Workshop 2

Understanding Poetry

Learning to  understand poetry is not an exercise  in intellectual  heavy lifting as some would believe.

Poetry is an art form which encompasses a process . There is a process for writing it which we discussed at our last workshop and there is a process to reading and understanding which we will be covering today.

There are three components  to keep in mind, they are:

Subject

Tone

Narrative

 Subject is the idea that a poem concern itself with , it can take the form of:

Message with either intense or subtle meanings

Several  ideas mixed together

Hidden to the reader/listener

I find that in reading or listening to a poet  the perspective of the poet if  different from your own can make this component a challenge.

Tone: is the  attitude of a poem. This can also take on several forms.

In reading a poem look for the how the poet is dealing with the subject matter, if  listening look at how the poet is dealing with subject matter and her audience.

Attitude in my  opinion can be very visible  when reading it. I usually look at

the grammar used by the poet,

the size of  font

the shape that the poem takes on paper

When listening to a poet I look at:

–  Whether the poet is reading directly off the paper or has memorize the work

–   If  they have an explanation on what caused them to write the poem

–  Whether they make  eye contact with the audience while reading

– Whether the words and the body language match.

It is good to try and see a poets words written down as soon as possible after he reads. That way you can see if the hearing and the reading match your interpretation of  what  you thought the poet  was sharing.

Forms  that both tone and subject can take

Verbal Irony:

Is very common in poetry. It is when the poet says one thing when she means something else or  uses words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of  the words literal meaning.

       Two forms of verbal irony

      A. Understatement:

When  the a poet deliberately makes a situation seem less important or serious than it is.

-to state or present a subject with restraint especially for effect.

B. Overstatement:

When the poet deliberately makes describes a situation in exaggerated terms.

 

2 Situational Irony:

 

   involving a situation in which actions have an effect that is opposite from what was intended, so that the outcome is contrary to what was expected.

Two poems I would lie to share to emphasize these concept.

Resume, Ego Tripping

Resume’

   by Dorothy Parker

Razors pain you;

Rivers are damp;

Acids stain you;

And drugs cause cramp.

Guns aren’t lawful;

Nooses give;

Gas smells awful;

You might as well live.

Q&A

What is this a resume of?         What is this poem about? Suicide

 

Narrative:

a story or account of events, experiences, or the like, whether true or fictitious.

Speaker: person who speaks the words in a poem.  When reading a poem it should not be assumed that a poet is always the speaker in a poem. Sometimes this is not always obvious. When reading a poem always remember the speaker in a poem is the one relating a point of view from which they see the events that they are discussing.

Character:  the mental image we develop of a person(s) that is represented in the poem.

    Note: protagonist is the main character. This is the character to whom all the important events happen.

Setting: time, location, and physical environment in which poem takes place. This requires the reader to imagine these things as he reads. Sometimes they can be found right in the poem. Once identified a poem can be found to have more dimensions and can help the reader relate more to the perspective of the  speaker.

Situation: are the circumstances or state of affairs at a given moment in a poem. Or it can mean the circumstances a character finds himself in at a given moment.

Plot: refers to deeds and events in the story. This is organized toward a particular emotional or moral end.

Here the best way to identify situation and plot is to pay close attention to all aspects of the poem as you read. If clearly written and using other aspects of the narrative process you should be able to figure this out. This is the beauty and agony of  interpreting poetry, sometimes you can’t figure some of these aspects out without help from the poet himself.

As a publisher and poetry lover having read many a query and submissions for our contest I can tell you that these elements are crucial in having your written work reviewed and accepted during the submission process. The only difference is these elements must be refined and consistent.

Pick up any book of poems and read through it. If you have twenty poems and only a few have been developed with these concepts in mind the likelihood of becoming a favorite are slim .

Examples:

If –  Rudyard Kipling
IF you can keep your head when all about youAre losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings 
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
’ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

According to Kipling in his autobiography Something of Myself, posthumously published in 1937, the poem was inspired by Dr. Leander Starr Jameson, who in 1895 led a raid by British forces against the Boers in South Africa, subsequently called the Jameson Raid.[5] This defeat increased the tensions that ultimately led to the Second Boer War. Jameson’s life – and the connection to the poem – is covered in the book The If Man.

Metaphor:

Which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something in common.

As a publisher and poetry lover having read many a query and submissions for our contest I can tell you that these elements are crucial in having your written work reviewed and accepted during the submission process. The only difference is these elements must be refined and consistent.

Pick up any book of poems and read through it. If you have twenty poems and only a few have been developed with these concepts in mind the likelihood of becoming a favorite are slim .

Examples:

Chester reading his poem

Exercise :  Give different poems to audience have them look over then read and discuss at front of the room.

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Workshop 2

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