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POETRY: Concise way of conveying meaning and emotion. A poem makes use of words and word
meanings, tone, speaker, figurative language, imagery, form and structure and musical devices such as
rhyme and rhythm. Poems can have a meaning or theme, or can convey a message or moral. Sometimes a
poem simply conveys an experience, rather than to deliver a message.

Narrative: Tells a story
Dramatic Poetry: Dramatizes action through dialogue or monologue
Lyric or Meditative: Expresses thoughts or emotions

SPEAKER, LISTENER, MOOD AND TONE: The speaker is the person who tells the poem. (Careful!
It may not be the poet!) The tone is the attitude the speaker takes towards the subject and characters in the
poem. Mood means atmosphere or the way the scene feels. Just as authors choose a point of view and a
tone, poets choose a speaker and a tone. Remember, too, the listener may not be YOU! In a love poem, for
example, the listener might be the speaker‘s beloved!

FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE: Language not intended to be interpreted literally. These include metaphor,
simile, personification, overstatement and understatement, and irony. These help to reinforce meaning and
image. ―She is very big,‖ doesn‘t have the impact of, ―She is a whale!‖

IMAGERY: Language that creates mental pictures or images that appeal to the senses. This helps to
make the feelings expressed in a poem tangible.

ALLUSION: References in a poem to other literature, historical events, the Bible, mythology or cultural
icons. This helps the poet convey ideas by allowing these known stories or images to ―carry weight.‖ For
example, if a poem contains a reference to Moses and Egypt, the idea of freedom from slavery is supported
by very few words.

MUSICAL DEVICES: Rhythm, repetition, rhyme, alliteration, assonance, consonance, and
onomatopoeia. Used to reinforce ideas and create a medium for memory… The poem, like a song, lingers
in your brain with a bit of rhythm and refrain.

FORMS: The structure of the poem. This can be used to help convey emotion and intent of a poem.

THEME OR MEANING: Insight, experience, or idea about life conveyed in a poem.

                                      TO UNDERSTAND POETRY

        Carefully read the title! What does it tell you?
        Figure out who the speaker is, and what the tone is.
        Think about the imagery. What does it make you see or feel?
        Find out the meanings of words and allusions.
        What is meant figuratively? What is meant literally?
        Listen to the music for mood and tone.
        Paraphrase – put the poem in your own words.
        If it‘s a narrative poem, see if you can tell what happens.

NAME                                                           PERIOD                     DATE
Poetry Unit Questions

A. STATE THE PURPOSE of each poem before you begin the questions! Use at least two examples
    to illustrate each one of your answers!

When in Rome, by Mari Evans

1)   Is this poem dramatic, lyric or narrative?
2)   Give two examples from the poem that show the attitude of the first speaker. (6 points)
3)   Give two examples from the poem that show the attitude of the second speaker. (6 points)
4)   Why are the second speaker‘s words in parentheses?
5)   Is there an example of overstatement or exaggeration? What is it?

When in Rome                                                                    by Mari Evans

Mattie dear
the box is full
Take care, whatever you like
to eat
                   (an egg
                    or soup
                   …there ain‘t no meat.)
there‘s endive there
cottage cheese
                   (whew! if I had some
                   black-eyed peas…)
there‘s sardines
on the shelves
and such
get my anchovies
they cost
too much!
                   (me get the
                   anchovies indeed!
                   what she think, she got—
                   a bird to feed?)
there‘s plenty in there
to fill you up.
                   (yes‘m. just the

                  Hope I lives till I get
                  I‘m tired of eatin‘
                  what they eats in Rome…)

There Will Come Soft Rains, by Sara Teasdale

1)   What is the tone of this poem? Give examples of words or phrases that help define the tone.
2)   What is the mood of this poem? Give examples of assonance and imagery that help establish mood.
3)   Give two examples of alliteration work to convey the mood of the poem.
4)   Give one example of personification and explain how it adds to the purpose of the poem. (Last stanza.)

