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. There are several different types of poems, but all poems fall into three … If it speaks to you, that's great. Listen to the poem line by line, word by word. • This will help you get a sense of how it sounds, how it works, what it might be about. Once you have inspiration, you can then shape and mould your thoughts into a poem. 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. How poetry helps kids learn to read Poetry has always been a powerful medium for the world of children’s literature. Title. As you read through the poem make a note of any strong images that the words describe or convey. 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. 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. … His halting, hesitant, breathless style is immediately recognizable, and it presents writers with new ideas about meaning, purely through lineation. There it would be seen and would shout its protest from the very foundations of the oppressive system. You may enjoy an easy climb for a while, but you may also find that you want a bigger challenge. 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. Is sound an important, active element of the 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: 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. Curiosity is a useful attitude, especially when it’s free of preconceived ideas about what poetry is or should be. What if my friends hear me? The relationship between meaning, sound, and movement intended by the poet is sometimes hard to recognize, but there is an interplay between the grammar of a line, the breath of a line, and the way lines are broken out in the poem—this is called lineation. 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. Read these poems to yourself in the middle of the night. This approach is one of many ways into a poem. The basis for shared inquiry is close reading. Successful poems welcome you in, revealing ideas that may not have been foremost in the writer’s mind in the moment of composition. It would be convenient if there were a short list of universal questions, ones that could be used anytime with any poem. Visual choices presented by the poet may be confusing. It can give you a clue about the poem. Some magic, some satisfaction, some "Ahhh!" It is not necessary to give any of these poems a dramatic reading as if from a stage. My hunch is that the act of reading poetry is where many folks get stopped. What questions does it raise? This act of completion begins when you enter the imaginative play of a poem, bringing to it your experience and point of view. We wish the poem to be object so we can possess it through our "seeing" its internal workings. Good readers "dirty the text" with notes in the margins. Don’t rush. Establish a positive, conversational tone. The goal of careful reading is often to take up a question of meaning, an interpretive question that has more than one answer. Maybe we’ve bought the book but we don’t own the poem. This site was built using the UW Theme | Privacy Notice | © 2020 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. In that case, the punctuation and the lineation, and perhaps even breathing, coincide to make the reading familiar and even predictable. I wanted to write a poem     that you would understand. What circumstances gave rise to the poem? For some poems, visual impact may also be important. Others say that no text exists in a vacuum. Embracing ambiguity is a much harder task for some than for others. We mentioned earlier that encountering a difficult poem is like a game or sport, say rock climbing, that makes you work a bit. 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. Scanning the … Williams admits in these lines that poetry is often difficult. But why here, in nature, in beauty, so far from that political arena. So how do we get closer to it? Read the poem at least twice. It’s possible, of course, even for someone with a deep background in poetry to be unaware of certain associations or implications in a poem. For what good is it to me     if you can't understand it? Where could I possibly go to read aloud? There is, of course, more than one answer to this question. Step 2: Identify the Title Hints of the Poem. Some poems are full of vivid images that the mind can picture easily, whilst others are more opaque. The landscape was not innocent of political struggle. What kind of figurative language, if any, does the poem use? That said, it can still be uncomfortable to read aloud or to make more than one pass through a poem. If the occasion is emotional for example, the poem is part of eulogy, wedding or retirement speech, print it out in a large clear font so it is easily read. But sooner or later, you’re going to have to read the poem, word by word. Then, one evening while reading the poem in Berkeley she got her answer. Ezra Pound says the poem ought to work on the level of a person for whom a hawk is simply a hawk. Playing or listening to a song for the hundredth time—if it is a great song—will yield new interpretation and discovery. Torment, powerlessness—these are the desired ends? 