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FIVE POEMS. ELA 30-1. the poems. Guilt – Leona Gom. your mother giving you a set of dishes and all you said was but I move around so much and you can never forget her hurt face turning away. the best friend you accused of flirting with your boyfriend when

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five poems


ELA 30-1

guilt leona gom
Guilt – Leona Gom

your mother giving you a set of dishes

and all you said was but I move around

so much and you can never forget

her hurt face turning away.

the best friend you accused of

flirting with your boyfriend when

all the time you knew it was him

you just couldn’t face it.

the argument with your father about

not having seen his damned magazine

then finding it in your room

and never admitting it.

telling your office mate you

agreed with her motion then

voting with the others after all.

thousands of them, little knots

you can’t shake loose from your memory

it’s too late now to say you’re sorry.

they contract along your nerves

to consciousness, whenever you think

you are not a bad person, there

they come, little lumps of guilt

making their daily rounds,

like doctors, keeping you sick.

guilt leona gom1
“Guilt” – Leona Gom
  • 1. What are the sources of the narrator’s guilt?
  • 2. Explain the significance of the poem’s title.
  • 3. What metaphors does Gom use to describe guilt in stanza two of her poem? Why do you think the author chose these metaphors?
field of vision seamus heaney
Field of Vision – Seamus Heaney

I remember this woman who sat for years

In a wheelchair, looking straight ahead

Out the window at sycamore trees unleafing

And leafing at the far end of the lane.

Straight out past the RV in the corner,

The stunted, agitated hawthorn bush,

The same small calves with their backs to wind and rain,

The same acre of ragwort, the same mountain.

She was steadfast as the big window itself.

Her brow was clear as the chrome bits of the chair.

She never lamented once and she never

Carried a spare ounce of emotional weight.

Face to face with her was an education

Of the sort you got across a well-braced gate –

One of those lean, clean, iron, roadside ones

Between two whitewashed pillars, where you could see

Deeper into the country than you expected

And discovered that the field behind the hedge

Grew more distinctly strange as you kept standing

Focused and drawn in by what barred the way.

where there s a wall joy kogawa
Where There’s a Wall – Joy Kogawa

Where there’s a wall

there’s a way through a

gate or door. There’s even

a ladder perhaps and a

sentinel who sometimes sleeps.

There are secret passwords you

can overhear. There are methods

of torture for extracting clues

to maps of underground passages.

There are zeppelins, helicopters,

rockets, bombs, battering rams,

armies with trumpets whose

all at once blast shatters

the foundations.

Where there’s a wall there are

words to whisper by loose bricks,

wailing prayers to utter, birds

to carry messages taped to their feet.

There are letters to be written –

poems even.

Faint as in a dream

is the voice that calls

from the belly

of the wall.

field of vision seamus heaney where there s a wall joy kogawa
“Field of Vision” – Seamus Heaney“Where There’s a Wall” – Joy Kogawa
  • 1. After a close reading of both poems, explain the thematic connection between the two. Refer to specific evidence from the poems to support your interpretation.
  • 2. Analyze the significance of each poem’s title. Support your analysis with reference to the poems.
heaney and kogawa continued
Heaney and Kogawacontinued
  • 3. Kogawa employs parallel structure and repetition of “Where there’s a wall” and “there’s” or “there are” in her poem. What might her purpose be in repeating “Where there’s a wall” only twice, while following these lines with seven phrases beginning with “there is” or “there are”?
  • 4. a) What techniques does Heaney use in his poem to create the sense of time passing slowly?
  • b) What kind of diction and imagery does Heaney use to describe the woman who is the protagonist of his poem? What can you infer about the woman from the diction and imagery?
the uninvited dorothy livesay
The Uninvited – Dorothy Livesay

Always a third one’s there

where any two are walking out

along a river-bank so mirror-still

sheathed in sheets of sky

pillows of cloud --

their footprints crunch the hardening earth

their eyes delight in trees stripped clean


with only the rose-hips red

and the plump fingers of sumach

And always between the two

(scuffing the leaves, laughing

and fingers locked)

goes a third lover his or hers

who walked this way with one or other once

flung back the head snapped branches of dark pine

in armfuls before snowfall

I walk beside you


a shadow’s shade

skating on silver


another voice

singing under ice

the uninvited dorothy livesay1
“The Uninvited” – Dorothy Livesay
  • 1. a) Who are “the uninvited”? What other nouns and adjectives are used in the poem to describe “the uninvited”? What impression do these words create?
  • b) Why are the uninvited “always” there?
  • 2. To whom does the pronoun “their” in “their footprints” (line 6) and in “their eyes” (line 7) refer?
the uninvited continued
“The Uninvited” – continued
  • 3. a) The narrator uses third-person pronouns in stanzas one and two, but in stanza three, she switches to the first-person pronoun and point of view. The reader then realizes that all along, she was describing a personal situation. Identify the third-person pronouns in stanzas one and two. What is the effect of having a narrator describe her own situation from the third-person point of view?
  • b) What does the switch to the first-person pronouns in the last stanza reveal about the narrator?
the uninvited still continued
“The Uninvited” – still continued
  • 4. a) How does Livesay create a sense of mystery at the beginning of the poem?
  • b) The dash at the end of the fifth line in the poem can be seen as a kind of turning point. How do the words and images before this point compare with those following it? Explain how this change foreshadows the ending of the poem.
  • 5. What is the theme of this poem?
refugee mother and child chinua achebe
Refugee Mother and Child – Chinua Achebe

No Madonna and Child could touch

that picture of a mother’s tenderness

for a son she soon would have to forget.

The air was heavy with odours

of diarrhoea of unwashed children

with washed-out ribs and dried-up

bottoms struggling in laboured

steps behind blown empty bellies. Most

mothers there had long ceased

to care but not this one; she held

a ghost smile between her teeth

and in her eyes the ghost of a mother’s

pride as she combed the rust-coloured

hair left on his skull and then –

singing in her eyes – began carefully

to part it . . . In another life this

would have been a little daily

act of no consequence before his

breakfast and school; now she

did it like putting flowers

on a tiny grave.

refugee mother and child chinua achebe1
"Refugee Mother and Child" - Chinua Achebe
  • 1. What images in this poem suggest death? How does the poet create images of life to imply a sense of life-in-death?
  • 2. Explore the connotations of the reference to the Madonna and Child. What emotions might the two images of motherhood share?
  • 3. What is the effect of the absence of sound in the poem? Given this absence, what might the image “singing in her eyes” mean?
madonna and child c 1503 raphael
"Madonna and Child" c.1503 – Raphael
  • In some forms of Christianity, the Madonna is the sacred representation of the archetypal female experience of motherhood. The allusion in the poem carries the idea of reverence for maternal devotion. The mother wistfully cares for “a son she soon would have to forget” because the child will die.
  • Artistic representations of the Christian Madonna usually show her in contemplative poses suggesting stillness and sorrow at the foreknowledge of her child’s death. The African mother and the Christian Madonna share the sheltering, sustaining emotions of motherhood and the sorrow in the inevitable loss of a child. By suggesting a kinship between the mother and the Madonna, the speaker enlarges the frame of reference in order to convey the fortitude of the suffering mother, linking her to a representation of motherhood itself.
refugee mother and child continued
"Refugee Mother and Child" - continued
  • 4. In the first and last sentences of the poem, the speaker implies a commentary on the scene he or she is describing. What values and attitudes lie behind the speaker’s responses to seeing this mother and her child? What responses do the speaker’s comments evoke from the reader?