literature ioc packet 2
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Literature IOC Packet
Part 2—Critical Study Poetry—Seamus Heaney (Plus tips for the IOC discussion)
HL & SL: Poetry (Seamus Heaney) Othello by William Shakespeare Wessex Tales by Thomas Hardy
HL & SL: Individual Oral Commentary & Discussion
Mr. Andrew Tomlinson IB English Literature Raha International School
HOW TO ANALYZE A POEM READ THE WHOLE POEM first without marking. Question #1 – Who is saying what to whom (and why)? Try and establish the literal—what exactly is happening in the poem? What are the landmarks, characters, positions, actions? FIND THE MEANING OR MESSAGE. A poet writes a poem for a reason. Write the message or meaning of the poem in one sentence. The message or meaning is an important part of your thesis statement. IDENTIFY THE STRUCTURE and the connection between the structure and the meaning. Some poems will have a set structure, such as sonnets or limericks, while other poems may have a loose structure. Identify where there are transitions. These could be stanza breaks, shifts in time, location or point of view, changes additional points in an argument or the direction the narrator is thinking. Sometimes these shifts will be dramatic; most often, they will be subtle, so pay close attention. IDENTIFY OTHER POETIC DEVICES and look for how they help develop the message. ANALYZE; don‘t summarize. There is a great temptation to simply explain the poem in different words than the poet. This is a basic summary not analysis. Below you will find some examples of analysis for ―Nothing Gold Can Stay‖ by Robert Frost. Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost Nature‘s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf‘s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. Example 1: This poem talks about plants and trees. A flower first has a golden bud and then a flower. Leaves come next and then they fall off. It all seems to happen quickly. Dawn also disappears quickly. The Garden of Eden didn’t last long, either. The example above never reaches analysis; it simply summarizes what the poem is talking about. It never explains the meaning, nor does it explain why the images are there. In fact, it never even says which poem is being analyzed.
Example 2: This poem by Robert Frost talks about how nothing gold can stay. It talks about how some things that are especially beautiful only last a short time. The Garden of Eden only lasted a 2
short time and so do flowers and sunsets. Because they last a short time, it means that they should be appreciated more. We should pay attention to the beautiful things in our lives because they will disappear soon. Even though the above analysis identifies a central idea, it still largely summarizes. Further comments are based on the message not the poem. As a result, there is no analysis. Example 3: The poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” by Robert Frost talks about how beautiful things always disappear quickly. He begins by talking about how a flower begins as a golden bud but changes quickly. It changes into a flower and then into a leaf. The leaf eventually dies and falls off and the process begins again. The process described briefly here show the cycle of life and death in nature: one step is necessary for another. The comparison between the cycle of life and the Garden of Eden shows that the Garden of Eden also fades quickly, changing into something different. Perhaps Frost questions if it was necessary for Garden of Eden to also fade. The analysis above goes a little further in the analysis by explaining the connection between the flower and the cycle of life. The question at the end hints at a good insight but does not explore or develop it further. The balance of summary and analysis is still off; there needs to be more analysis than summary. Example 4: Robert Frost in his poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay” uses powerful images in nature to explain that really good things don’t last long. There is also an implied message that those things should be appreciated while they last, partly because they are temporary. Frost first accents his image of the flower through the personification of Nature. Nature seems to look at things a little differently since her “first green is gold.” This seeming contradiction (how can one color be another?) accents the idea that the golden color is extremely temporary, since it appears only for the purpose of changing. The next line accents this idea by saying that even the powerful, life-creating Nature has a difficult time maintaining such a wonderful color as gold. The rhyme between the words “gold” and “hold” stress the connection between the two central ideas in the lines. The specific reference to gold foreshadows the allusion to Eden, since in Medieval times gold was considered a perfect combination of the elements fire, water, air and fire. By subtly alluding to gold’s perfection, Frost seems to establish that perfection is what cannot last and hints that it may be in our nature as humans to destroy what is beautiful. The above analysis is not complete but it gives you an idea of the level of detailed analysis that can be done with the poem. Notice particular stylistic details that are easy to duplicate: At the beginning of your paper, name the poet and the poem that you are analyzing. The first paragraph must contain what the main message is in the poem and one or more things that the poet uses to achieve the message. In most poems, a line-by-line analysis can help keep order. Use specific references to words by quoting only the word within a particular line. Notice the use of quotations does not disrupt the flow of the analysis.
