HOW TO READ A POEM With an open ear and an open heart. . .
POETIC STEPS • Read straight through to get a general sense of the poem; read it aloud, too; • Try to understand the poem’s meaning and organization (the title, is there a speaker); • Find out the meanings of all of the words; • Consider the poem’s setting and situation; • Is there a basic form? How does it develop? • What is the poem’s subject, i.e., theme (the main idea)? • Prepare a paraphrase and explication.
Paraphrase & Explication How to paraphrase (word by word): • Rewrite the poem in prose in your own words (like doing a translation, use the dictionary and/or thesaurus m-w.com); • Be sure the paraphrase is accurate and comprehensive (don’t miss out anything); • Rewrite your passage, remaining faithful to your understanding of the poem (i.e., don’t use the poet’s words).
Cont’d. . . . How to explicate: • Write a passage (line by line, stanza by stanza, or image by image) that demonstrates your understanding of the poem; • This should be your interpretation, in other words, “between the lines.” • Should show how the “parts” relate to the whole meaning.
Our First Poem/Poet Caribbean poet: Derek Walcott http://www.cc.nctu.edu.tw/~pcfeng/Walcott/Walcott.html
Love After Loveby Derek Walcott The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other’s welcome, And say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.
ELEMENTS OF POETRY What is poetry?. . . . “. . .a composition in verse that is characterized by a highly developed form, the use of rhythm and the employment of heightened language to express an imaginative interpretation of a situation or idea.” —Shaw, Henry. Dictionary of Literary Terms. New York: McGraw Hill Book Co.,
Word Choice • Poets may vary syntax (word order) to create poetic effects (i.e., not subject + verb+object, “prose-like”); • Poets may explore repetition (i.e., “parallelism” or “anaphora”); • Poets consider diction (“high,” or formal, vs. “low,” or slang/idiom); • Poets consider connotation and denotation (levels of meaning); • Poets orchestrate the soundof words or word groups (“cadence groups”) with (“assonance,” repetition of vowel sounds/OR “alliteration,” repetition of consonant sounds) to produce the “music” of the poem;
Word Choice, cont’d. From Literature. . . “Poets always try to make individual words carry as many appropriate and effective denotations and connotations as possible. Put another way, poets use packed or loaded words that carry a broad range of meaning and associations.” You might say the poet “mines” language for meaning.
Tone: The Creation of Attitude • Tone derived from “tone of voice” in the oral presentation; • Tone is how the writer creates attitude, i.e., the writer/speaker’s attitudes towards something are expressed; • We study how this reflects word choice and ideas; • Is there self-awareness? • What is the tone created? Sadness, anger, love, humor, irony? • Created through control of connotation and denotation; • Relies also on “common ground of assent” (from Literature, “those interests, concerns, and assumptions that the writer assumes in common with readers so that an effective and persuasive tone may be maintained”).
THE USE OF IMAGES Imagery: Poetry’s Link to the Senses
TRY TO EXPERIENCE WHAT THE POET EXPERIENCED. . . An image is simply a “word picture”. . .i.e., Rose= What do you think of when you think of a yellow rose? Look inside. . .what do you remember?
The role of imagery. . . • Images trigger the imagination to recall mental pictures, memories, sense impressions; • Images help poets communicate with the reader; • Images “authenticate,” or make real; • Images should be exact (you should “feel them”) and be apt (appropriate for the subject).
KINDS OF IMAGES IMAGES “travel” along the senses. . . • Visual (sight)
KINDS OF IMAGES • Auditory (hearing)
KINDS OF IMAGES • Gustatory (taste)
KINDS OF IMAGES • Tactile (touch)
KINDS OF IMAGES • Olfactory (smell)
KINDS OF IMAGES • Kinetic (movement)
HOW AN IMAGE WORKS Literary critic I.A. Richards writes: An image is made up of thevehicle, the concrete “thing” that IS the image (i.e., a tree with autumn leaves). . . + . . . The meaning that it carries (i.e., a tree in autumn symbolizes old age, coming winter), what Richards calls thetenor.
IMAGERY = a picture says a thousand words! Autumn is here, the climax of life blazes forth in color, the cold of winter, its “deathly” cold, is yet to come. . .
FIGURES OF SPEECH (or “tropes,” or “rhetorical figures”) = verbal constructions the poet uses to convey meaning • Metaphor - an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something important in common; it expresses the unfamiliar (the tenor) in terms of the familiar (the vehicle). When a poet writes, "Love is a rose," "rose" is the vehicle for "love," the tenor; • Simile – poet uses the words “as” or “like” to make the connection between the two things that are being compared. For example, “dancing with a poor dancer is like making chess moves”; • Paradox – a contradiction that is truthful; • Apostrophe – speaker addresses an imagined listener; • Personification – human traits given to objects or abstract things; • Synecdoche – a part of something stands for the whole; • Metonymy – substitute one thing for another; • Oxymoron - a mixture of words that have contradictory or sharply incongruous meanings, i.e., cruel kindness, a thunderous silence, military intelligence; • Pun – wordplay based on different words having similar or same sound (i.e., ghosts like elevators because they “lift the spirits”; (. . .see the list of Figures of Speech in your coursepack).
Finally, consider the poem’s THEME What is theme? It is, put quite simply, the main idea of the composition. • In literature, main idea = theme • In journalism, main idea = “angle” • In academic writing, main idea = thesis As we read the last cluster of poets on our reading list, ask yourselves, What is the theme of each poem? Is there any commonality between them? QUESTION: CAN WE BRING BACK POETRY FROM “THE MARGINS,” AS OCTAVIO PAZ MENTIONED IN THE POWER OF THE WORD?
And the final question as we leave our poetry unit. . . AFTER WATCHING THE CD PRESENTING A LIVE PERFORMANCE OF “THIS OLD MAN,” DO YOU BELIEVE THAT POETRY CAN MAKE THINGS HAPPEN? WILL POETRY LIVE ON?