How to read a poem… “A poem is a composition written for the human voice. What your eye sees on the page is the composer’s verbal score, waiting for your voice to bring it alive as you read it aloud or hear it in your mind’s ear” --Jon Stallworthy, “Versification” Meaning of words + Grouping of words + Grouping of sounds Poetry is the most compressed form of language: Saying the most by writing the least
Poetic elements I wandered lonely as a cloudThat floats on high o'er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Continuous as the stars that shine And twinkle on the milky way, They stretched in never-ending line Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. Rhythm End rhyme Enjambment From “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth
…So strong I could not see their eyes Or look into their paradise. What were they doing, the happy ones? Yet where I was they once had been. Alliteration* What happens to a dream deferred? Imagery+ Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stinklikerotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet? Simile and metaphor+ Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? +“Harlem” by Langston Hughes *From “The Brothers” by Edwin Muir
Personification^ See how efficient it still is,how it keeps itself in shape—our century's hatred.How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles.How rapidly it pounces, tracks us down. When I heard the learn'd astronomer, When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me, When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them, When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick, Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself, In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time, Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars. Repetition* ^From “Hatred” by Wislawa Szymborska *“When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” by Walt Whitman
A note waterfalls steadilythrough us,just below hearing.Or this early lightstreaming through dusty glass:what enters, enters like that,unstoppable gift.And yet there is also the other,the breath-space held between any calland its answer—In the queryingfirst scuff of footstep,the wood owls' repeating,the two-counting heart:A little sabbath,minnow whose brightness silvers past time.The rest-noteunwritten,hinged between worlds,that precedes change and allows it. Consider: Consider: The Door by Jane Hirschfield Title: • To what does the title relate? • Does the title connect to more than one element of the poem? Speaker: • Is there a speaker? Who? To whom is he/she speaking? • Perspective/point of view helps establish tone
Structure: • How are the words arranged? • Does the structure have an effect on the way you read or understand the poem? l(a by e.e. cummings l(a le af fa ll s) one l iness (a leaf falls) Word association and symbols: • How are words/objects connected to ideas and feelings? • What do certain objects seem to represent? (loneliness)
Literal vs. Figurative: an example Wash by John Updike For seven days it rained that June:A storm half out to sea kept turning around like a dog trying to settle himself on a rug:We were the fleas that complained in his hair.On the eighth day, before I had risen,My neighbors' clothes had rushed into all the back yardsAnd lifted up their arms in praise.From an upstairs window it seemed prehistorical:Through the sheds and fences and vegetable gardens,Workshirts and nightgowns, long-soaked in the cellar,Underpants, striped towels, diapers, child's overalls,bibs and black bras thronging the sunshineWith hosannas of cotton and hallelujahs of wool.
Putting it all together Some People Like Poetry by Wislawa Szymborska Structure Some people—that means not everyone.Not even most of them, only a few.Not counting school, where you have to,and poets themselves,you might end up with two per thousand. Like—but then, you can like chicken noodle soup,or compliments, or the color blue,your old scarf,your own way,petting the dog. Poetry—but what is poetry, anyway?More than one rickety answerhas tumbled since that question first was raised.But I just keep on not knowing, and I cling to thatlike a redemptive handrail. Repetition Enjambment Simile
Let us remember…that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both. --Christian Wiman
What is artistic? What is “good”? Sonnet 116 This Is Just To Say I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold by William Carlos Williams by William Shakespeare Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O no! it is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come: Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.