Personification: a non-human thing is endowed with human characteristics
Write an essay [on any of the recent poems] in which you discuss slome element[s] of the poem: [see elements from handout], compare two poems, or write a comparison of the poem to a short story. In order to write effectively about poetry, one needs a clear idea of what the point of writing about poetry is. The goal is to create a specific “thesis” about the poem/poems [what you believe is true], and quote from lines of the poem to support your thesis. I believe poem means this and I will show you why…
Remember, one of the best ways to write about poetry is to write a stanza by stanza analysis [part by part]. Write a body paragraph for each stanza in the poem—analyze it. Things to write about:
Theme: One place to start when writing about poetry is to look at any significant themes that emerge in the poetry. Does the poetry deal with themes related to love, death, sickness, inspiration, beauty? Any other concepts? What other themes show up in the poem? Are there particular historical events that are mentioned in the poem? Or ”alluded” to [allusion]? What are the most important concepts that are addressed in the poem?
Denotation/Connotation: What is the poem literally about [denotation] and what does it seem to symbolize? [connotation]. The denotative reading of a poem looks at the actual events of the poem [a man crosses a bridge]. A connotative look at a poem looks for the symbolism [crossing the bridge represents his movement out of his past and into his future, for example].
Versification: See handout on the subject [“Patterns of Rhythm”]. Write about the rhythms, meter, verse.
Figures of speech: Are there literary devices being used that affect how you read the poem? Here are some examples of commonly discussed figures of speech [see handout]: Symbols: where are the symbols and what do they represent, specifically?
Symbol: an object or event that suggests something beyond its literal meaning.
Metaphor: comparison between two unlike things—using a vehicle to represent a concept.
Simile: comparison between two unlike things using “like” or “as”
Metonymy: one thing stands for something else that is closely related to it (For example, using the phrase “the crown” to refer to the king would be an example of metonymy, or “White House” for government.)
Synechdoche: a part stands in for a whole (For example, in the phrase “all hands on deck,” “hands” stands in for the people in the ship’s crew; or new “set of wheels” to refer to a car.)
Personification: a non-human thing is endowed with human characteristics.
Irony: a difference between surface meaning of the words and implications that may be drawn from them.
Allusion: reference to historical or literary events
Cultural Context: How does the poem you are looking at relate to the historical context in which it was written? These questions may take you out of the literature section of your library altogether and involve finding out about philosophy, history, religion, economics, music, or the visual arts.
Biographical context: Consider using biography as a starting point and write a paper in which you discuss the poem in relation to the author’s life. What was the author like? Does the poem represent his/her life?
The paper is 3-4 pages, typed, double spaced. Good luck!
The Beautiful Changes
By Richard Wilbur
One wading a Fall meadow finds on all sides
The Queen Anne’s Lace lying like lilies
On water; it glides
So from the walker, it turns
Dry grass to a lake, as the slightest shade of you
Valleys my mind in fabulous blue Lucernes.
The beautiful changes as a forest is changed
By a chameleon’s tuning his skin to it;
As a mantis, arranged
On a green leaf, grows
Into it, makes the leaf leafier, and proves
Any greenness is deeper than anyone knows.
Your hands hold roses always in a way that says
They are not only yours; the beautiful changes
In such kind ways,
Wishing ever to sunder
Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.
By Linda Pastan
My husband gives me an A
for last night’s supper,
an incomplete for my ironing,
a B plus in bed.
My son says I am average,
an average mother, but if
I put my mind to it
I could improve.
My daughter believes
in Pass/Fail and tells me
I pass. Wait ’til they learn
I’m dropping out.
Because I could not stop for Death
Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –
Or rather – He passed us –
The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –
By Howard Nemerov
The house is so quiet now
The vacuum cleaner sulks in the corner closet,
Its bag limp as a stopped lung, its mouth
Grinning into the floor, maybe at my
Slovenly life, my dog-dead youth.
I’ve lived this way long enough,
But when my old woman died her soul
Went into that vacuum cleaner, and I can’t bear
To see the bag swell like a belly, eating the dust
And the woolen mice, and begin to howl
Because there is old filth everywhere
She used to crawl, in the corner and under the stair.
I know now how life is cheap as dirt,
And still the hungry, angry heart
Hangs on and howls, biting at air.
By Denise Levertov
My wedding-ring lies in a basket
as if at the bottom of a well.
Nothing will come to fish it back up
and onto my finger again.
among keys to abandoned houses,
nails waiting to be needed and hammered
into some wall,
telephone numbers with no names attached,
It can’t be given away
for fear of bringing ill-luck
It can’t be sold
for the marriage was good in its own
time, though that time is gone.
Could some artificer
beat into it bright stones, transform it
into a dazzling circlet no one could take
for solemn betrothal or to make promises
living will not let them keep? Change it
into a simple gift I could give in friendship?
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