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Reading and responding to poetry. Some key questions to ask. Who is the speaker?. What can we learn about the speaker’s character? Is the character merely a voice meditating on a theme? Does the speaker have a specific personality? What characterises the speaker ?

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reading and responding to poetry

Reading and responding to poetry.

Some key questions to ask

who is the speaker
Who is the speaker?
  • What can we learn about the speaker’s character?
  • Is the character merely a voice meditating on a theme?
  • Does the speaker have a specific personality?
  • What characterises the speaker?
  • (Remember that the speaker may be a persona. The persona and the poet may be totally different entities.I
what is the speaker s tone
What is the speaker’s tone?
  • Here are some examples. Make sure you have the vocabulary necessary to describe tone and mood. Use the hand out you have been given.
  • jovial
  • indignant
  • serious
  • dignified
  • tense
  • angry
  • excited
  • contemptuous
  • embarrassed
is the speaker addressing a particular person or audience
Is the speaker addressing a particular person or audience?
  • If the speaker is addressing a particular person why is he/she interested in him/her?
  • Some poems are addressed to a specific person or group of readers.
  • Others, like dramatic monologues, address a silent auditor.
  • Others are simply meditations on a universal theme.
  • The identity will be important to the poem.
does the poem have a setting
Does the poem have a setting?
  • Try to understand the setting, it will often be implicit so you will need to work quite hard to do this.
  • Is the poem occasioned by a particular event or place?
  • Is a particular situation being described?
is the theme of the poem stated directly or indirectly
Is the theme of the poem stated directly or indirectly?
  • Often themes are stated in the final lines.
  • Some poems use fairly straightforward literal language others may use lots of figurative language and symbols.
  • The theme may be explicit and use the actual word of the theme.
  • The theme may be implicit and you will need to work hard to find out what it is.
from what perspective point of view is the speaker describing events
From what perspective (point of view) is the speaker describing events?
  • Is the speaker recounting events of the past or the present? If past events are being recalled what present meaning do they have for the speaker?
  • The perspective will be very closely linked to the persona.
what does a study of diction reveal about the poem
What does a study of diction reveal about the poem?
  • How do the meanings of words, and all their possible shades and levels of meaning, combine to create an overall effect?
  • Always think of connotation (association) and not only denotation (dictionary meanings).
  • You have to be able to pick up on subtleties here.
does a close examination of the figurative language of the poem reveal any patterns
Does a close examination of the figurative language of the poem reveal any patterns?
  • What is the literal meaning of the figurative language used?
  • Some poems begin to open up when you recognize patterns of imagery.
  • Why does the poet use these particular images and analogies?
  • What is the rhetorical significance of the poet’s use of language?
  • Does the poet use various sound techniques like rhyme and onomatopoeia?
  • Never simply list the devices used. This will not win you any marks.
how has the poet s use of symbolism contributed to the poem
How has the poet’s use of symbolism contributed to the poem?
  • The most powerful symbols are often those that do not specify the ideas they represent. You will need to think hard to identify the symbolism in many poems.
what is the structure of the poem
What is the structure of the poem?
  • Is it free verse or a specific poetic form such as a sonnet?
  • What verb or stanza patterns are there?
  • Don´t simply state what they are without saying why they are that form and what the form adds to the poem?
what do sound and meter contribute to the poem
What do sound and meter contribute to the poem?
  • The sound must match the sense.
  • Is the language presented with intentional rhythmic effect?
  • Is it slow, fast, gentle and so on?
  • What are the rhyming patterns and how do they help bring the poem to life?
what was your response to the poem on the first reading
What was your response to the poem on the first reading?
  • Your response may change with the intensity of your reading.
  • Be honest here.
  • The examiners really want to read an intelligent, educated personal response. They want to know how the poem affected you as an individual.
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