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Explicating Poetry


Explicating Poetry For reading and writing! – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Date added: 30 December 2019
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Title: Explicating Poetry

Explicating Poetry
  • For reading and writing!

Poetry is like both Fiction Drama
  • Consider the poem as a dramatic situation in
    which a speaker addresses an audience or another

When planning to write a poem...
Determine the basic design of the poem by
considering the
Who? Who is speaking, to whom, about whom?
What? What is the subject?
When? When is it set? When does the main action
Where? Where does the main action occur? Where is
it set?

Why? Why does the speaker feel compelled to
  • s of the dramatic situation.

  • What will the title contribute to the reader's
    understanding of the poem?
  • Will you write the title first or after the text
    of the poem is finished?

  • In fiction, the voice telling the story is called
    the narrator. In poetry, this person is the
  • The speaker is NOT the poet.
  • Just as a novelist creates a character to
    narrate, a poet creates a character to be the
    speaker, and that character is called the
  • Some poems have multiple voices which feature
    more than one speaker. Sometimes these
    multi-speaker poems present a dialogue among

Who is the Speaker?
As you begin to write your poem, consider whose
voice will speak. Determine the speakers
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Values
  • Sensibilities
  • Consistency throughout
  • Reliability
  • Sincerity
  • Level of awareness
  • Vantage point Is the speaker
  • actively participating?
  • Observing? Moving or standing still?
  • Speaking from a position of power or weakness?
  • Reflecting upon a past event?
  • Fantasizing? Imagining the future?

The Greek word "persona" means mask. Assuming the
voice of a historical or imagined figure in a
poem can free the writer. However, be careful
with personas don't make the identity of your
speaker too mysterious. Make sure that the
reader can determine the speakers identity.
Mirror by Sylvia Plath
  • Example of Persona

Mirror by Sylvia Plath
I am silver
and exact.
I have no preconceptions. Whatever I see, I
swallow immediately. Just as it is, unmisted by
love or dislike I am not cruel, only truthful
The eye of a little god, four-cornered. Most of
the time I meditate on the opposite wall. It is
pink, with speckles.
I have looked at it so long I think
it is a part of my heart.
But it flickers. Faces and darkness separate
us over and over.
  • By creating a persona, the poet imagines what
    it is like to enter someone else's personality.

  • Mirror (contd)
    Now I am
    a lake.

    A woman bends over me, Searching my
    reaches for what she really is. Then she turns to
    those liars, the candles or the moon. I see her
    back, and reflect it faithfully. She rewards me
    with tears and an agitation of hands. I am
    important to her. She comes and goes. Each
    morning it is her face that replaces the
    darkness. In me she has drowned a young girl, and
    in me an old woman Rises toward her day after
    day, like a terrible fish.

The Speaker in Mirror
  • The title of Sylvia Plath's "Mirror" reveals the
    speaker's identity. (Remember the importance of
  • In Mirror, Plath employs a persona by taking on
    the voice of a mirror. A mirror that later
    changes into a lake is the speaker.
  • Plath gives an inanimate object--in this case a
    glass mirror--the human capacity for speech. From
    this unexpected first-person perspective, we
    learn a great deal about an everyday object that
    we might otherwise take for granted.
  • Although it is personified, the mirror claims for
    itself a kind of nonjudgmental and unemotional
    character that human beings lack. It announces in
    the first line of the poem, "I am silver and
    exact. I have no preconceptions."
  • Later, as a lake, a more animated entity, the
    speaker reveals more about the subjectthe woman
    who fears growing old.
  • Source  Jeannine Johnson, in an overview of
    "Mirror," in Poetry for Students, Gale, 1997.

  • Audience the person or people whom the speaker
    is addressing. 
  • Identifying the audience within a poem helps you
    to understand the poem better.

  • Speakers address many types of audiences
  • The speaker can address a specific person by name
    or position. (Look for the word you.)
  • The speaker can address a character who is not
    present, dead, or that cannot possibly respond
    (like a flower or a city) which is called

Readers General Audiences
  • The speaker can also address the
  • reader as audience
  • a general reader - audience
  • Or
  • specialized reader - audience

Readers General Audiences
  • a general reader audience When addressing a
    general reader-audience, the speaker has no
    specific target group in mind.
  • specialized reader audience When addressing a
    more specialized reader-audience, the speaker
    assumes the reader has some particular knowledge,
    common concern, bias, shared ideology, level of
    education or literary familiarity etc...
  • For example, mentioning some passages from the
    Bhagavad-Gita would indicate an expectation that
    the audience is at least vaguely familiar with
    Indian culture and religion.

The Speakers Motivation
  • What is the situation being presented?
  • What compels the speaker to express him/herself
    to the audience?
  • What has happened in the past, or what is
    happening in the present, that has brought about
    the speech/poem?

Subject vs. Theme
  • Do you plan to present an object, place,
    situation that has a deeper meaning?
  • For example, you may want to discuss life as a
    journey, a travel down a highway. You may be
    hitchhiking through life or picking up
    hitchhikers as you go.
  • Your subject is traveling roads
  • Your theme is the journey/adventure of life

A Poems Words
  • The language of a poem is vital.
  • Poets choose each word deliberately.
  • In poetry, each word counts!
  • There are no extra or wasted words.

A Poems Words
  • Diction or Word Choice 
  • What type of language will you use colloquial,
    formal, simple, unusual, slang, dialect?
  • What moods or attitudes do you want the reader to
    associate with the words you select?
  • Which words do you want to stand out for the

Imagery appeal to the 5 senses
"Imagery is best defined as the total sensory
suggestion of poetry" (John Ciardi, World Book
Dictionary def. of "Imagery.")
  • Images are very concrete "word pictures" having
    to do with the five senses--touch, smell, taste,
    sound, movement, and especially sight.
  • Imagery allows readers to experience
    ideas vividly.
  • When writing a poem, consider which mental images
    you want to present.
  • Start with VISUAL images then consider
    all physical sensations--sounds, tastes, smells
    and so on. What ideas do these different images
    imply--what connotations do these images have?

Imagery adds to the readers experience in
reading your poem
  • For example, if a poet compares something to a
    ship, the reader might think about
  • what ships look like
  • what it feels like to be on a ship
  • how ships move
  • where they go
  • sights, sounds, smells and sensations associated
    with ships

Imagery Poems
  • Note the use of
  • speaker imagery

You fit into me by Margaret Atwood
  • (Note the use of symbol and imagery)
  • You fit into me like a hook into an eye
  • A fish hook An open eye

The imagery makes the audience shudder...
  • Atwood uses imagery to describe the speaker's
  • She uses a common hook and eye, like what one
    would find on a dress (or lingerie), to
    illustrate compatibility, but then we have a
    contrasting image The lines "a fish hook/ An
    open eye"(3,4), show how this would be a helpless
    relationship in which the partners injured one
  • The hook and eye in the first lines present a
    positive imagebinding, holding...(note the
    sexual connotations). However, lines 3 4 reveal
    painful imagery.
  • The imagery, more than anything else, conveys the
    poems meaning.

This Is Just to Say (imagery tone) by
William Carlos Williams
  • I have eaten the plums that were in the
    icebox and which you were probably saving for
    breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so
    sweet and so cold

In a Station of the Metro by Ezra Pound (note
importance of title)
  • The apparition of these faces in the crowd 
  • Petals on a wet, black bough.

Coming soon Figures of Speech
  • End of presentation
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