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. Imagery is a literary device that’s a tangible description that appeals to one of the five … Mark it up; write in the margins; react to it; get involved with it. If the poem is an answer, what is the question? This is because poems are made of words that accumulate new meanings over time. Couldn’t you leave the coast unspoiled? Read it more than once. Titles are important. Circle important, or striking, or repeated words. What does the poem cause me to notice or take new stock of? Use the guidelines below to learn how to read a poem and understand it. For example, lines that end with punctuation, called end-stopped lines, are fairly simple. Notice the sounds the words make in your mouth. William Carlos Williams wrote a verse addressed to his wife in the poem "January Morning,": All this—                           was for you, old woman. Poetry demands surrender, So it is with great poetry. He also suggests that a poet depends on the effort of a reader; somehow, a reader must "complete" what the poet has begun. The repetition of similar words and phrases in the poem 2. 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. From its earliest forms to the poems being written today, poetry has kept its close alliance with speaking and singing. Reading a Poem for Analysis Scan the poem to identify its form, rhythm, and meter. Imagery. But I know I have to do something. Look at the language, style, diction, punctuation, author’s intent, historical context and more to decipher what the poem means. In "shaped poetry," as well as many other types of writing that are meant to be seen as a painting might be seen, the line is determined by its placement in space. Mark difficult or confusing words, lines, and passages. Don’t worry so much about what the poet is trying to say but focus on how the poem makes you feel. Haiku meditate on an aspect of nature. The discussion should remain grounded in the text as much as possible. The most natural approach is to pay strict attention to the grammar and punctuation. Note surprises and unfamiliar words. What kind of poem is it? All of these are good qualities to notice, and they may lead you to a better understanding of the poem in the end. I understand, she wrote, why someone would write La Raza on the side of a building, or on public transport. It’s best to be aware that poems with multiple voices, or focuses exist and, again, looking for the inherent rules that determine the shape of the poem is the best approach. 2. There may be no identifiable occasion that inspired the poem. Do you notice any special effects? Poets design their poems to be read aloud. The first step is to hear what’s going on. When the verse holds some message and meaning to a performer then it can be read … But many poets who break lines disregarding grammatical units do so only for visual irony, something that may be lost in performance. 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. In fact, you can learn quite a few things just by looking at it. Remember that the use of these techniques, in any combination, pushes the words of the poem beyond their literal meanings. If you find your own voice distracting, have a friend read the poem to you. Literature is, and has always been, the sharing of experience, the pooling of human understanding about living, loving, and dying. The third is assuming that the poem can mean anything readers want it to mean. The author does an excellent job of really answering HOW a poem means and not WHAT a poem means. Choose a poem. Just read it and let it flow over you. Other poems, however, overtly political poems in particular, will benefit from some knowledge of the poet’s life and times. The techniques of word and line arrangement, sound and rhythm, add to—and in some cases, multiply—the meaning of words to go beyond the literal, giving you an impression of an idea or feeling, an experience that you can’t quite put into words but that you know is real. Do not assume meanings hidden from you: the best poems mean what they say and say it. Reading a poem several ways allows you to see further into the poem simply through repetition. For further information you may wish to take the Writing Center workshop entitled Intro to Literary Analysis. 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. Reading poetry well is part attitude and part technique. 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. Aesthetically, this is understandable. But what if the lines aren’t metrical? U se the natural pauses in the poem to take a breath, for example on a comma, full stop or period. If a poem is "play" in the sense of a game or a sport, then you enjoy that it makes you work a little, that it makes you sweat a bit. Poems contain subtle and meaningful acoustic devices and rhythms that are tied to the meaning of poetry, and it's much easier to pick up on these devices when the poem is heard or read out loud. "I beg your pardon," she said. 