There will come soft rains                                             Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound:

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

maggie and milly and molly and may                                     e.e. cummings (1894-1962)

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn‘t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it‘s always ourselves we find in the sea

To a Daughter Leaving Home, by Linda Pastan

1)   What is the main setting of the poem? Is there a secondary setting?
2)   Explain what happens in the poem.
3)   How does verb tense convey the meaning of the poem?
4)   Find examples of things that might be symbols, and explain their figurative meanings.
5)   Explain how metaphor and simile also convey emotion and purpose.
6)   To what extent is the poem is an extended metaphor? (poetic conceit) For what?

To a Daughter Leaving Home                                             Linda Pastan (b. 1932)

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance,
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving

The Red Wheelbarrow                                           William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

                  so much depends

                  a red wheel

                  glazed with rain

                  beside the white

My Papa’s Waltz, by Theodore Roethke

1) Find figurative expressions that tell you something about the boy and the mother. Explain.
2) Who is the speaker of the poem? How does this point of view make the poem more meaningful?
   (Dramatic irony)
3) The imagery in this poem describes the father‘s palms as caked hard by dirt and his hand as battered
   on one knuckle. What does this suggest about how the father spends his day? Find other images that
   tell you about the father.
4) Using textual support, describe the relationships between the father, the boy and the mother. (Find
   phrases that supports your inference about their relationships.)

My Papa’s Waltz                                                       Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)

The whiskey on your breath                                                     1
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans                                                       5
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother‘s countenance
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;                                                   10
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt.
Then waltzed me off to bed                                                     15
Still clinging to your shirt.

Blackberry Sweet, by Dudley Randall

1) This poem makes use of many elements of poetry: simile, imagery, strong rhythm, rhyme, alliteration,
   and repetition. Give an example of each of these six elements from this poem.

Blackberry Sweet                                                      Dudley Randall (1914--2000)

Black girl black girl
lips as curved as cherries
full as grape bunches
sweet as blackberries

Black girl black girl
when you walk you are
magic as a rising bird
or a falling star

Black girl black girl
what‘s your spell to make
the heart in my breast
jump     stop    shake

Southern Cop, by Sterling A. Brown
Note: Verbal Irony is when you say one thing, but mean the opposite.

1) Would you say that there is irony in this poem? Give an example, and explain why it could be defined
   as irony. Does the speaker really support Ty Kendricks? What does he really think of him? Give an
   example to show this real attitude and explain if and why you might find it ironic.
2) Find examples of understatement and hyperbole in this poem.
3) Is this poem a lyric, narrative, or dramatic poem?

Southern Cop                                                           Sterling A. Brown (1901-1989)

Let us forgive Ty Kendricks.                                                   1
The place was Darktown. He was young.
His nerves were jittery. The day was hot.
The Negro ran out of the alley.
And so Ty shot.                                                                5

Let us understand Ty Kendricks.
The Negro must have been dangerous,
Because he ran;
And here was a rookie with a chance
To prove himself a man.                                                        10

Let us condone Ty Kendricks
If we cannot decorate.
When he found what the Negro was running for,
It was too late;
And all we can say for the Negro is                                            15
It was unfortunate.

Let us pity Ty Kendricks.
He has been through enough,
Standing there, his big gun smoking,
Rabbit-scared, alone,                                                          20
Having to hear the wenches wail
And the dying Negro moan.

The Fog, by Carl Sandburg

1) The poem mostly represents which form of figurative language?

Fog                                                                    Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night                                   Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The Rites for Cousin Vit, by Gwendolyn Brooks

1)   What is the overall tone the speaker uses? Give examples of words that tell you this.
2)   Who might be the speaker of the poem? Explain why you think so.
3)   What is the speaker‘s attitude towards ―Cousin Vit?‖ Give at least three examples. (12 points)
4)   What does the last word in the poem (Is) suggest? Explain why it‘s in its own sentence.
1)   The word hiss (line 10) is an example of what kind of word?
2)   What is the rhyme scheme for this poem? What poetic form is it similar to?
3)   The line Of happiness, haply hysterics, (line 14) contains which poetic devices?

