English 110AP/ Wong QUESTIONS FOR WRITING ABOUT POETRY The following questions can help you respond to important elements that reveal a poem’s effects and meanings. The questions are general, so not all of them will necessarily be relevant to a particular poem. Many, however, should prove useful for thinking, talking, and writing about poetry. Before addressing these questions, read the poem you are studying in its entirety. Don’t worry about interpretation on a first reading; allow yourself the pleasure of enjoying whatever makes itself apparent to you. Next try to paraphrase the poem to determine whether you understand what happens in it. Try to get a sense of who is speaking and what the setting or situation is. Then on subsequent readings, use the questions to understand and appreciate how the poem works. Use these questions as a means to explore the meaning(s) of the poem. 1) Who is the speaker? What does the poem reveal about the speaker’s character (i.e., age, sex, sensibilities, values, etc.)? How do you know? 2) Is the speaker addressing anyone in particular? If so, who, and why is the speaker interested in him/her? How do you know? 3) How do you respond to the speaker? Favorably? Negatively? Are there any special circumstances that inform what the speaker says? 4) Is there a specific time or place? How do you know? If past events are being recalled, what present meaning do they have for the speaker? 5) What does the title emphasize or suggest? 6) What are the themes or issues addressed in the poem? Are they presented directly or indirectly? 7) How does the figurative language contribute to the poem’s vividness and meaning? More specifically, do any objects, persons, places, events, or actions have allegorical or symbolic meanings? (Allegory—“A narration or description usually restricted to a single meaning because of its specific events, actions, characters, settings, and objects represent specific abstractions or ideas.” Symbol—“ A person, object, image, word, or event that evokes a range of additional meaning beyond and usually more abstract than its literal significance.”) If so, which, and what might they mean? 8) Do any allusions enrich the poem’s meaning? (“A brief reference to a person, place, thing, event, or idea in history or literature. Allusions conjure up biblical adapted from Michael Meyer’s Thinking and Writing about Literature authority, scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, historic figures, wars, great love stories, and anything else that might enrich an author’s work. Allusions imply reading and cultural experiences shared by the writer and reader, functioning as a kind of shorthand whereby the recalling of something outside the work supplies an emotional or intellectual context…” If so, which, and what function do they serve? 9) How does the diction reveal meaning? For instance, are any words repeated? Do any carry evocative connotative meanings? Are there any puns or other forms of verbal wit? Which and what do they suggest? 10) What is the tone of the poem? Is the tone consistent? 11) Is irony used? (“Irony is a literary device that uses contradictory statements or situations or reality that is different from what appears to be true. For example, it is ironic for a firehouse to burn down, or for a police station to be burglarized.”) If so, what function do they serve? 12) What sounds are repeated? Is there a rhyme scheme? If there are rhymes, what are their effects? Do they seem forced or natural? Do the rhymes contribute to the poem’s meaning? 13) Does the poem’s form—its overall structure—follow an established pattern? Do you think the form is a suitable vehicle for the poem’s meaning and effects? 14) Did you enjoy the poem? What, specifically, pleased or displeased you about what was expressed and how it was expressed? 15) How might biographical information about the author help to determine the central concerns of the poem? 16) How might historical information about the poem provide a useful context for interpretation? 17) To what extent do your own experiences, values, beliefs, and assumptions inform your interpretation? 18) What kinds of evidence from the poem are you focusing on to support your interpretation? Does your interpretation leave out any important elements that might undercut or qualify your interpretation?
Pages to are hidden for
"English 110AP/ Wong"Please download to view full document