WHAT IS POETRY ANYWAY?
• Meaning: what makes it poetry and not
• Answer: Canned Soup?
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.
How does it evoke that feeling?
• Word and line
• Sounds and rhythms
• Meanings of words
(literal and figurative
Examining a Poem
1. Before reading a poem there are a few things you
• Look at the title
• Examine its shape (lines, line breaks, and the way
lines are broken into groups= stanzas)
• And the length of lines (dense- on a physical level)
• Does it look like other poems by this writer?
Reading a Poem
• Before anything else, you gotta read it.
• Poetry is meant to be heard, so use your voice
and your ears!
How do you read a poem?
– But what if its not so obvious??
What if it’s not so obvious?
• End-stopped lineslines that end with
• Lineation- grammar,
breath, and line
• Reading to the end of
a line or following
What if I don’t have a good ear for this?
Tricks in punctuation marks
by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Examining 5. Sound/Form
Broken mid-clause (aka. enjambment)
End-stopped (pauses or caesuras)
First and last words
Traditional Forms (ballad, sestina, sonnet, etc.)
Here are a few general questions that you
might ask when approaching a poem for the
Who is the speaker?
What circumstances gave rise to the poem?
What situation is presented?
Who or what is the audience?
What is the tone?
What form, if any, does the poem take?
How is form related to content?
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?