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Elements of Poetical Analysis

Elements of Poetical Analysis. Looking at things in our world through a poet's eye Katie Subra English Language Fellow, Belarus subr0054@umn.edu. 3 American Poets. Yusef Komunyakaa (1947) Mary Oliver (1935) Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

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Elements of Poetical Analysis

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  1. Elements of Poetical Analysis Looking at things in our world through a poet's eye Katie Subra English Language Fellow, Belarus subr0054@umn.edu

  2. 3 American Poets • YusefKomunyakaa (1947) • Mary Oliver (1935) • Walt Whitman (1819-1892) These three poets have been capable of looking at inanimate and animal objects with absolute care, detail, and utter humanity. What does it mean to really know a thing?

  3. YusefKomunyakaa • b. 1947 Louisiana, USA • Won Pulitzer Prize in 1994 • Traveler, scholar, professor • Focus is on elements in his • own life & travels; use of present • Themes include: War in SE Asia, American city-scapes, deep south, jazz & blues, civil rights, aging, mortality & frailty of life • Short, but intense and purposeful lines of poetry – A reflection of life? Photo courtesy poetryfoundation.org

  4. Mary Oliver • b. 1935, Ohio, USA • Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, … • Move to Cape Cod – Nature! • Elements of balance, primacy and honesty in natural world • Connections between nature and humanity • She often pauses to study one object or one setting as if to say "Here it is, what else are you looking for?" Photo courtesy poetryfoundation.org

  5. Walt Whitman • b. 1819, d. 1892, Long Island, NY, USA • Joy and democracy can be found in nature and man • Great catalogues of things, but never resting on a single thing • Everything is equal and contained within another • He was a great revisionist, remaking Leaves of Grass (Song of Myself) over decades • Abandoned meter, but alliteration, word play and metaphor are common themes Photo courtesy poetryfoundation.org

  6. What do you look for in a poem? • Content • Literal Elements • Themes & Metaphors • Perspective • Cadence • Meter • Rhyme • Alliteration, …

  7. Content • Literal Elements – sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings, animals, plants, people (named and otherwise), • Themes & Metaphors – war, nature, democracy, sex, joy, despair, meditation – finding mankind in all of these things and linking them together • Perspective – first/second/third person, describing a thing from within or at a distance

  8. Sound • Alliteration – Repetition of beginning consonant sounds Ex: “the kelson of creation” • Assonance – Repetition of vowel sounds Ex: “ the most hopeful poetic soul” • Cadence – variations in pitch & rhythm of lines within poem Ex: “The beautiful uncut hair of the graves” vs. “Commanding, polish’d and perfect” • Consonance – Repetition of consonant sounds throughout the words Ex: “environ the anvil”

  9. Sound (cont’d) • Meter – The beat of the poem Ex: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself” iambic pentameter – 10 syllables, stress is rhythmic • Repetition – Reusing key words or phrases for emphasis or balance Ex: “This is the grass… this is the common air” • Rhyme – internal or end of line

  10. Believing in Ironby YusefKomunyakaa The hills my brothers & I created
Never balanced, & it took years
To discover how the world worked.
We could look at a tree of blackbirds
& tell you how many were there,
But with the scrap dealer
Our math was always off.
Weeks of lifting & grunting
Never added up to much,
But we couldn't stop
Believing in iron.
Abandoned trucks & cars
Were held to the ground
By thick, nostalgic fingers of vines
Strongas a dozen sharecroppers. We'd return with our wheelbarrow
Groaning under a new load, 
Yet tiger lilies lived better
In their languid, August domain.
Among paper & Coke bottles
Foundry smoke erased sunsets,
& we couldn't believe iron
Left men bent so close to the earth
As if the ore under their breath
Weighed down the gray sky.
Sometimes I dreamt how our hills
Washed into a sea of metal,
How it all became an anchor
For a warship or bomber
Out over trees with blooms
Too red to look at.

  11. Wild Geese By Mary Oliver You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

  12. Leaves of Grass – Section 6 By Walt Whitman A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he. I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven. Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt, Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose? Or I guess the grass is itself a child, the produced babe of the vegetation. Or I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic, And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones, Growing among black folks as among white,

  13. Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same. And now it seems to me the beautiful uncut hair of graves. Tenderly will I use you curling grass, It may be you transpire from the breasts of young men, It may be if I had known them I would have loved them, It may be you are from old people, or from offspring taken soon out of their mothers' laps, And here you are the mothers' laps. This grass is very dark to be from the white heads of old mothers, Darker than the colorless beards of old men, Dark to come from under the faint red roofs of mouths. O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues, And I perceive they do not come from the roofs of mouths for nothing.

  14. I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women, And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of their laps. What do you think has become of the young and old men? And what do you think has become of the women and chil- dren? They are alive and well somewhere, The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it, And ceas'd the moment life appear'd. All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier. 1891 edition on the Whitman Archive

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