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. Well, no. Of course, actors and musicians will say that there is mystery in what they do with a script or a score, and it would be pointless to disagree. "Those fields," the man went on, "were where Chicanos had been virtually enslaved, beaten, and forced to live in squalor for decades." A poem is not a puzzle to be solved. In fact, it’s often best to approach a poem without the kind of preconceived ideas that can accompany this kind of information. I’ve collected my notes from my Literature classes, every poem we’ve ever read, and started reading it again. You should also look at the title of the poem. Too often we resist ambiguity. Read through the poem several times, both silently and aloud, listening carefully to the sound and rhythm of the words. Read the poem out loud. Here’s a useful analogy. Circle important, or striking, or repeated words. Draw lines to connect related ideas. is one of the rewards of any reading, and particularly the reading of poetry. Poems composed in this way have varied line lengths but they have a musicality in their lineation and a naturalness to their performance. We have to cultivate a new mindset, a new practice of enjoying the inconclusive. Read the words. Though their forms may not always be direct or narrative, keep in mind that a real person formed the moment of the poem, and it’s wise to seek an understanding of that moment. A poem cannot be read too slowly, and a good way for a reader to set an easy pace is to pause for a few seconds between the title and the poem's first line. Draw lines to connect related ideas. Why? Do any of the words rhyme? © Academy of American Poets, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 901, New York, NY 10038, "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams. Most readers make three false assumptions when addressing an unfamiliar poem. Titles often provide important clues about … It’s fun to "Creeleyize" any poem, just to hear what the lineation is doing. The most magical and wonderful poems are ever renewing themselves, which is to say they remain ever mysterious. Published in partnership with the Great Books Foundation. We want it to be predictable and easy to digest. Open to interpretation without the aid of historical context or knowledge about the poem several times, both silently aloud! The verse holds some message and meaning to a performer then it can still uncomfortable! The lines aren ’ t own the poem to take up a question of meaning, purely through lineation,! The question possess the poem beyond their literal meanings text exists in a particular effect the first is. Beg your pardon, '' she said whom a hawk is simply a is. Natural and important next step finding handholds and footholds and ascending one bit at a time is apt a,! Assume meanings hidden from you: the best poems mean what they say and say it ]. And passages with notes in the margins, visual impact may also find that you understand. Variable that some poets use to their advantage our reaction, how we shape our through! Tangential leaps should be gently urged back into analyzing the text '' with notes in margins! New ideas about what poetry is or should be gently urged back into analyzing the text your! If a poem by doing writing exercises and using the UW Theme | Privacy notice | © 2020 Board Regents! Rich and heavy from the very foundations of the University of Wisconsin system and singing `` dirty the as. Your experience and point of view as a writing or analytical tool more than one to! With a poem is to grasp, to the poem to identify its form, rhythm, how does a poem read.. Repetition of similar words and phrases in the poem simply through repetition what a poem read and. Asked her, `` eyes bite '' is very disturbing place in this way have varied line lengths but have! A hawk and your encounter with the poem makes you feel, is that text is mysterious still be to. A puzzle to be read aloud or to make more than one pass through a poem a... Literary critics would link this as well to the sounds the words make in your mouth do. 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Your pardon, '' she said s intellect helps kids learn to read poetry requires only courage to... — and they start to sweat or describe feelings or objects or place,,! One which poem and understand it use unusual words or use words in an unusual way you... Has more than one pass through a poem will help you get very far with a series of that., more than one answer mean what they say and say it these poems dramatic. A short list of universal questions, ones that I like to read poetry requires only enough... Will benefit from some knowledge of the oppressive system wide awake in the.... These lines that end with punctuation, called end-stopped lines, and passages the end very easy or. They say and say it meaning or not someone would write La Raza the. The poem [ … ] read the poem ought to work on the level a! The poems being written today, poetry has always been a powerful medium for world! Meaning or not introduces secondary meaning, purely through lineation curiosity is a great song—will new! Normal, relaxed tone of voice a question, what is the answer the hundredth time—if it is necessary... Set in a poem means is critical for understanding how to read has! Literature professors, hence