STOP BAD FIT Taken from https://sisenglish.wikispaces.com/SPECSLIMS 3
As you pick through the passage trying to figure our why it is important, and why your teacher thought it was a passage that you could spend 12-13 minutes rambling on and on about, maybe this stupid acronym will help (I welcome everyone to try to rearrange the letters to make a better one): Stop Bad Fit. What does that mean? Nothing, or maybe it could be some sort of mantra in the fashion design world. I don‘t know. But maybe if you spend 20 seconds writing it down, we can remember to look for these important elements in our passage, whether our passage is poetry, prose or dialogue from a play. Here is how it works: Symbol Theme Organization Progression Big Three Atmosphere Diction Figurative Language Imagery Tone For some, this process might me very helpful, and for others it will feel restricting and should be avoided. It's an option for a starting point for analysis. Symbol: Colors, directions, animals, stars, weather, planets, etc. I do not think it is a waste of time to make a list of the important symbols in every work, and come to some general conclusions as to how the authors use these things to create meaning. To paraphrase the entire book How to Read Literature like a Professor, serpents are never just snakes, yellow is never just an ugly paint color for your car, west is never just the opposite of east, and rain is never just something that makes things cold and wet. The author chose these details for a reason so figure out why and include this in your response. Theme: For your IOC, you should be familiar with the themes of the works involved. If not review which are present in the passages and how your interpretation relates to them. For your Paper 1 exam, you will need to determine the theme on your own. Organization: Ask yourself how the passage is divided and structured: into stanzas, paragraphs, lines, sentences, punctuation (dash, hyphens, commas colons, ellipses, semicolons, periods, question and exclamation marks, or important omissions of these), and ask yourself where the important divisions occur. You should also consider how the title relates to the passage, and if it is important to include this in your commentary. Progression: Since you only have a small passage, it is important to investigate the progression of the passage itself. This could include how the tone shifts or develops, how characters develop, how the actions develop, etc. These passages are chosen because they are important; most important passages reflect some sort of change, transformation, epiphany, important event, important interaction, so the progression is almost always important. In addition to this, the passages should be connected and compared in some way to the work as a whole, in order to show why this particular passage is important or meaningful. Big Three: 4
Speaker: Who is it? Is he or she reliable? Are there examples of a contrast between connotation and denotation? What is the subtext of dialogue? Audience: Who is it? What is the intended effect of the passage on the audience? Situation: Your good ‗ole narrative elements—what happened, why, where, when, how, etc.
Atmosphere: The mood of the passage, and why this is important. Consider how diction, imagery, and tone contribute to the overall mood of the passage. Does this change at any point? Diction: If we understand that diction means the choice of words that the author, narrator or speaker uses, then we should avoid awkward uses of our own diction when attempting to comment on others. Example: ―A lot of diction is used in the passage.‖ Although the literary term is precise, the sentence, besides being passive, is also vague, unclear and confusing. Instead: ―The narrator‘s diction in the first paragraph contributes to the tone of the passage.‖ That sounds better, as long as you then show examples of specific words or phrases that prove this assertion. You could even focus on one or two parts of speech, such as adjectives or verbs (which are my favorite part of speech, besides adverbs). In a letter to his daughter, Fitzgerald shares my fondness of verbs: "All fine prose is based on the verbs carrying the sentences. … A line like ‗The hare limped trembling through the frozen grass,‘ is so alive that you race through it, scarcely noticing it, yet it has colored the whole poem with its movement — the limping, trembling and freezing is going on before your eyes." Also consider if there is a repetition of important words. Are parts of the passage colloquial for formal? Are parts lyrical? We should also ask ourselves if there is important dialogue that needs to be analyzed based on who said it. Not only what people say, but why what they say is important and how other characters react to what they say. It is also useful to analyze how the dialogue is introduced. Does Gatsby ―ask‖ Mr. Klipsringer to play the piano, or does he ―command‖? If Gatsby commands, which