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Introduction to Poetry Analysis. Using the rhetorical analysis toolbox: FORM, STYLE, DEVICES. EXAMPLE 1. Poetry Explication Project Honors English. Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973). W.H. Auden: Life and Works. Born in York, England

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Introduction to Poetry Analysis


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    1. Introduction to Poetry Analysis Using the rhetorical analysis toolbox: FORM, STYLE, DEVICES

    2. EXAMPLE 1 Poetry Explication Project Honors English

    3. Wystan Hugh Auden(1907-1973)

    4. W.H. Auden: Life and Works • Born in York, England • As a young man, influenced by the poetry of Thomas Hardy, Robert Frost, William Blake, and Emily Dickinson, and Old English verse. • Auden was established as a leading voice of a new generation • A well-read author, he had a remarkable intellect and drew easily from a variety of literatures, etc. • He often mimicked the style of Dickinson, Yeats, and Henry James. • His poetry frequently recounts a journey or quest

    5. W.H. Auden: Context • Visited many countries and served in the Spanish Civil War • In 1939 moved to the U.S. where he married his lover, Chester Kallman, and became an American citizen • He was an ardent advocate of Freudian psychoanalysis • In his later phase in America, his central preoccupation became Christianity and theory of modern religions Poets.org

    6. “Funeral Blues” Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,Silence the pianos and with muffled drumBring out the coffin, let the mourners come.Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead 5Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. He was my North, my South, my East and West,My working week and my Sunday rest 10 My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; 15For nothing now can ever come to any good. --W.H. Auden

    7. “Funeral Blues” Form • The poem “Funeral Blues” is an elegy: a mournful, melancholic poem often spoken at a funeral for the dead • Four stanzas, 16 lines • The first three stanzas include elements of everyday life, while the last stanza includes elements of the spirit or celestial world, indicating a passing of the spirit from the real world to spirit world. • Rhyme scheme: AABB, etc. • The rhyme scheme holds the poem together, almost as it holds together the speaker

    8. “Funeral Blues” Speaker and POV • Written in first person POV: speaker uses I and my • The speaker of the poem has lost a love and expresses his grief in a unique way • Through an elegy, the speaker expresses that he wants others to feel his pain: silence the world • He also realizes that things that were once pleasurable are no longer that way • When things are wrong in nature, they are wrong everywhere • The speaker may be homosexual—refers to the deceased as “he,” and if we assume Auden is the speaker, he is a man as well

    9. “Funeral Blues” Style • TONE • The tone of the first two stanzas is direct and forceful; the speaker uses the imperative mode “stop all the clocks.” He commands that people pay attention to the deceased; pay respects • The tone in the third stanza is nostalgic“he was my working week and my Sunday rest” as the speaker remembers what it was like when the deceased was alive • The tone of the final stanza is forceful and irrational: the speaker requests outlandish tasks to be performed • The tone of the final stanza is also melancholic and cynical“nothing now can ever come to any good”

    10. “Funeral Blues” Style • DICTION • The word choice in the first stanza includes words related to sounds because the speaker hopes to silence the world “clock,”“telephone,”“dog barking,”“muffled drum” • The word choice in the second stanza all relate to a public acknowledgement of the deceased“aeroplanes circle moaning,” message in the sky, public doves, policemen • The word choice in the third stanza includes words related to prosaic, mundane events we take for granted “working week,”“Sunday rest,” almost as if the speaker took the deceased for granted • The word choice in the final stanza includes words related to the spirit and celestial world: sun, moon, stars

    11. “Funeral Blues” Style • CONNOTATION • Blues music= melancholic and depressing • Clocks= time, death approaching; the speaker hopes it will stand still by stopping the clocks • Telephone= communication; lost? • Muffled drum= a low sound as a heart • Coffin= death or the body of the deceased loved one • White doves= peace • Black gloves = death • North, South, East, West= direction; did the deceased give speaker direction? he was his world • Stars, moon, sun= heaven or spirit world • Wood and ocean= the natural world

    12. “Funeral Blues” Style • SYNTAX • The speaker uses the imperative mode in stanzas 1,2 and 4, commanding the reader and the world to stop and pay respects • In stanza three, the speaker uses the indicative mode, expressing thoughts and reflecting—no longer commanding, as if he takes a break to muse • The use of listing indicates that the deceased was the speaker’s everything; all encompassing • “He” is capitalized, just as the word God, indicating the deceased was like a God for the speaker • “Dead” is also capitalized, emphasizing the finality of death • “I thought that my love would last forever: I was wrong” • The use of the colon after forever is dramatic and brings our attention to the idea that when we die, love dies

