Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Free Verse

"This is a Photograph of Me" by Margaret Atwood.

It was taken some time ago.
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you see in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion

but if you look long enough,
you will be able to see me.)

Free Verse is probably the closest poetry gets to becoming prose before crossing over the line. It is a form of poetry with no rules or restrictions nor anything that must be done to classify it. In most free verse poems there is a story being told. In "This is a Photograph of Me" the speaker describes a photograph and in turn tells a story. The first image revealed about the photograph appears to be nothing more than a landscape. Through the first half of the poem we find ourselves questioning the connection of the title until we come to the parentheses.

The sudden shift in the poem, specifically distinguished by the punctuation, is suprising and shocking. The speaker has a non-chalant tone to his/her voice when stating "The photograph was taken/the day after I drowned." Suddenly, the poem is no longer peaceful but almost terrifying. Suddenly we realize that amidst this beautiful landscape with the hills and lake is a tragic story of someone's death. The free verse of the poem also contributes to the non-chalant tone of the speaker. With no specific structure to the poem it feels as if the speaker is casually telling this story that would otherwise be horrific.

In this poem the author uses enjambement to give a flowing feeling to the poem. Again, this contributes to the storytelling aspect of the poem. Since this is free verse, the author is not restrained to ending each line with a period or some type of punctuation. Instead, she is able to continue thoughts through multiple lines and even stanzas.


"In a Station of the Metro" by Ezra Pound.

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

The above poem is a mere two lines long, yet it is filled with perhaps more imagery than a poem sixty lines long. After writing this poem Ezra Pound said, "I wrote a thirty-line poem, and destroyed it because it was what we call work 'of second intensity.' Six months later I made a poem half that length; a year later I made the following hokku-like sentence..." In other words, Pound discovered that sometimes one sentence can be ever more meaningful that thirty lines of poetry.

The essence of imagism is just that; say only what you need to say and be sure it presents the reader with an image. In "In a Station of the Metro" Pound almost paints a picture with only 14 words and two lines of poetry. The image of "apparition" is one of swift disappearance of one into another. Joined with the words "faces in the crowd" it seems that each person disappears into another and they appear to be one blur. I can picture a bustling Metro Station in which hundreds of people pass by, yet not one has any individual appearance. Each person's appearance blends into another creating everyone as equal.

The second line "Petals on a wet, black bough" presents a darkness to the poem. In cohesion with the idea of the faces blending into one another, they almost become a coating as water is on a bough after a rainstorm. The color black carries with it a negative connotation suggesting that there is some kind of darkness in this Metro Station.

In a way, Pound uses euphony in this poem in that he studies the beauty of the scene and the words. While he isn't directly talking about beauty itself, through the usage of Imagist poetry Pound is automatically appreciating the beauty of the English Language and the power it holds in presenting images to a reader.

In the end, there is quite an amount of analysis that can be done one two simple lines of poetry. That is the purpose of Imagism--achieve a purpose through a joining of words and images.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


The Rose by Donna Brock.

The red blossom bends
and drips its dew to the ground.
Like a tear it falls

This haiku presents quite a bit of imagery. In reading it, I saw a bright red rose bending toward the group after a cold, damp night. However, the final line "Like a tear it falls" gives the overall poem a depressing tone. Instead of this flower blooming in the early morning sun after a night of rain, the author seems to be saying that this flower is sad. In cohesion with the final line, I think the author's purpose is for the reader to consider the sadness of nature. This blossom is weighed down by the rain and has had enough and therfore begins to cry. The image reminds me of myself in the past few weeks--as if I have made it through a rough storm and cannot seem to find the strength to get up again.
In addition, the image of a red blossom covered in dew is beautiful. However, juxtaposed with the idea of a tear, a different image is presented. Instead of viewing this flower as beautiful and sparkling, we see it as being weighed down and slowly getting rid of the weight by crying. I think the author did a lovely job juxtaposing the first two lines with the final line to achieve her purpose.