he does, why is it important at this point in the novel? Figurative Language: In a forty-line passage, even non-poetry needs to be analyzed using our ―poetic‖ terms. This connects to progression when there is a sudden shift from figurative to matter-of-fact language, which can lead to very effective insights about a passage. Imagery: The simplest way to think about imagery is to consider your five senses. What does the author describe, and how does he describe it? Aural imagery is how the sounds of the words affect the listener. Again, we need to go back to our Literary Terms chart and look at assonance, consonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, etc. All those terms used to identify how sounds help create meaning. Poets seem to like these, which makes sense, since we rarely read Gatsby aloud, but Plath‘s ―Daddy‖ must be. Remember Ginsberg‘s preface to his collection of essays: "If it isn't composed on the tongue, it's an essay." So I guess that conversely means that everything composed on the tongue, at least according to the Beats, is a poem. I think Borges characteristically said it best in a lecture he gave on Dante‘s Divine Comedy: ―Truly fine poetry must be read aloud. A good poem does not allow itself to be read in a low voice or silently. If we can read it silently, it is not a valid poem: a poem demands pronunciation. Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first a song.‖ Tone: Tone usually reflects the attitude of the speaker, author, or narrator, which is revealed through diction. Some tone words: pessimistic, light-hearted, flippant, fearful. Some non-tone words (words that are vague and confusing): symbolic, important, meaningful, bright. I could go on and on. Think of poems. Repetition can convey a tone. So can being vague or describing things matter-of-factly. Tone is fun (mildly-sarcastic). Also consider if and how the tone progresses through the passage, or if there are sudden or important shifts in tone. 5
On Language The difference between a 3 and a 4 on the ―Language‖ section of the IB Oral Rubric is whether or not you can be precise with your language. In order to do this, you must, among other things, use our wonderful literary terms appropriately. Instead of ―Eliot is making a comparison,‖ we should be identifying precisely what Eliot is doing: ―Eliot‘s use of metaphor/simile/synecdoche/metonymy . . .‖ You have a whole list of these and could easily go through and highlight ones that have been important in our discussions, or the ones which you see reoccurring over and over again. It is important to get these correct and be precise with the words we choose to express ourselves orally. To score a 5 instead of a 4, you need to not only be precise, but also concise with your language. To begin, lets take out all those unnecessary extra words like ―I believe,‖ ―I think,‖ ―I noticed,‖ ―I felt that‖ or ―When I was preparing in the other room I noticed . . .‖ These phrases do not belong in your commentary, just like they do not belong in your writing. Instead of hearing about your thought process, try to devote your time to what your thought process produced, in other words, your argument without unnecessary words. Please also avoid the wordy, lawyersounding, subject-avoiding passive tense. ―It can be seen‖ should be taken out; we already know it ―can be seen.‖ In fact, you just had 20 minutes to determine what ―can be seen,‖ therefore leave it out of your oral response. After a student says, ―My name is Joe. I will be commenting on . . .‖ do you want to know what the most common introductory sentence to an IOC commentary is? ―Ummmmmmmmmmmm.‖ How can we prevent this sound from escaping from our mouths? Write the first word or phrase that you want to start with so you are guaranteed a good start. Students often ―gain steam‖ as they get comfortable commenting, so an effective beginning is helpful and should not be overlooked. Other awful ways to begin: ―I got the passage. . . ,― ―Okay [awkward pause] Okay [awkward pause] . . . Let‘s see. .‖ So if you cannot write an introductory paragraph, how should you begin? Well, I think that is up to you, although I have noticed that a nice place to begin is to situate the passage within the context of the larger work, and then to focus on the importance of the passage itself. On Style Ever heard the old writing adage ―Style is learned in the wrist‖? It is helpful when considering what style is and how we can comment on writers or narrators‘ styles and how it effects our interpretation. Punctuation falls under style. So does sentence syntax. As does stanza organization. Just think of a writer sitting down trying to ―learn‖ their style by writing and writing and writing. Eventually, he or she will figure out what works and what does not. Once a writer learns what works, it is our job to identify and analyze the important stylistic elements in a work in order to develop a complete response to a passage.
