USE THE QUESTION BELOW AS A GUIDE WHEN RESPONDING TO THE POEMS( READ AND RESPOND TO ALL THE POEMS SEPARATELY) just use few of the question below not all.
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for Reading and Responding to Poetry
One of the main things I learned
about reading poetry when I was a freshman in college was to look up words that
seemed unfamiliar or important—even words that I thought I knew. Poets often
use words that have double meanings or that add intensity to a thought. Poetry
is about “words,” as much as rhyme and meter. Blake’s use of the word
“appall” comes to mind. It means to dismay or horrify, and could also
mean (if made into two words–a pall) the cloth spread over a coffin or tomb.
are the questions for a personal response to the poetry:
- What did you
like about the poem?
- What didn’t you
- Do you relate to
the poem personally? In what way?
- What are your
- What did you
learn from the poem? (This could be something factual or historical, or it
could be something you learned about life in general.)
- Would you read
this poem to a friend? Why?
- How does the
poem reflect the poet’s philosophical beliefs?
- How does the
poem relate to the poet’s life?
- What words did
you look up as you were reading the poem? Be sure to include
1-10 come directly from Writing Essays about Literature (6th edition) by
Kelley Griffith (Harcourt 2002). You do not need to answer all of the
1. Who is
characterizes the speaker? (What kind of person is the speaker?)
3. To whom
is he or she speaking?
4. What is
the speaker’s tone?
5. What is
his or her emotional state?
6. Why is
he or she speaking?
situation is being described?
are the conflicts or tensions in this situation
9. How is
setting–social situation, physical place, and time–important to the speaker?
ideas is the speaker communicating?
figures of speech does the poet use?
does the poet use rhyme and rhythm?
allusions does the poet use? How do these affect your understanding of the
This is a wonderful discussion about how to read a poem by
Edward Hirsch, Houston poet, from the Academy of American Poets website
Here are the questions he includes.
Talking Back to a Poem
It would be convenient if there were a short list of
universal questions, ones that could be used anytime with any poem. 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:
Who is the
gave rise to the poem?
What situation is
Who or what is the
What is the tone?
What form, if any,
does the poem take?
How is form related
Is sound an
important, active element of the poem?
Does the poem spring
from an identifiable historical moment?
Does the poem speak
from a specific culture?
Does the poem have
its own vernacular?
Does the poem use
imagery to achieve a particular effect?
What kind of
figurative language, if any, does the poem use?
If the poem is a
question, what is the answer?
If the poem is an
answer, what is the question?
What does the title
Does the poem use unusual
words or use words in an unusual way?
The sky, lazily disdaining to
The setting sun, too indolent to
A lengthened tournament for
Passively darkness for night’s barbecue,
A feast of moon and men and barking hounds,
An orgy for some genius of the south
With blood-hot eyes and cane-lipped scented mouth,
Surprised in making folk-songs from soul sounds.
The sawmill blows its whistle, buzz-saws stop,
And silence breaks the bud of knoll and hill,
Soft setting pollen where plowed lands fulfill
Their early promise of a bumper crop.
Smoke from the pyramidal sawdust pile
Curls up, blue ghost of trees, tarrying low
Where only chips and stumps are left to show
The solid proof of former domicile.
Meanwhile, the men, with vestiges of pomp,
Race memories of king and caravan,
High –priests, an ostrich , and a juju-man,
Go singing through the footpaths of the swamp.
Their voices rise…. the pine trees are guitars,
Strumming, pine-needles fall like sheets of rain….
Their voices rise.. the chorus of the cane
Is caroling a vesper to the stars…….
O singers, resinous and soft your songs
Above the sacred whisper of the pines,
Give virgin lips to cornfield concubines,
Bring dreams of Christ to dusky cane-lipped throngs.