Read the poem out loud. The landscape was not innocent of political struggle. This act of completion begins when you enter the imaginative play of a poem, bringing to it your experience and point of view. Read in a normal, relaxed tone of voice. The best poetry has a magical quality—a sense of being more than the sum of its parts—and even when it’s impossible to articulate this sense, this something more, the power of the poem is left undiminished. Some of this attitude comes from the misconception that we should understand a poem after we first read it, while some stems from sheer embarrassment. Is there a cluster of sounds that seem the same or similar? William Carlos Williams wrote a verse addressed to his wife in the poem "January Morning,": All this— was for you, old woman. Haiku meditate on an aspect of nature. Don’t rush. The first is assuming that they should understand what they encounter on the first reading, and if they don’t, that something is wrong with them or with the poem. There may be no identifiable occasion that inspired the poem. Williams admits in these lines that poetry is often difficult. Reason? But many poets who break lines disregarding grammatical units do so only for visual irony, something that may be lost in performance. 3. Does the poem spring from an identifiable historical moment? Literature is, and has always been, the sharing of experience, the pooling of human understanding about living, loving, and dying. From Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends to Sylvia Plath’s The Bed Book , many well-renowned poets have written works with young readers as their primary audience. Read a poem with a pencil in your hand. His halting, hesitant, breathless style is immediately recognizable, and it presents writers with new ideas about meaning, purely through lineation. If it speaks to you, that's great. Poets design their poems to be read aloud. Try these tips for reading poetry out loud: Read silently first. You’ll have to do some work, hard work in some cases, but most of the time, the trails are there for you to discover. But what if the lines aren’t metrical? Reading to the end of a phrase or sentence, even if it carries over one or several lines, is the best way to retain the grammatical sense of a poem. I understand, she wrote, why someone would write La Raza on the side of a building, or on public transport. In the absence of such a list, here are a few general questions that you might ask when approaching a poem for the first time: You can fall back on these questions as needed, but experience suggests that since each poem is unique, such questions will not go the necessary distance. The amount of information needed to clearly understand depends on you and your encounter with the poem. The idea of finding handholds and footholds and ascending one bit at a time is apt. Pause for emphasis. Later on it will become the fat tomatoes and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table. Poetry demands surrender, The same is true of poems. Forcing yourself to read all of them will leave you with a much deeper appreciation and … If a poem is vague or very short, a title can explain what it’s about without it needing to be stated within the poem itself. You may find images appearing in your mind's eye that are only indirectly related to … The best way to discover and learn about a poem is through shared inquiry discussion. What questions does it raise? Ask even some excellent players to improvise and they start to sweat. Read them when you're wide awake in the early morning, fully alert. This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels. Title. It does depend one which poem and sometimes even which poet. Playing or listening to a song for the hundredth time—if it is a great song—will yield new interpretation and discovery. What kind of figurative language, if any, does the poem use? Sometimes the arrangements of words on a page are intended to represent different voices in a dialogue, or even a more complex discourse on a subject. A poem might start as a snippet of a verse, a line or two that seems to come out of nowhere, or an image you cannot get out of your head. How to Read Poetry: The Process. Is there a section of the poem that seems to have a rhythm that’s distinct from the rest of the poem? I’ve collected my notes from my Literature classes, every poem we’ve ever read, and started reading it again. We want it to be predictable and easy to digest. Most readers make three false assumptions when addressing an unfamiliar poem. People chanted it, sang it, recited it — and they still do. You may enjoy an easy climb for a while, but you may also find that you want a bigger challenge. Poems speak to us in many ways. Treat a poem like dirt, humus rich and heavy from the garden. This site was built using the UW Theme | Privacy Notice | © 2020 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. For example, sonnets often talk about love. Consider these lines from Creeley’s poem "The Language": Reading the lines as written, as opposed to their grammatical relationship, yields some strange meanings. Circle important, or striking, or repeated words. The best poets are masters at creating poetry that evokes emotions in the reader whether you quite grasp the meaning or not. In fact, it’s often best to approach a poem without the kind of preconceived ideas that can accompany this kind of information. For further information you may wish to take the Writing Center workshop entitled Intro to Literary Analysis. 