On Poetry Do not be afraid to relate a poem to other poems by the same poet, or to the other section of a poem if it is an excerpt. The danger is to talk too much about other poems, when your focus needs to be the passage in your hand. However, situating the passage within the context of the work or works is part of the ―Knowledge‖ section, and needs to be addressed. This is especially important if your interpretation can be strengthened by comparing the passage to another poem or poems that reflect the same idea or style. Plath writes about her father a lot. Is it beneficial to comment on the progression of her attitude and feelings about her relationship with him? I think so. On Plays Plays are fun because all we have is dialogue (and some imbedded stage directions). We therefore need to look at the language, much like we analyze a poem, and in addition to this we need to understand how the dialogue conveys the state-of mind, thoughts, anxieties, 6
fears, excitements, etc. of the character. In addition to this, we also need to look at how the characters interact with each other. What are they holding back, how do they react to each other‘s words, and how do they influence each other? We can also use the language of the passage to argue how Shakespeare intended the play to be acted on the stage and how that contributes to the understanding of the passage and the characters who inhabit it. On Prose Although not a poem, all the prose passages that I have selected from novels for IOC‘s include descriptive and figurative language that must be analyzed in order to develop a complete response. We have completed exercises that focus our attention on the small details such as looking at the diction. Some passages might have other ideas included, such as song lyrics, lists, quotes from other novels. Although it is important to differentiate these from the prose created by the author, these are part of the passage, and should be addressed and integrated into your argument. You may argue why the author, or characters, decided that these lines are important as a starting point for your analysis.
RHETORICAL DEVICES ALLITERATION The repetition of initial identical consonant sounds or any vowel sounds in successive or closely associated syllables, especially stressed syllables. Example 1: The slithery snake slipped through the slippery grass Example 2: Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast, With witchcraft of his wits, with traitorous gifts Purpose: The repetition may imitate the sound of what is talked about, as in Example 1. However, often the connection is much more subtle and creates a mood or rhythm to influence the reader, much like background music in a movie. Repetition of both the s sound and the t sound accent the intensity of the statement. ANAPHORA the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses or lines. Example: ―We shall not flag or fail. We shall to on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.‖ Winston Churchill Purpose: The repetition creates a rhythm that can build to a crescendo. The technique is often used by politicians and preachers to raise the emotional level of their audience. Repetition also makes the ideas easier to remember. ANTITHESIS The juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases or clauses. Example1: "Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing." Example 2: "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." Purpose: Obviously, antithesis directly compares two ideas. Much like foil characters, antithesis allows the reader to understand both things spoken about better because of the direct comparison. APOSTROPHE A figure of speech in which someone(usually but not always absent), some abstract quality, or a nonexistent personage is directly addressed as though present. Example 1: Busy old fool, unruly sun, Why dost thou thus,
Example 2: Papa Above! Regard a Mouse.