    13. “Funeral Blues” Style • IMAGERY • The speaker uses sound imagery in the first stanza: he demands the world be silenced “prevent the dog from barking.” He also commands the coffin be brought out with “muffled drum” • Almost as if the speaker is on a crowded street and feels overwhelmed that the world does not share his feelings of grief; the world goes on • The speaker uses more visual imagery in the second stanza with colors black and white • The last stanza causes the reader to imagine a spirit travelling to heaven or some place other than earth

    14. “Funeral Blues” Device #1 Metaphor • “He was my North, my South, my East, my West” • The deceased was the speaker’s world, his direction, his everything • “Scribbling in the sky” • The sky is a message board for announcing the dead • “He was my…working week and my Sunday rest” • Speaker indicates that deceased was all encompassing, showing how impactful the death was on the speaker, affecting his everyday life

    15. “Funeral Blues” Device #2 Hyperbole “The stars are not wanted now: put out every one” “pack up the moon” “dismantle the sun” “pour away the ocean” “sweep up the wood” The exaggeration of outlandish tasks indicates the depths of the speaker’s grief; none of the irrational actions can be fulfilled, just like life is no longer fulfilling for the speaker

    16. “Funeral Blues” Device #3 Assonance Repetition of vowel sounds “Bring out the coffin” “let the mourners come” “moaning overhead” The repetition of the vowel sounds doesn’t give the same effect as alliteration or consonance; it’s a subtle effect “O” sounds often have a ghostly, haunting, or eerie connotation

    17. “Funeral Blues” Device #4 synecdoche Using parts to represent a whole “all hands on deck” = all people “sweep up the wood” Wood= the whole forest When the speaker implies that the whole forest should be cleared, it is irrational and impossible, again indicating the speaker is irrational.

    18. “Funeral Blues” Theme • Love and Nature Don’t Endure • The speaker indicates that since the love is lost, so is the world • “I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong” • “Nothing now can come to any good”

    19. Test Questions • Five test questions, which will be included on a final poetry test over all poems presented by classmates • Questions may be multiple choice, T/F, or short answer

    20. 1. “Funeral Blues” is BEST classified as a (n): a. sonnet b. ode c. elegy d. ballad e. dramatic monologue 2. Which of the following is a plausible interpretation of the poem’s title? I. A reference to the depression that the speaker feels over his friend’s untimely death II. A reference to music that typically characterizes a funeral service III. A reference to the poem itself a. I only b. II only c. I and II d. I and III e. I, II, and III 3. The death of his friend prompts the speaker to demand all of the following EXCEPT: a. the muting or elimination of all sounds b. an opportunity for solitary mourning c. a public acknowledgement of the deceased’s passing d. an extinguishing of celestial objects e. a forfeiture of nature 4. The mournful nature of the occasion is aurally reinforced by the a. ticking of the clocks b. ringing of the telephone c. baying of the dog d. music from a piano e. droning of the aeroplanes 5. The third stanza differs MOST from the other stanzas in a. subject b. tone c. perspective d. rhyme e. figurative language

    21. 6. Of the following, which BEST describes the nature of the contrast between the first the fourth stanzas? a. activity and inertia b. sound to light c. temporal to cosmic d. mourning to celebration e. secular to spiritual 7. The word which best describes the speaker’s feelings for his now-dead friend would be a. platonic b. collegial c. fraternal d. distant e. reverential 8. All of the following are used as metaphors in the poem EXCEPT: a. a musical instrument b. a pad or billboard c. a compass d. a time of day e. a candle

    22. EXAMPLE 2 Poetry Explication Project Honors English

    23. Seamus Heaney(SHAY-muhs HEE-nee) April 1939- present

    24. Seamus Heaney: Life • Father owned and worked on a farm in Northern Ireland—rural lifestyle is where much of his poetry is grounded • Raised Catholic • Parents died an early death • Claims to have an inner tension inherited from his parents between speech and silence • His father was notably sparing of talk, his mother notably garrulous • Won Nobel Peace Prize in Literature in 1995 and taught at Harvard • Translated the epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf (2000) http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1995/heaney-bio.html

    25. Seamus Heaney: Historical Context • Witnessed American soldiers prep for Normandy invasion of 1944 • Subject matter includes that of modern Northern Ireland, its farms and cities beset with civil strife, its natural culture and language overrun by English rule. • Used his work to reflect upon violent political struggles that plagued Ireland http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/seamus-heaney

    26. “Blackberry-Picking” by Seamus Heaney Late August, given heavy rain and sun for a full week, the blackberries would ripen. At first, just one, a glossy purple clot among others, red, green, hard as a knot. You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet 5 like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger sent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots. 10 Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills we trekked and picked until the cans were full, until the tinkling bottom had been covered with green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered 15 with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's. We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre. But when the bath was filled we found a fur, A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache. The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush 20 the fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour. I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair that all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot. Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