1. The basis for shared inquiry is close reading. A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis, Writing a Rhetorical Précis to Analyze Nonfiction Texts, Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics, Additional Resources for Grants and Proposal Writing, Writing Personal Statements for Ph.D. Programs, Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper, Advice for Students Writing Thank-You Notes to Donors, Writing for Social Media: A Guide for Academics. The repetition of similar words and phrases in the poem 2. To begin, read the poem aloud. For example, lines that end with punctuation, called end-stopped lines, are fairly simple. Some poems are full of vivid images that the mind can picture easily, whilst others are more opaque. Mark difficult or confusing words, lines, and passages. But lineation introduces another variable that some poets use to their advantage. Read the poem at least twice. Curiosity is a useful attitude, especially when it’s free of preconceived ideas about what poetry is or should be. Embracing ambiguity is a much harder task for some than for others. Read that way, too, on a literal level first. Reading poetry well is part attitude and part technique. Aesthetically, this is understandable. The type of poem it is will give you huge clues to what it’s doing. My hunch is that the act of reading poetry is where many folks get stopped. Imagery is a literary device that’s a tangible description that appeals to one of the five … Reading poetry works the same way, and, fortunately, poets leave trails to help you look for the way "up" a poem. If the poem is an answer, what is the question? Poets may use several of these elements at the same time. Consider this situation, a true story, of a poet who found a "text" at the San Mateo coast in northern California. Successful poems welcome you in, revealing ideas that may not have been foremost in the writer’s mind in the moment of composition. Overlapping and layering might be the poet’s intent, which no single voice can achieve. Looking at the poem’s shape, you can see whether the lines are continuous or broken into groups (called stanzas), or how long the lines are, and so how dense, on a physical level, the poem is. Choose a poem. The second is assuming that the poem is a kind of code, that each detail corresponds to one, and only one, thing, and unless they can crack this code, they’ve missed the point. If the poem is a question, what is the answer? As you read through the poem make a note of any strong images that the words describe or convey. Ezra Pound says the poem ought to work on the level of a person for whom a hawk is simply a hawk. Hearing Creeley read his poems can often be disquieting, because he pauses at the end of each line, and these pauses create a kind of tension or counterpoint in relation to the poem’s sentence structure. Mark difficult or confusing words, lines, and passages. The point, after all, is that text is mysterious. When the verse holds some message and meaning to a performer then it can be read … What if the lines are irregular? Feedback, questions or accessibility issues: firstname.lastname@example.org. Step 2: Identify the Title Hints of the Poem. We’ll now bring inquiry to bear on two very different poems, each of which presents its own challenges: Some people say that a poem is always an independent work of art and that readers can make full sense of it without having to use any source outside the poem itself. with mother finally *****, and the last fantastic book flung out of the tenement window, and the last door closed at 4 A.M. and the last telephone slammed at the wall in reply and the last furnished room emptied down to the last piece of mental furniture, a yellow paper rose twisted on a wire hanger in the closet, and even that imaginary, nothing but a hopeful little bit of hallucination— This technique often introduces secondary meaning, sometimes in ironic contrast with the actual meaning of the complete grammatical phrase. "Locate I" seems to indicate a search for identity, and indeed it may, but the next line, which continues with "love you some-," seems to make a diminishing statement about a relationship. Do you notice any special effects? Maybe we’ve bought the book but we don’t own the poem. Poems are designed to be read aloud — you’ll get a better experience and understanding of the whole poem. Beat poet Allen Ginsbergdid this a lot with his poetry. The issue is our reaction, how we shape our thoughts through words. The title may give you some image or association to start with. Does the poem use unusual words or use words in an unusual way. This is because poems are made of words that accumulate new meanings over time. Poems generally convey a narrative, or describe feelings or objects. If it doesn't, move on. Do not assume meanings hidden from you: the best poems mean what they say and say it. We have to cultivate a new mindset, a new practice of enjoying the inconclusive. Note surprises and unfamiliar words. But lines that are not end-stopped present different challenges for readers because they either end with an incomplete phrase or sentence or they break before the first punctuation mark is reached. Before you get very far with a poem, you have to read it. As you read, jot down your first impressions, reactions, memories, personal