Purpose: Apostrophe is used to express deep emotions. The speaker often challenges or pleads to something abstract and unchangeable or a higher power. Instead of saying, ―The sun woke me up‖ the poet addresses the sun and is able to directly communicate his displeasure, as in Example 1. ASSONANCE Same or similar vowel sounds in stressed syllables that end with different consonant sounds. (Rhyme has the same or similar vowel sounds and ending consonant sounds.) Example: The bows glided down, and the coast Blackened with birds took a last look At his thrashing hair and whale-blue eye; The trodden town ran its cobbles for luck. Purpose: Repeating vowels sounds is much more difficult to ―hear‖ than alliteration. However, the effect is similar: the repetition adds to the musical quality of the poem, 8
accenting mood and meaning. The above example forces the reader to open the inside of his/her mouth to create the repeated vowel sounds ow and oo. The effect slows the tempo, adds a melancholy tone and accents the contemplation of the moment. CAESURA A strong pause within a line of verse. Example: He thought he'd 'list, perhaps, Off-hand-like--just as I-Was out of work-had sold his traps-No other reason why. Purpose: The caesura in the middle two lines of the above quote is identified by the dash at the end of the line, indicating a longer pause than normal. It can signify a pause in the thought process of the narrator or a slight change in the direction of the poem and forces the reader to pause to consider, too. CHIASMUS A pattern in which the second part is balanced against the first but with the parts reversed. Example 1: ―Flowers are lovely, love is flowerlike. Example 2: ―Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.‖ Purpose: As in the second example by President Kennedy, the chiasmus creates an easily remembered and understood clause. Also, like antithesis, it emphasizes the comparison between the two objects or ideas presented. CONCEIT—a conceit implies ingenuity whether applied to the Petrarchan conventions of the Elizabethan Period or the elaborate analogies of the writers of Metaphysical verse. The term designates fanciful notion, usually expressed through an elaborate analogy and pointing to a striking parallel between ostensibly dissimilar things. A conceit may be a brief metaphor, but also may form the framework of an entire poem. In English there are two basic kinds of conceit: the Petrarchan conceit, most often found in love poems, in which the subject is compared extensively and elaborately to some object, such as a rose, a ship, a garden; and the metaphysical conceit, in which complex, startling, paradoxical, and highly intellectual analogies abound. CONNOTATION The emotional implications and associations that words may carry, as distinguished from their denotative meanings. Connotation depends on usage in a particular linguistic community and climate. A purely private and personal connotation cannot be communicated; the connotation must be shared to be intelligible to others. Example: Bob sees Sally‘s horrendous hair and says, ―Nice haircut.‖ Purpose: An author or poet carefully chooses words to have the correct connotations so the correct tone and attitude will be communicated. For example, if the author wants the reader to have a negative impression of a character he might describe the character as ―grotesquely obese‖. If he wanted the reader to be more compassionate, he might describe the character as ―pleasantly plump‖. DENOTATION The basic meaning of a word, independent of its emotional colorations or associations; the dictionary meaning of a word. Example: epiphany - any sudden and important manifestation or realization.
Purpose: The purpose is fairly self-explanatory. However, realize that a poet or author is very sensitive to both the denotation(s) and connotation(s) of words and may intend the meaning of more than one definition. When you analyze, keep a dictionary handy. DICTION In linguistics it means ―word choice.‖ Often it refers to both vocabulary(plain or fancy, current or archaic, native or foreign, etc.) and syntax (arrangement of words; simple or complex, complete or fragmentary, loose or periodic, etc.). Example: Whose woods these are I think I know [simple vocabulary but complex syntax] Purpose: The purpose of diction varies greatly by usage. EMBLEM A complex symbol where every part contains significance. An ―emblem‖ consisted of a motto expressing a moral idea and was accompanied by a picture and a short poem. Example: The motto Divesque miserque, ―both rich and poor,‖ illustrated by a picture of King Midas sitting at a table where everything was gold and by a verse explaining how Midas, though rich, could not eat his gold. In poetry, Donne uses emblems like the compass or the bubble. Purpose: Emblems add a depth to the poem. It allows the reader to delve deeply into the meaning of the poem and still derive substance from the symbol. ENJAMBMENT A run-on line of poetry in which logical and grammatical sense carries over from one line into the next. An enjambed line differs from an end-stopped line in which the grammatical and logical sense is completed within the line. In the opening lines of Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess," for example, the first line is end-stopped and the second enjambed: Example: That's my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder, now.... Purpose: When a line ends, the reader‘s mind continues in a train of thought. By ending the line at a particular point, the reader may be expecting a particular idea. The poet can then subtly communicate two messages: the one the reader expects and the one that the next line clarifies. Both are intended and the contrast between them should be explored. HYPERBOLE Exaggeration. Example:
No; this my hand will rather The multitudinous seas incarnadine[to dye flesh colored or crimson], Making the green one red.