The Rites for Cousin Vit                                         Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)

Carried her unprotesting out the door.                                           1
Kicked back the casket-stand. But it can‘t hold her,
That stuff and satin aiming to enfold her,
The lid‘s contrition nor the bolts before.
Oh oh. Too much. Too much. Even now, surmise,                                    5
She rises in the sunshine. There she goes,
Back to the bars she knew and the repose
In love-rooms and the things in people‘s eyes.
Too vital and too squeaking. Must emerge.                                        9
Even now she does the snake-hips with a hiss,
Slops the bad wine across her shantung, talks
Of pregnancy, guitars and bridgework, walks                                      12
In parks or alleys, comes haply on the verge
Of happiness, haply hysterics. Is.

The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

4)   Write the rhyme scheme for this poem. How might the rhyming words add to meaning?
5)   What might the road less traveled by symbolize? How does this symbolism add meaning to the poem?
6)   Is one path indeed less traveled? What might this add to the overall meaning of the poem?
7)   Is the ending of the poem positive or negative? Ambiguous? What might that add to the overall

The Road Not Taken                                                     Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,                                           1
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;                                           5

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,                                           10

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I could ever come back.                                           15

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.                                          20

Earth                                                               John Hall Wheelock (1886-1978)

―A planet doesn‘t explode of itself,‖ said dryly
The Martian astronomer, gazing off into the air—
―That they were able to do it is proof that highly
Intelligent beings must have been living there.‖

You fit into me, by Margaret Atwood

1) This nasty poem effectively uses which literary tools? Explain why you think this is true. Consider
   imagery, overstatement, personification, simile….

You fit into me                                                       Margaret Atwood (b. 1939)

you fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook
an open eye

Rain in Ohio, by Mary Oliver

1) The line, his long ladder of muscle (line 4) and pours himself swift and heavy / into the ground (line
   13) are examples of what type of figurative speech? Identify the literal and figurative aspects of these
   phrases. How do these comparisons add depth to the overall purpose of the poem?
2) Analyze other examples of figurative language in this poem, explaining how the figurative
   comparisons add to the power of the poem.

Rain in Ohio                                                            Mary Oliver (b. 1935)

The robin cries: rain!                                                           1
The crow calls: plunder!

The blacksnake climbing in the vines halts
his long ladder of muscle

while the thunderheads whirl up                                                  5
out of the white west

their dark hooves nicking
the tall trees as they come.

Rain, rain, rain! sings the robin                                                9
frantically, then flies for cover.

The crow hunches.
The blacksnake

pours himself swift and heavy                                                    13
into the ground.

The Eagle                                                      Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

He clasps the crag with crooked hands:
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring‘d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

To see the world in a grain of sand, by William Blake

1) The poem is a series of comparisons (all in the imperative mood) that can best be described as what
   type of figurative language?

To see a world in a grain of sand                              William Blake (1757-1827)

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree, by William Butler Yeats

1) Describe the overall mood of this poem.
2) Explain how the imagery and end-rhymes are used to establish the mood. Cite lines for some of the
   imagery of this poem that add both sights and sounds. Cite lines for the end-rhymes of the poem, and
   describe how these long vowels affect the mood of the poem.
3) Can you also identify two examples of assonance and /or alliteration that help certain words stand out,
   and also add to the mood of this poem?
4) What does the Lake Isle of Innisfree symbolize for the speaker? Which line explains this meaning?

The Lake Isle of Innisfree                                    William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,                                   1
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,               5
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight‘s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet‘s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day                               10
I hear lake water lapping with the low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavement grey,
I hear it in the deep heart‘s core.

