HOW TO READ A POETIC TEXT

While reading a poetic text you should try and ask yourself a number of questions about it; the checklist below is meant to help you.



CONTENT

- is the poet speaking with his/her voice?
- if not, whose?
- is he speaking to someone? If so, who?
- can you identify the setting in time and place?
- what is the poem about?


VERSE: LAYOUT

- what is the layout - see whether the line length and arrangement are unusual in any respect
- what contribution does the layout make to meaning? (consider both the effect of traditional layout, i.e. a sonnet, and experiments)

Practice

Keep in mind the questions above while considering the following poems


poems.jpg



VERSE: SOUND PATTERNS
- what is the rhyme scheme, if any?
- What types of sound devices can you identify ( perfect rhyme, consonance, assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia)
- Are there any dominant sounds? (harsh, soft)
- How do sounds add to meaning?(consider the effects of sound devices)


Practice
Again, keep in mind the questions above while reading the following

A Dirge by P.B. Shelley

Rough wind, that moanest loud

Grief too sad for song;
Wild wind, when sullen cloud

Knells all the night long;

Sad storm, whose tears are vain,

Bare woods, whose branches strain,
Deep caves and dreary main,

Wail, for the world’s wrong!

LANGUAGE
- consider denotation and connotation
- do any words appeal to the senses? (if so, which of the senses?) …

Practice
Consider the following poem and answer the second question above

Meeting at Night by R. Browning


The grey sea and the long black land;

And the yellow half-moon large and low;

And the startled little waves that leap

In fiery ringlets from their sleep,

As I gain the cove with pushing prow,

And quench its speed i' the slushy sand.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;

Three fields to cross till a farm appears;

A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch

And blue spurt of a lighted match,

And a voice less loud, thro' its joys and fears,


Than the two hearts beating each to each!


… LANGUAGE
- are there any similes or metaphors? (locate them in the text; identify vehicle, tenor and common ground; consider their function and see if they are appropriate)

Practice

Analyse the metaphor in the first three lines of W. Shakespeare’s sonnet 73

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold…

and the simile in
O. M. Mitshali’s Boy on a Swing
….
His blue shirt
Billows in the breeze
Like a tattered kite
….

- can you identify any symbols? (look at the context in which the symbol is placed, consider its literal level of meaning in the poem and work out the associations it arouses)

Practice
Find the symbolic elements in the following
The Sick Rose by W. Blake

O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy,
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy


- can you find any unusual usage of language at lexical, syntactic, etc level? If yes, what
effects does it produce?










FIXED FORMS

- is the poem written according to the demands of a strict form? (ballad, sonnet?)


FROM TEXT TO CONTEXT
- is there anything in the text which you would like to analyse more deeply? (title, obscure points, historical references?)
- which area of the context would you like to know more about? (historical, social, author’s biography?)