READING AND UNDERSTANDING POETRY DEFINITION: A poem is made up of many elements that work together to contribute to the final form and meaning of the poem.
ELEMENTS OF A POEM • Imagery– words and phrases that create a sensory experience that involves the use of the five senses- sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch • Mood– the feeling the writer creates for the reader • Tone– the attitude that the writer has toward the subject of a poem. The writer will often use imagery to show this attitude.
Rhythm– the pattern or flow of sound created by the arrangement of syllables in a line of poetry • Sound– the combination of rhythm and word choice in order to convey a desired harmony • Word Choice– selection of certain words and their placement in order to convey the poems meaning
Symbol(ism)– something which is itself and at the same time represents something else • Figurative Language– words and phrases that are used in a nonliteral sense (not the normal meaning). Figurative language is used to give strength power , more meaning to a poem.
Most Common Figurative Language • Simile– a figure of speech in which the similarity between two things is directly expressed using the words like or as. Example: Her fingers felt like ice. He was tall as a mountain
Metaphor– A comparison between two dissimilar things in order to give added meaning to one of them. A metaphor can arouse strong feelings and make an idea or emotion more powerful. • Example: “Life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” This makes the reader think of a pitiful, damaged, earthbound bird, and at the same time, brings to the reader’s mind a vision of how life should be lived– like the freedom of a bird soaring through the air.
Personification– a figure of speech in which human attributes are given to something that is not human. • Example: The dish ran away with the spoon. Money talks. On the day she was born, the sun smiled down upon the earth.
HOW TO READ A POEM • Read a poem at least three times. • First, read through it quickly to get a general idea of the meaning. Then read it slowly and carefully, stopping to look up any familiar words. • Finally, read the poem aloud.
Pay close attention to the poems title. The title of a poem will often provide key information to the meaning of the poem. • Identify the speaker. Often a poet creates a speaker with a distinctive identity. • Visualize the setting and situation. Use details from the poem and your imagination to help you envision the poem’s setting. Where and when does it take place? Are there people portrayed? If so, who are they?
Reflect upon parts that puzzle or confuse you. Because poetry is so concentrated in form (how it is arranged), its meanings are often not immediately clear. When you encounter something that doesn’t make sense, reread that portion of the poem. Try to figure it out within the context of the whole poem.
Determine the theme. What important ideas about life or or human nature does the poem convey? If the poem is humorous, is there a deeper meaning beneath the humor?
SympathyPaul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) • I KNOW what the caged bird feels, alas! When the sun is bright on the upland slopes; When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass, And the river flows like a stream of glass; When the first bird sings and the first bud opes, And the faint perfume from its chalice steals — I know what the caged bird feels!
I know why the caged bird beats his wing Till its blood is red on the cruel bars; For he must fly back to his perch and cling When he fain would be on the bough a-swing; And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars And they pulse again with a keener sting — I know why he beats his wing!
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me, When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,— When he beats his bars and he would be free; It is not a carol of joy or glee, But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core, But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings — I know why the caged bird sings!