Purpose: May be used to heighten effect, or it may be used for humor. LITOTE A figure of speech consisting of an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite. Example 1: "'Not a bad day's work on the whole,' he muttered, as he quietly took off his mask, and his pale, fox-like eyes glittered in the red glow of the fire. 'Not a bad day's work.'" Example 2: "for life's not a paragraph and death I think is no parenthesis" 10
Purpose: Its effect can be subtly humorous. It can also suggest a reserved quality in the narrator or speaker, even a veiled humility. METAPHOR An analogy identifying one object with another and ascribing to the first object one or more of the qualities of the second. Metaphor is similar to SIMILE but creates a stronger connection between the objects being compared. Example : The iron clouds threatened rain. Purpose: See simile. Metaphors can have a stronger, farther reaching effect than similes. An allegory may be considered an elaborate metaphor where the original object is never mentioned. Pilgrim‘s Progress creates an allegory of Christian life by using such places as the Swamp of Despair. METONYMY A figure of speech in which a closely related term is substituted for an object or idea. See Synecdoche. Example: "We have always remained loyal to the crown." Purpose: Be aware of how metonymy (or synecdoche) may distance the reader from a more specific or complete idea and draw attention to a slightly different concept. In the above example, if ―king‖ was used instead, the loyalty would apply more directly to the person of the king rather than the office. OXYMORON A self-contradictory combination of words Example: Bittersweet, jumbo shrimp, military intelligence. Purpose: Oxymorons tend to emphasize duality, that a person can feel two things at once or an object can be two things at the same time. For example, when Romeo, still love-sick over Rosaline, stumbles across the remnants of a brawl he declares: Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate! O anything of nothing first create! O heavy lightness! serious vanity! Romeo‘s declaration expresses not only his own inner turmoil at having his love unrequited, but also foreshadows the violence to come because of his love for Juliet. ONOMATOPOEIA The use of words to imitate the sounds they describe. Example: When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw, The line too labors, and the words move slow. Most often, however, onomatopoeia refers to words and groups of words, such as Tennyson's description of the "murmur of innumerable bees," which attempts to capture the sound of a swarm of bees buzzing. Obviously, this device overlaps with assonance and alliteration. PERSONIFICATION A figure that endows animals, ideas, abstractions, and inanimate objects with human form; the representing of imaginary creatures or things as having human personalities, intelligence, and emotions Example: Keats described a Grecian urn as a, ―Sylvan historian, who canst thus express/ A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme.‖ Purpose: Personification adds power and interest. It also allows the poet or author to engage more directly with the thing they are talking about. For example, in ―The Sun Rising,‖ Donne speaks directly to the sun (apostrophe) and endows the sun with human 11
characteristics. Since Donne‘s argument is presented directly to the sun as a rational entity, there is a much more dynamic ―discussion‖ than if he were talking to an inanimate object. RHYME Most simply, the ending vowel and succeeding consonants of two or more words sound the same. There are a great variety of rhymes (end, internal, masculine, feminine, triple, true, identical rhyme) which can be used. Example: eternity, symmetry Purpose: Often times the rhymed words interrelate. Especially in free verse poetry, take special note of rhyming words; they are meant to be compared and contrasted. Rhyming words may also provide emphasis of a particular point. RHYME SCHEME The pattern in which rhyme sounds occur in a stanza. Every word that has the same rhyme receives the same letter of the alphabet. Example: My mistress‘ eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips‘ red; B If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; A If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. B