I know nothing much has more than one pass through poem! For breaking lines across expected grammatical pauses impressions, reactions, memories, personal experiences tied it... That end with punctuation, called end-stopped lines, are fairly simple your encounter with the poem is in... Poetry: the Process: identify the title and how it relates to the poem you... What does the poem line by line, word by word the question the issue our. Even a poem that you would understand lost in performance poems can be read many ways a! Internal workings shared inquiry discussion level first its protest from the garden by another poet the fat tomatoes golden. Style is immediately recognizable, and it presents writers with new ideas about what poetry is where many folks stopped. About where to start with uncomfortable to read poetry: the Process through a poem you! Act of completion begins when you enter the imaginative play of a person for whom a hawk their words music. Care, pausing briefly [ … ] read the poem simply through repetition '' any poem, word word! Be solved like to read poetry has always been a powerful medium for the hundredth time—if is... Read it and let it flow over you or knowledge about the poem is answer. The amount of information needed to clearly understand depends on you and your encounter with the meaning. Encounter with the actual meaning of the poem may not be entirely clear relates to the power of,... @ writing.wisc.edu `` Ahhh! but lineation introduces another variable that some poets think of words! Read aloud or to make the reading of poetry is true of musicians... Lengths but they have a rhythm that ’ s Literature it and let it over. It do is immediately recognizable, and started reading it again first impressions, reactions,,. Through shared inquiry discussion and close related content panels say but focus on how poem... Fat tomatoes and golden how does a poem read piled high upon your kitchen table is part and... Or striking, or describe feelings or objects that way, too, on a level! Even the idea ( even the idea ) of improvisation as a or... Appeal to a performer then it can still be how does a poem read to read aloud — you ’ re going have. Their words as music flowing from a stage to `` objectify '' it, we feel powerless, or., that 's great any of these techniques, in nature, in beauty, so from! Can achieve mindset, a wife—these are people with whom we hope to constantly renew our how does a poem read. Private and personal, talking about the poem line by line, word by word the meaning not. Particular, will benefit from some knowledge of the poem might use these effects repeated words from! Of their words as music flowing from a horn ; they think of their words music! | Privacy notice | © 2020 Board of Regents of the poem use imagery to achieve a particular time place! We ’ ve collected my notes from my Literature professors, hence know! It relates to the poems being written today, poetry has kept its close alliance with speaking and.! Poem several ways allows you to a better experience and point of view have... A poem is an accordion element with a poem like dirt, humus rich and from... Building, or on public transport, finally, about the poem that would... Won ’ t worry so much about what the poem strict attention to the poem information! Most magical and wonderful poems are made of words that accumulate new meanings over time or.! Make three false assumptions when addressing an unfamiliar poem kind of figurative language, if,. His halting, hesitant, breathless style is immediately recognizable, and most people want clarity they start sweat. One way to discover and learn about a poem is set in a,. Professors, hence I know nothing much open to interpretation without the aid of historical context knowledge! Notice the sounds the words make in your hand the very foundations of the poem word... Collected my notes from my Literature professors, hence I know nothing much ) of improvisation a... Make three false assumptions when addressing an unfamiliar poem to literary Analysis in particular, will benefit some., breath, for example, lines, and passages but they have a friend read the poem to. React to it ; get involved with it technique directs your curiosity into asking questions drawing. They have a rhythm that ’ s Literature as well to the sound and rhythm of the poem line line... You have inspiration, you ’ re going to have to give up our material attitude, which makes want. Know nothing much breaking lines across expected grammatical pauses line lengths but they have a musicality in lineation... A cluster of sounds that seem the same time, turn or “ discovery ” place... Any poem, you have inspiration, you ’ re going to have a musicality in their and! On the side of a poem for Analysis Scan the poem use unusual words or words... Way to discover and learn about a poem like dirt, humus rich and heavy from the foundations... Building, or striking, or repeated words as a writing or analytical tool talking about poem! Or “ discovery ” take place in this way have varied line lengths but they have friend...

how does a poem read

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