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What is poetry?

What is poetry?. A guide for Literature students: how to read and write about poetry. A poet’s definition. Remember Langston Hughes said: “What is poetry? It is the human soul, squeezed like a lemon or lime, drop by drop, into atomic words.”. Definition of poetry.

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What is poetry?

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  1. What is poetry? A guide for Literature students: how to read and write about poetry

  2. A poet’s definition • Remember Langston Hughes said: • “What is poetry?It is the human soul, squeezed like a lemon or lime, drop by drop, into atomic words.”

  3. Definition of poetry • Poetry is condensed (shortened, compact) figurative language that says something critical or important • Comes from oral/musical tradition. Meant to be read aloud • Language that feels good to the ear

  4. Review: figurative language • Language expanded beyond literal meaning; compares unlike things • Examples are metaphor and simile • Metaphor = comparison between unlike things = “my heart was a sinking rock” • Simile = unlike things are compared using like or as - “hair as soft as grass”

  5. The three Rs of poetry • Rhythm = the arrangement of sounds (stressed/unstressed syllables) in writing • Rhyme = a word that has the same sound (ending or middle) as another Joy/boy Trot/sod or walk/milk (slant rhyme) • Repetition = a repeated pattern of sounds, words or phrases in a poem -- for emphasis

  6. Two kinds of sound repetition • Alliteration = the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words “I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet.” Robert Frost • Assonance = the repetition of vowel sounds followed by different consonantsounds • “Strips of tinfoil winking like people…” Sylvia Plath

  7. A few more poetry terms • Imagery = words that appeal to the senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing) when describing something • Personification = giving human traits to a non-human subject. The wind sighed through the trees.

  8. Types of rhyme in poetry • End rhyme - rhyme that happens at the end of lines of poetry like in couplets • Internal rhyme - when words rhyme inside a line of poetry, not at end. • Slant rhyme = two words share a consonant or vowel sound heart/port/chart = Emily Dickinson

  9. Review of Shakespeare’s poetry • Iambic pentameter = 10 syllable/line(5 iambs = stressed/unstressed pairs) • “For saints have handsthat pilgrim’s hands do touch.” • Sonnet = poetic form of 14 lines w/every other line end rhyming + couplet at end • Couplet = Two lines of verse, usually in the same meter and joined by rhyme, forming a unit.

  10. Format of poetry • Stanza = Paragraph of poetry or lines that go together in terms of ideas/content (Italian for “room”) • Line = One line of poetry on page. Rule of thumb = a line is one breath. Also, based on content -- what ideas go together. • **Free verse = a style of poetry that does not adhere to a specific rhythm or rhyme pattern

  11. How to critique or understand poetry: What is it about? • Use clues from poet about what poem is about. What kinds of words are used, what images, setting, etc? • What does the poem make you think of? • Use examples of words, phrases from poem to say, “I think the poem is about freedom because of the bird flying away in the second stanza/third line.” Provide quote, too.

  12. How does the poet write the poem -- form • Describe the poem. Are there stanzas, lines of a certain length, and if so, are they the same throughout? • Use the 3 Rs of poetry. Is there a certain rhythm, any rhyme, any repetition? Give examples of these.

  13. How does the poet write the poem -- technique • How does the poet use figurative language? Can you find metaphors, or similes? Tell what the examples are, and where. • Can you find examples of imagery? • Explain other poetic techniques if you find them such as personification, alliteration, and assonance.

  14. Why does poet write poem? • You can also comment on why you think the poet wrote the poem. Why is the topic important? Any clues? • Look for big themes -- growing up, growing old, falling in love, leaving home, war, fear of dying…Where are the clues (words, phrases) to prove?

  15. Practice critiquing poems! • Write about how the poet wrote the poem • Then, comment on what the poem might be about • Finally, write about why you think the poet wrote the poem. Use examples!

  16. Pick a poem to write about • Harlem 2 by Langston Hughes • We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks • # 269 (Wild Nights) by Emily Dickinson

  17. Quick facts about Emily Dickinson • Born in Amherst, MA in 1830. Died in 1885 in house she grew up in. Lived w/ sister/brother. Simple/secluded life. • Never published poems in her lifetime • Read widely, wrote letters, did not travel much. Strong religious background. • Only went to one year of college

  18. What is Dickinson known for? • Innovator, wrote poems with brief phrases questioning life and death • Regarded as one of America’s greatest poets. Wrote over 1800 poems • Known for her use of the dash, and slant rhymes, and numbers for titles of poems.

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