Purpose: Especially in sonnets, the rhyme scheme will accent the development of the poem. As in the above portion of Shakespeare‘s sonnet #130, the four lines contain a complete thought and the rhyme scheme compliments it. The next eight lines are divided likewise, and the couplet at the end accents the ―punch line‖ or main point. When rhyme scheme appears, even in vague forms, pay close attention. SIMILE Directly expresses similarity between two objects using ―like,‖ ―as,‖ or ―than.‖ Example: A dungeon horrible, on all sides round. As one great furnace flamed . . . [The connection between the dungeon (Hell) and the furnace is directly expressed using ―as.‖] Purpose: Comparing two unlike things does two things. First, it allows the reader a frame of reference, something s/he can relate to in order to describe something unfamiliar. Second, the choice of the comparison object can be highly connotative and influential in the reader‘s perception. Compare, ―Her lips were as red as apples.‖ and ―Her lips were as red as blood.‖ SONNET—a sonnet is almost invariably fourteen lines and follows one of several set rhyme schemes. The two basic sonnet types are the Italian or Petrarchan and the English or Shakespearean. The Italian form is distinguished by its division into the octave and the sestet: the octave rhyming abbaabba and the sestet cdecde, cdcdcd, or cdedce. The octave presents a narrative, state a proposition, or raises a question; the sestet drives home the narrative by making an abstract comment, applies the proposition, or solves the problem. The octave-sestet division is not always kept; the rhyme scheme is often varied, but within the limitation that no Italian sonnet properly allows more than five rhymes or rhymed couplets in the sestet. Iambic pentameter is usual. Certain poets have, however, experimented with other meters. In the English or Shakespearean sonnet, four divisions are used: three quatrains (each with a rhyme scheme of its own, usually rhyming alternate lines) and a rhymed concluding couplet. The typical rhyme scheme is abab cdcd efef gg. The Spenserian sonnet combines the Italian and the Shakespearean forms, using three quatrains and a couplet but having linking rhymes among the quatrains: abab bcbc cdcd ee. The Spenserian sonnet is very rare. 12
SYLLEPSIS OR ZEUGMA Where one word (usually a verb) is understood differently in relation to two or more other words, which it modifies or governs. Example 1: "I live in shame and the suburbs." Example 2: "When I address Fred I never have to raise either my voice or my hopes." Purpose: The use of syllepsis creates an economy of language in that it addresses two different concepts within one sentence. Its usage, because of the sometimes jarring comparison, can come across as clever, insightful or funny. If misused, it can detract from the topic. Used well, it can draw the reader‘s attention to the contrasts being hightlighted. SYNECDOCHE A figure of speech in which a part is substituted for the whole. See Metonymy. Example: "Lend me a hand." Purpose: Often synecdoche, like the above example, is an idiom. However, within a poem, it can place emphasis on a particular detail to develop a theme or idea. In some poems, synecdoche may help establish a theme of fragmentation. UNDERSTATEMENT A figure of speech in which a writer or speaker deliberately makes a situation seem less important or serious than it is. Contrast with hyperbole. Example 1: "It's just a flesh wound." (Black Knight, after having both of his arms cut off, in Monty Python and the Holy Grail) Example 2: "I am just going outside and may be some time." (Captain Lawrence Oates, Antarctic explorer, before walking out into a blizzard to face certain death, 1912) Purpose: Like a litote, understatement can be used for humor, such as the first example. However, it can be used to create less stress or blame upon another or to make a person seem braver.
POETIC METER The purpose of meter and rhythm depends upon their usage. The meter creates the rhythm of the poem. Some are more complex, others simple. While the rhythm is important to identify, variations within the meter should be specifically explored. For example, “To be or not to be, that is the question” from Hamlet, while maintaining a consistent iamb pattern, contains eleven syllables, a variation from the pentameter. This variation stresses the mental turmoil that Hamlet is under at the time. IAMB A metrical foot with an unstressed followed by a stressed syllable. This pattern is the most common meter in spoken speech. Example: To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. TROCHEE A meterical foot with a stressed followed by an unstressed syllable. 13
Example 1: Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December; And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. Example 2: Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble. SPONDEE A metrical foot with two stressed syllables. Spondees are not used solely in poetry because of the monotony; they are variations within another meter. Example: This is my son, mine own Telemachus To whom I leave the scepter and the isle, Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill This labour, by slow prudence to make mild A rugged people, and through soft degrees Subdue them to the useful and the good. -from Ulysses Spondees above are "Well-loved," "This la-," "slow pru-," and "make mild." PYRRHIC A metrical foot with two unstressed syllables. Pyrrhic meter is not solely used in poetry because of the monotony; they are variations within another meter. Example:
Be near me when my light is low, When the blood creeps and the nerves prick And tingle; and the heart is sick, And all the wheels of Being slow. —from In Memoriam.
