Documentary poetry units at MLWGS have centered on the 1928 hurricane dramatized in Zora Neale Hurston's novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, the Vietnam War experience in relation to Tim O'Brien's novel The Things They Carried, and veterans' interviews studied by students in Military History.
Documentary poems range from being entirely in words from the source document to being inspired by the source material yet entirely in the poet's words, with many variations in between. Regardless of where the poem falls on this continuum, the intention is to represent authentically the story the document(s) tell.
For examples, see these library books:
811 FIS - Kettle Bottom - Fisher811 JOR - M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A - Jordan811 KOO - Blizzard Voices - Kooser811 NOW - Coal Mountain Elementary - Nowak811 REZ - Holocaust - Reznikoff811 TER - Capturing the Dead - Terry
Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurricane of 1928, a.k.a. Great Okeechobee Flood or San Felipe II)
Florida's Hurricane History (UNC Press) - text excerpt from book by Jay Barnes (1998)
Florida Memory Project - historic photos
NOAA's Memorial Page to the hurricane
Okeechobee: The Night 2000 Died - article about hurricane from The Sun Sentinel
The Storm: 1928 Remembered (PDF) - booklet from the Historical Society of Palm Beach County
Storm Stories (video) - interview with a man who lived through the hurricane as a young boy
Documentary poems related to Katrina
Believer by Natasha Trethewey - multimedia documentary poem created with excerpt from longer poem, Congregation - based on her relatives' experiences related to Hurricane Katrina
Ethel's Sestina by Patricia Smith (scroll down page) - persona poem giving voice to Ethel Freeman's experience during Hurricane Katrina
The Things They Carried (Vietnam War)
American Presidency Project - U.S. presidential libraries have online exhibits and archives that include primary source material. For Vietnam, check Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford.
Teaching with Documents: The War in Vietnam - A Story in Photographs (National Archives)
Vietnam War Declassification Project (Ford Library)
Oral History Interviews
Experiencing War: Stories from the Veterans History Project (Library of Congress)