We Real Cool                                                           Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
The Pool Players.
Seven At The Golden Shovel.

                  We real cool. We
                  Left school. We

                  Lurk late. We
                  Strike straight. We

                  Sing sin. We
                  Thin gin. We

                  Jazz June. We
                  Die soon.

In The Museum                                                    Isabella Gardner (1915-1981)

Small and emptied woman you lie here a thousand years dead
your hands on your diminished loins flat in this final bed
teeth jutting from your unwound head your spiced bones black and dried,
who knew you and kissed you and kept you and wept when you died;
died you young had you grace? Risus sardonicus replied.
Then quick I seized my husband‘s hand while he stared at his bride.

Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost

1) Identify the rhyme pattern of this poem. How might this pattern contribute to a listener‘s
   understanding of the poem? Give examples.
2) Identify the attitude of the horse in this poem. Is it similar to the attitude of the speaker? Explain why
   or why not.
3) What might the woods, lovely, dark and deep (line 15) symbolize? What might sleep (lines 17 and 18)
4) How does the repetition at the end of the poem add to its symbolic meaning?

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening                           Robert Frost (1874-1963)

Whose woods these are I think I know.                                             1
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer                                               5
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake                                                10
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound‘s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,                                              15
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

I heard a fly buzz when I died                        Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

I heard a fly buzz when I died.
The stillness in the room
Was like the stillness in the air
Between the heaves of storm.

The eyes around had wrung them dry,
And breaths were gathering firm
For that last onset when the king
Be witnessed in the room.

I willed my keepsakes, signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable; and then it was
There interposed a fly

With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz
Between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
I could not see to see.

My life closed twice…                               Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

My life closed twice before its close;
It yet remains to see
If Immortality unveil
A third event to me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of heaven,
And all we need of hell.

Apparently with no surprise                                 Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Apparently with no surprise
To any happy flower,
The frost beheads it at its play
In accidental power.

The blond assassin passes on,
The sun proceeds unmoved
To measure off another day
For an approving God.

Leda and the Swan                                           William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies?

A shudder I the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower
And Agamemnon dead.
                           Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?

Let me not to the marriage of true minds             William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Let me not the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth‘s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love‘s not Time‘s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle‘s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

My mistress’ eyes                                            William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

My mistress‘ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips‘ red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,--
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

The Man He Killed                        Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

 Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
 We should have sat us down to wet
 Right many a nipperkin!

  But ranged as infantry,
  And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
  And killed him in his place.

 I shot him dead because—
 Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
 That‘s clear enough; although

 He thought he‘d ‗list, perhaps,
 Off-hand-like – just as I –
Was out of work – had sold his traps –
 No other reason why.

 Yes; quaint and curious war is!
 You shoot a fellow down
You‘d treat, if met where any bar is,
 Or help to half-a-crown.

Ballad of Birmingham                                        Dudley Randall (b. 1914)
(On the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963)

―Mother dear, may I go downtown
Instead of out to play,
And march the streets of Birmingham
In a Freedom March today?‖

―No, baby, no, you may not go,
For the dogs are fierce and wild,
And clubs and hoses, guns and jails
Aren‘t good for a little child.‖

―But, mother, I won‘t be alone.
Other children will go with me,
And march the streets of Birmingham
To make our country free.‖

―No, baby, no, you may not go,
For I fear those guns will fire.
But you may go to church instead
And sing in the children‘s choir.‖

She has combed and brushed her night-dark hair,
And bathed rose petal sweet,
And drawn white gloves on her small brown hands,
And white shoes on her feet.

The mother smiled to know her child
Was in the sacred place,
But that smile was the last smile
To come upon her face.

For when she heard the explosion,
Her eyes grew wet and wild.
She raced through the streets of Birmingham
Calling for her child.

She clawed through bits of glass and brick,
Then lifted out a shoe.
―O, here‘s the shoe my baby wore,
But, baby, where are you?‖


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