Slam Poetry

"On What Teachers Make" by Taylor Mali. It can be found here.

To begin, I think it's very important that slam poetry be listened to, as it IS called spoken word. To read a splam poem is nothing compared to hearing the author recite it because much of the importance is in the tone and delivery. The art of spoken word is so greatly dependent on the presentation.

In "On What Teachers Make", Taylor Mali presents an entirely different definition for the phrase "what do teachers make"? He focuses on the teaching, inspiration, and hardwork that teachers instill in their students, instead of focusing on the money. Mali brings to our attention the important role that a good teacher can play in a kid's life. I know, personally, that I have had very few teachers whom I will always remember. I won't remember the ones who made it easy, or the ones who simply made it fun. I will remember the teachers that made me work and made a difference; the ones who truly cared.

Mali brings up a great point--someone who has not had the opportunity to teach will never understand a teacher. To have the ability to affect hundreds of students' lives is a great responsibility. What you instill in them could possibly be one of the greatest lessons of their lives. Mali's passion and delivery of this idea and this entire poem truly show that he takes pride in being a teacher. He isn't simply trying to stand up for himself, but he is standing up for teachers everywhere who are not appreciated nearly enough for what they do.

In this slam poem, Mali uses the literary device of apostrophe in which he talks about someone who is not present. He is telling a story and mentions the CEO who began this conversation at dinner. As a result, the CEO is merely a character in his story who is not present at the time. In addition, he talks about his students are not present either, neither at the dinner table or the presentation.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dramatic Monologue

"The Chimney Sweeper" by William Blake

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue,
Could scarcely cry weep weep weep weep.
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.

Theres little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head
That curl’s like a lambs back, was shav’d, so I said,
Hush Tom never mind it, for when your head’s bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.

And so he was quiet, & that very night,
As Tom was a sleeping he had such a sight,
That thousands of sweepers Dick, Joe, Ned & Jack
Were all of them lock’d up in coffins of black,

And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he open’d the coffins & set them all free.
Then down a green plain leaping laughing they run
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun.

Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind.
And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father & never want joy.

And so Tom awoke and we rose in the dark
And got with our bags & our brushes to work.
Tho’ the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm.
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

A dramatic monologue is a type of poem in which the speaker appears to be talking to an unseen audience. It is a way of telling a story through the words of poetry.

In this dramatic monologue the speaker is a "Chimney Sweep". He tells his story of his mother's death and father's having "sold [him] while yet [his] tongue, Could scarcely cry weep weep weep weep." The speaker, however, does not stay on the subject of his own life for long. Instead, he talks about Tom Dacre who is a new child just sold to be a new chimney sweeper. When he "cried when his head That curl’s like a lambs back, was shav’d" his innocence is shown. He is unaware of what is to come for him and the speaker acts as a guide for him.

The dream that Tom has is significant to the conditions of chimney sweeps at this time in history. They were forced to live in terrible conditions, sleeping on the bags of soot that they had swept that day--shown in the phrase "in soot I sleep." However, Tom dreams of the young chimney sweeps locked in black coffins which are symbolic for the suppression of these boys. When the angel comes to free them from their coffins, Tom is dreaming of being released to freedom along with the other chimney sweeps. He has an innocent view of the situation he is in.

In having this dream, Tom is able to realize that one day he will be freed from the situation he is now in. The "Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy, /He’d have God for his father & never want joy." In otherwords, if Tom has faith in God then he will be rewarded some day. Therefore, Tom wakes up the next morning happy to do his work along with the other chimney sweeps.