experiences tied to it. To ask some of these questions, you’ll need to develop a good ear for the musical qualities of language, particularly how sound and rhythm relate to meaning. What circumstances gave rise to the poem? Effective technique directs your curiosity into asking questions, drawing you into a conversation with the poem. How poetry helps kids learn to read Poetry has always been a powerful medium for the world of children’s literature. Mark it up; write in the margins; react to it; get involved with it. Unpack what the poem is about. What is its purpose. is one of the rewards of any reading, and particularly the reading of poetry. You can also see whether it looks like the last poem you read by the same poet or even a poem by another poet. We wish the poem to be object so we can possess it through our "seeing" its internal workings. You can find inspiration for your poem by doing writing exercises and using the world around you. Think about the title and how it relates to the poem. Draw lines to connect related ideas. Other poems, however, overtly political poems in particular, will benefit from some knowledge of the poet’s life and times. Look at the poem’s title: What might this poem be about? Ask, finally, about the poem, “So what?” What does it do? To read poetry requires only courage enough to leap from the edge and trust. Emotions? But I know I have to do something. For what good is it to me if you can't understand it? Perhaps our lives are changing so fast that we long for stability somewhere, and because most of the reading we do is for instruction or information, we prefer it without shades of gray. These id… Look at the language, style, diction, punctuation, author’s intent, historical context and more to decipher what the poem means. Some magic, some satisfaction, some "Ahhh!" Where does the transformation, turn or “discovery” take place in this poem? What changes as a result? Reading a poem several ways allows you to see further into the poem simply through repetition. but you got to try hard—. But if the results seem to detract from the poem’s impact, in terms of its imagery or concept, drop the literal treatment of line breaks and read for grammar or visual image. That said, it can still be uncomfortable to read aloud or to make more than one pass through a poem. How to Read a Poem Poems can be read many ways. Despite the routine, the drone of familiarity, the daily preparation of meals and doing of dishes, the conversations we’ve had before, we hope to find a sense of discovery, of surprise. Poetry is in our bones. Some poets think of their words as music flowing from a horn; they think of phrases the way a saxophonist might. The observations and questions in the close reading notes are by no means complete, but a look over them suggests several possibilities for a paper. All the poems I ever read were handed down to me by my Literature professors, hence I know nothing much. Read the poem straight through without stopping to analyze it (aloud, if possible). Lines are often determined by meaning, sound and rhythm, breath, or typography. Read the poem again, this time aloud. Try a variety of methods. If you find more in a poem than the words alone convey, then something larger is at work, making the poem more than the sum of its parts. Looking at the poem’s shape, you can see whether the lines are continuous or broken into groups (called stanzas), or how long the lines are, and so how dense, on a physical level, the poem is. Draw lines to connect related ideas. But a poem that reveals itself completely in one or two readings will, over time, seem less of a poem than one that constantly reveals subtle recesses and previously unrecognized meanings. Sometimes the job of the poem is to come closer to saying what cannot be said in other forms of writing, to suggest an experience, idea, or feeling that you can know but not entirely express in any direct or literal way. Understanding what a poem means is critical for understanding how to read it aloud. I wanted to write a poem that you would understand. Not only does he do a great job of explaining poetics, he also fills the book with many great poems. Wit, word-play, unexpectedness of word and thought, depth of feeling, word-music, vivid images, the shape of the poem on the page, all bring me joy. Listen to your voice, to the sounds the words make. "I beg your pardon," she said. They may have a recognizable sense of measure, an equivalent duration between lines, or, for the sake of contrast, one rhythmic pattern or duration that gives way to successive variations. Then, one evening while reading the poem in Berkeley she got her answer. Remember that the use of these techniques, in any combination, pushes the words of the poem beyond their literal meanings. "Those fields," the man went on, "were where Chicanos had been virtually enslaved, beaten, and forced to live in squalor for decades." Don’t worry about why the poem might use these effects. • This will help you get a sense of how it sounds, how it works, what it might be about. Nothing scares some people like the idea (even the idea) of improvisation as a writing or analytical tool. 2. Treat line endings with care, pausing briefly […] Does the poem speak from a specific culture? However, the truth lies somewhere in between. The following steps describe one approach. 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