    27. “Blackberry-Picking” Form • Form represents the retelling of a poignant memory—Tone shifts from stanza 1 to stanza 2 • Fresh blackberries in the first stanza • Indicate youth, innocence, hope, inexperience, sexuality with coming-of-age • Rotten blackberries in the second stanza • Indicate disappointment, reality, old age, knowledge • AABBCCDDEEFF rhyme scheme

    28. “Blackberry-Picking” POV/Speaker • Speaker uses first person POV, indicated he/she was a participant in the picking • “We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre” • Speaker also uses second person with “you,” making the reader feel as if he or she is along for the picking. • “You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet” • The speaker is a man looking back on the vivid days of his youth spent in the countryside. • The first few lines use verb tense indicating the past and that a memory will be shared “Late August, given heavy rain and sun for a full week, the blackberries would ripen.” • The last line indicates that the speaker is looking back on the past and reflecting “Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.”

    29. “Blackberry-Picking” Style TONE: tone shifts from innocent, nostalgic, and youthful in the first stanza to melancholic and disappointed in the second stanza as the blackberries rot to the speaker’s dismay DICTION: • lust, blood, thorns, wine, flesh, tongue, glutting, hoarding related to Biblical/Christian language and reminds reader of Adam and Eve, Christ’s sacrifice, tradition, and the seven deadly sins all associated with blackberry picking • Colors: purple, green, red indicate youth; grey in second stanza indicates old age SYNTAX: list of milk cans, pea tins, and jam pots; hayfields, cornfields, potato drills indicate plenty and create a rhythm CONNOTATION: words have both a Biblical and sexual connotation with words like “lust” and “flesh” IMAGERY: childhood memory is extremely vivid, using all five senses, with description of smells “stinking;” sights “rat-grey fungus;” touch “briars scratched; taste “flesh was sweet” –so poignant that it’s almost as if the act is being performed in front of the reader

    30. “Blackberry Picking” Device 1 Simile/Allusion “Our hands were peppered with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.” • “Bluebeard” is a French literary folk tale about a wealthy aristocrat with a blue beard who has been killing his wives and hiding their bodies in a locked room • Indicates the boys are guilty, like Bluebeard, but not him, thus the simile instead of metaphor • Hands sticky, like drying blood • Bluebeard “hoarded” his wives as the children “hoarded” the blackberries

    31. “Blackberry Picking” Device 2 Alliteration “Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.” “…big dark blobsburned…” • Repetition of the “b” consonant sound and other consonant sounds used many times • Alliteration brings the reader’s attention to a certain part of the text • The connotation of the “b” sound is playful and abrupt • The words “briars” and “bleached,” and “burned” indicate permanence

    32. “Blackberry Picking” Device 3 Simile “You at that first one and its flesh was sweet like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for picking” • This simile indicates that the blackberry has blood, and the picking leaves stains upon the child, creating a memory, just as a tattoo might leave a mark on the skin.

    33. “Blackberry Picking” Themes • Lust/Desire • Speaker longs for blackberries to stay fresh and young but is disappointed • “Lust for picking…we hoarded the fresh berries…” • Childhood vs. Adulthood • Speaker is nostalgic about the past but now realizes his past naïveté • A loss of innocence, moment of realization and disgust with reality—like a child who just found out that Santa isn’t real • Holding onto the Past • Speaker’s desire to keep the berries fresh is a metaphor for an attempt to freeze time; nature’s beauty doesn’t always endure the test of time • “Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.”

    34. Test Questions • Five test questions, which will be included on a final poetry test over all poems presented by classmates • Questions may be multiple choice, T/F, or short answer

    35. “The Century Quilt” by Marilyn Nelson Waniek My sister and I were in love with Meema’s Indian blanket. We fell asleep under army green issued to Daddy by supply. When Meema came to live with us 5 she brought her medicines, her cane, and the blanket I found on my sister’s bed the last time I visited her. I remembered how I’d planned to inherit that blanket, how we used to wrap ourselves 10 at play in its folds and be chieftains and princesses. Now I’ve found a quilt I’d like to die under; Six Van Dyke brown squares, 15 two white ones, and one square the yellowbrown of Mama’s cheeks. Each square holds a sweet gum leaf whose fingers I imagine would caress me into silence. 20 I think I’d have good dreams for a hundred years under this quilt, as Meema must have, under her blanket, dreamed she was a girl again in Kentucky among her yellow sisters, 25 their grandfather’s white family nodding at them when they met. When their father came home from his store they cranked up the pianola and all of the beautiful sisters 30 giggled and danced. She must have dreamed about Mama when the dancing was over: a lanky girl trailing after her father through his Oklahoma field. 35 Perhaps under this quilt I’d dream of myself, of my childhood miracles, of my father’s burnt umber pride, my mother’s ochre gentleness. 40 Within the dream of myself perhaps I’d meet my son or my other child, as yet unconceived. I’d call it The Century Quilt, after its pattern of leaves. 45