Do you guys think this is a political statement in any way? What could William Blake be commenting on? Does it go further than simply chimney sweepers? How does he view religion as a force in one's life?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spenserian Sonnet

"Sonnet LIV" by Edmund Spenser
Of this World's theatre in which we stay,
My love like the Spectator idly sits,
Beholding me, that all the pageants play,
Disguising diversely my troubled wits.
Sometimes I joy when glad occasion fits,
And mask in mirth like to a Comedy;
Soon after when my joy to sorrow flits,
I wail and make my woes a Tragedy.
Yet she, beholding me with constant eye,
Delights not in my mirth nor rues my smart;
But when I laugh, she mocks: and when I cry
She laughs and hardens evermore her heart.
What then can move her? If nor mirth nor moan,
She is no woman, but a senseless stone.

The Spenserian sonnet is made up of three quatrains and a couplet. The quatrains are connected through the rhyme scheme abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee. The rhyme scheme is a suggestion toward terza rima but it is not exact.

In this sonnet, Spenser relates his life to to a play. In a way, he is alluding to Shakespeare's "All the World's a Stage" but for a different purpose. He personifies the different aspects of life such as sadness, happiness, and love as actual beings in his life. In capitalizing words such as Comedy and Tragedy, Spenser is making them proper nouns.

He mentions how his "love like the Spectator idly sits" suggesting that his love for the woman he speaks of is never active. It simply sits and observes his relationship with this woman, never fully emerging from the depths within him. In addition, the speaker resents the woman in his life. "She laughs and hardens evermore her heart" when the speaker cries, and finds disgust in his happiness. To the speaker, the woman is nothing more than "senseless stone" meaning that she is inept to understanding the speaker's feelings. In reality, it is she who does not have feelings and because the speaker has these feelings and experiences these roles throughout life, she mocks him.

This may be a stretch, but it is possible that the woman compared to "senseless stone" can be an allusion to the story of the woman who turned to stone when she looked back after being told not to. Perhaps Spenser is suggesting that women are weak and incapable of having such strong serious feelings. Again, it may be a stretch but I thought I would bring up the idea!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

ELEGY--> "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is by Thomas Gray. It can be found here.
You can also listen to it here.

Thomas Gray writes his elegy in the same manner of the common elegy--honoring the dead. His elegy consists of four-line stanzas in the rhyme scheme ABAB, CDCD, EFEF etc.

In the first three stanzas of the poem, Gray sets a very somber tone. He describes how he is left with the darkness of the world while almost meditating in this churchyard. He refers to how the "moping owl does to the moon complain" suggesting that the owl is sad as well, affected by the darkness and somber mood of the world around him. While the speaker never directly mentions a funeral or death he suggests it through his diction and tone.

It is not until the fourth stanza where the speaker finally mentions the rows of graves, or "cells for ever laid." In this stanza, the speaker inverts the word order to parallel with what he is saying of the earth around the grave. He says "Where heaves the turf " instead of "Where the turf heaves." In doing this, Gray is providing the image of the overturned earth as a result of digging the grave.

In the next stanzas, the speaker goes on the speak about class and its effectiveness in the afterlife. He warns the rich not to look down on the poor in life because the afterlife does not discriminate according to class. Despite wealth and beauty, everyone dies. So he encourages all of us to live life as a good person. The speaker then talks about all of the things that the poor missed out on in life because of a lack of money and education.

The speaker also reasons that perhaps because he is recognizing the poor people and writing this poem about death and the losses people experience, someone will remember him after he dies. He imagines an old man remembering him. In the end, he wishes to be buried with the common people no matter how famous or rich he may end up being. He is quite aware of his place on the earth and definitely recongizes that no one person is better than another.

Gray uses enjambment many times throughout this elegy. Enjambment is the continuation of a single idea from one line to another. I would not have recongized that this literary device had a specific name if I hadn't looked up the meaning of this word. Gray uses them quite often-for example in the third stanza he says:
"Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower/ The moping owl does to the moon complain,/ Of such, as wandering near her secret bower, /Molest her ancient solitary reign."
Gray continues one idea across four lines, especially between lines one and two where he puts no grammatical symbols. This literary device pushes the reader to continue from line to line, making the idea flow across the entire stanza.