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Introduction to Literature. Lesson One: Reading Poetry Love. Margarette R. Connor. Outline. Poems are not scary !!! Think of them as Songs. e.g. “ Across the Universe ” Steps for reading poetry . Elements of Poetry: Diction , Persona and Tone ;

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introduction to literature

Introduction to Literature

Lesson One: Reading Poetry


Margarette R. Connor

  • Poems are not scary!!! Think of them as Songs. e.g. “Across the Universe”
  • Steps for reading poetry.
  • Elements of Poetry:
    • Diction, Persona and Tone;
    • Denotation & Connotation; Allusion, Image, Symbol, Figures of Speech;
    • Sound: Rhyme, Rhythm, Meter
  • An Example: Anne Bradstreet (c. 1612-1672) “To My Dear and Loving Husband”
rule number one for reading poetry
Rule number one for reading poetry:
  • Don’t let it scare you!
think of it like a pop song
Think of it like a pop song.

“Across the Universe” by The Beatles (Lennon/McCartney).

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup They slither wildly as they slip away across the universe Pools of sorrow, waves of joy are drifting through my open mind Possessing and caressing me. (the whole lyrics)

  • That’s not scary at all!
“The first thing to understand about poetry is that it comes from outside you, in books or in words, but that for it to live, something from within you must come to it and meet it and complete it. Your response with your own mind and body and memory and emotions gives the poem its ability to work its magic; if you give to it, it will give to you, and give plenty.” -- James Dickey, American poet
steps for reading poetry
Steps for reading poetry:
  • Read the poem aloud straight away. Poetry is usually meant to be heard, not read. Don’t stop at the end of the line, but follow the punctuation indicated.
  • Read it again, with feeling if you can.
  • Make sure that you understand the vocabulary, then read it again.
  • Now, see if you “feel” it. How are you reacting on a visceral level? Take time to enjoy it or to recoil. But react! Feel!
  • After all of this, it’s time to start analyzing with your arsenal of critical tools.
diction choice of words
Diction - choice of words
  • Formal
  • Middle
  • Informal
  • Colloquial
    • Dialect
    • Jargon
d enotation literal d ictionary meaning of the word
Denotation – literal, Dictionary meaning of the word

Connotation - conversational meaning, associations and implications that go beyond the denotation. These are often difficult for a non-native speaker to uncover.

  • Who is speaking? Is it a character? The poet? What is the gender?
  • The writer’s attitude toward the subject and the mood he or she creates.
  • A brief reference to a person, place, thing or event in history or literature. Originally, allusions were considered to be from Classic mythology, The Bible and Shakespeare. Again, these are often difficult for non-native speakers and people from different cultures.
  • Defined by Michael Myer as “language that addresses the senses.” It’s when poets draw pictures in our minds with their words.
  • Something that represents something else. An object can suggest more than its literal meaning.
  • Conventional symbols,
        • roses=love/beauty
        • laurels=fame
  • Literary or contextual symbols
terms for figures of speech
Terms for figures of speech
  • Simile
  • Metaphor
    • Implied metaphor
    • Extended metaphor
    • Controlling metaphor
  • Pun
  • Synedoche
  • Metonymy
  • Personification
  • Apostrophe
  • Paradox
  • Oxymoron
terms for sound in poetry
Terms for sound in poetry
  • Alliteration
  • Assonance
  • Euphony
  • Cacophony
  • Onomatopoeia
    • There are many types of rhyme used in poetry - end, feminine, masculine, internal, off, slant, approximate.
  • When we are determining rhyme in a poem, we use an “a, b, c” notation to find the pattern.
blow by paul humphery
“Blow” by Paul Humphery
  • Her skirt was lofted by the gale (a)
  • When I, with gesture deft (b)
  • Essayed to stay her frisky sail (a)
  • She luffed, and laughed, and left. (b)
  • The beat of a poem, measure in stressed and unstressed syllables
  • Stressed syllable - where the emphasis is placed
  • Unstressed syllable - the opposite
  • When the rhythmic pattern reoccurs in a poem, we find the meter
  • Foot
    • The metrical unit by which a line of poetry is measured. It comes in a number of patterns.
types of feet in poetry
Types of feet in poetry:
  • Iambic - unstressed, stressed (no-thing)
  • Trochee - stressed, unstressed (love-ly)
  • Anapest - unstressed, unstressed, stressed (un-der-stand)
  • Dactyl - stressed, unstressed, unstressed (de-sper-ate)
  • Spondee - stressed, stress (dead set)
anne bradstreet c 1612 1672
Anne Bradstreet(c. 1612-1672)
  • Married at 16
  • Puritan emigrant from England to the American colonies in 1630, age 18
  • After moving to America, she and her husband had eight children
  • Husband was often absent on government business. He became one of the governors of the colony.
who were the puritans
Who were the Puritans?
  • Puritans were a strict, Calvinist Christian group, which emphasized literacy, for its adherents were expected to keep spiritual journals.
  • Believed in predestination, which means one’s personal salvation is decided before birth.
more on anne bradstreet
More on Anne Bradstreet:
  • Grew up in a cultured home
  • Well educated
  • Knew several languages
  • Read extensively
  • Knew literature and history.
a note on the puritan ideal of marriage
A note on the Puritan ideal of marriage
  • While Puritans saw men as the head of a household, they also recognized that women were important help-mates to the men.
  • If a marriage was not a partnership of intellectual and emotional equals, it could not be considered a success.
  • It was an unequal partnership, to be sure, but the ideal Puritan marriage was more egalitarian than any Christian model that proceeded it.