLady passé and enduring mythologyi feel some sorta way over Cardi Bprecisely because she levitated up a stripper polelike a fuckin phoenix against the stenchof respectability politicslike a motherfuckin phoenix through the ceilingburning on the hydrogen of unwavering respectbricks of dollar signs gainplush in the same country where abuela believedyou had to play the Lady gameStar spangled fantasymy mother knew the dangerthe voice that can't be heardthe suspect testimony of that pressed blouseflesh-tone foundation obscuresblack and blueswhite peter pan collarcrossed anklestheI'm well, thank you.TRANSCRIPT:My grandmother and my mother (both now passed on) were Black-Latina women born in Panama (as was I). In my memory they could not be more dissimilar. As intimated in the poem my grandmother was a staunch believer in respectability politics that in America if you kept your dress presentable, were quiet, educated, and useful you would succeed as much as your white contemporaries. My mother seemed to have personal ambitions that centred themselves around her own authenticity more than exterior approval.In contrasting the values of both these strong women I thought of the phenomena that isBel-calis Marlenis AlmánzarAkA Cardi B. I think I fell in love with her from the first Vine video that introduced her to me. We both grew up in rough parts of New York City, she in the Bronx and I in the East New York section of Brooklyn, and the energy she radiated hit the few nostalgic spots of my girlhood memory.Here was a heavily accented Latina woman who did not seem to give two bleeps about being anyone but herself. She talked openly about stripping and her body enhancements to make more money. She would have scandalized my grandmother.In the poem Cardi B represents not just a refutation of my grandmother's beliefs but also to my mind the refutation of a type of American dream. Cardi B seems a type of anti-Gatsby to me. His tragedy is her success. I think my mother knew intuitively, against the way she was raised, that if you use someone else's standards and values for success you are in danger of only accomplishing someone else's dreams.

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