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How to Approach a Poem. After you read a poem, ask yourself: What is it saying? How can I paraphrase this/write it in my own words?

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After you read a poem, ask yourself: What is it saying? How can I paraphrase this/write it in my own words?

Wine comes in at the mouthAnd love comes in at the eye;That’s all we shall know for truthBefore we grow old and die.I lift the glass to my mouth,I look at you, and I sigh.

W.B. Yeats

  • Summary: The speaker is consuming alcohol and looking at a love interest. He seems to argue that, as one drinks, they begin to “love” the objects/individuals that they look at. Since we tend to “sigh” when we are discontent, we can assume that he will not pursue the love interest for some reason (or, if he does, he is not happy about it).
determine the speaker and audience
Determine the speaker and audience
  • The poet and the speaker are two completely separate voices (unless otherwise specified).

Wine comes in at the mouthAnd love comes in at the eye;That’s all we shall know for truthBefore we grow old and die.I lift the glass to my mouth,I look at you, and I sigh.

W.B. Yeats

  • The speaker is the one who is drinking and looking
  • The audience is “you,” the one being looked at
formal poetic terms
Formal Poetic Terms
  • Rhyme scheme: the pattern of rhyme (sound) at the end of lines
    • EX: Roses are red / Violets are blue / Sugar is sweet / And so are you
    • Each sound is assigned its own letter, so the rhyme scheme here is: ABCB (B = the “oo” sound)
  • Stanza: a group of lines separate from other (often similarly structured) groups of lines; a verse
    • Couplet, tercet, quatrain, etc.
elements that affect meter rhythm
Elements that Affect Meter (Rhythm)
  • Syllable: unit of pronunciation that has one vowel sound; forms the whole or part of a word
    • EX: “unit” (2 syllables), “of” (1 syllable), “pronunciation” (5 syllables)
  • Stress: emphasis on certain syllables and not others; creates rhythm
    • EX: A farmer will pro-DUCE carrots and sell them as PRO-duce.
  • Foot: a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables
    • EX: daDUM, DUMda, DUMDUM, dadaDUM, etc.
identifying tone
Identifying Tone
  • Tone: the attitude of the speaker toward the subject/audience; may be conveyed through choice of words
    • In W.B. Yeats example, “grow old and die” and “sigh” let me know that the speaker’s tone is discouraged
    • Common tone words: happy/sad/angry, excited/bored, optimistic/pessimistic, accusatory, warning, cynical, celebratory, etc.
literary devices
Literary Devices
  • Learn to identify any tools/devices that the poet/speaker is using and ask yourself: Why did the author choose to use this device? What effect does it have on the overall poem?
  • Figurative language: non-literal; alters the usual meaning of the words
    • EX: simile, metaphor, hyperbole, personification, etc.
more literary devices
More Literary Devices
  • Repetition: usually used to emphasize the meaning, theme, or main idea; helps reader remember/retain what poet/speaker considers most important
  • Alliteration: the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of closely connected words
    • EX: “Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, / Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before”
let s try it together
Let’s try it together!

Wild nights - Wild nights!

Were I with thee

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!

Futile - the winds -

To a Heart in port -

Done with the Compass -

Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden -

Ah - the Sea!

Might I but moor - tonight -

In thee!

Emily Dickinson