Pyrrhics above are "When the" and "and the" in the second line and "-le; and" in the third. ANAPEST A metrical foot with two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed syllable. Example: The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
DACTYL A metrical foot with a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. Example: Just for a handful of silver he left us Just for a riband to stick in his coat
Improving Commentaries A commentary is a focused examination of a single passage; it does not focus on information outside the passage, even if you are aware of it. Saying that something is symbolic doesn’t make it so. You must analyze specific qualities of the symbol as stated in the text to support and explain the connection between the symbol and what it symbolizes. I have heard many claims that something is symbolic when it is either literal or there is no connection. For example, if you say that an ax symbolizes a character‘s hard work, you need to support the claim. It is NOT enough that a character may have used an ax when working hard. For example, if you say that an ax symbolizes a character‘s hard work, you might draw connections to the character‘s ability to cut through problems and divide tasks; his will might be iron, sharpened by the hardness of the land; his actions may be severe, hard and without compassion. Contrast this comparison to saying that an ox cart symbolizes a character‘s hard work, where the character may be slow but determined, methodical, plows the surface of ideas for the enrichment of others, etc. When the literal aspects of the symbol are used to support the analysis, it enriches the understanding of the idea. On a related issue, literal qualities are not symbolic. By definition, a symbol represents something besides itself. If you say that money is symbolic of the ability to purchase things, you are NOT talking about symbolism; it is the literal quality of money. In order to speak of the symbolism of money, you would need to look at how it is described and used in the novel. Use specific textual support for your analysis. Do NOT use quotes to simply add specifics to explanation or summary. If you use a quote, you must analyze the specifics of its content. Merely using a quote and assuming that it communicates something significant is like a lawyer holding up a knife as conclusive evidence of guilt without explaining how the knife connects to the crime. General— Italicize book titles Specify what ―this‖ refers to. E.g. Instead of, ―This shows that the character….‖, you should say, ―This scene [or other modifier] shows that the character….‖ Don‘t use quotes to begin paragraphs. The beginning of a paragraph should direct the focus toward analysis, not summary. Use paragraphs. Some of the commentaries have been single paragraphs. Lack of paragraph designation shows a lack of organization and little clarity of thought.
Poetry of Seamus Heaney from Death of a Naturalist
Biography of Seamus Heaney Seamus Heaney was born in April 1939, the eldest member of a family which would eventually contain nine children. His father owned and worked a small farm of some fifty acres in County Derry in Northern Ireland, but the father's real commitment was to cattle-dealing. There was something very congenial to Patrick Heaney about the cattle-dealer's way of life to which he was introduced by the uncles who had cared for him after the early death of his own parents. The poet's mother came from a family called McCann whose connections were more with the modern world than with the traditional rural economy; her uncles and relations were employed in the local linen mill and an aunt had worked "in service" to the mill owners' family. The poet has commented on the fact that his parentage thus contains both the Ireland of the cattle-herding Gaelic past and the Ulster of the Industrial Revolution; indeed, he considers this to have been a significant tension in his background, something which corresponds to another inner tension also inherited from his parents, namely that between speech and silence. His father was notably sparing of talk and his mother notably ready to speak out, a circumstance which Seamus Heaney believes to have been fundamental to the "quarrel with himself" out of which his poetry arises. Heaney grew up as a country boy and attended the local primary school. As a very young child, he watched American soldiers on manoeuvres in the local fields, in preparation for the Normandy invasion of 1944. They were stationed at an aerodrome which had been built a mile or so from his home and once again Heaney has taken this image of himself as a consciousness poised between "history and ignorance" as representative of the nature of his poetic life and development. Even though his family left the farm where he was reared (it was called Mossbawn) in 1953, and even though his life since then has been a series of moves farther and farther away from his birthplace, the departures have been more geographical than psychological: rural County Derry is the "country of the mind" where much of Heaney's poetry is still grounded. When he was twelve years of age, Seamus Heaney won a scholarship to St. Columb's College, a Catholic boarding school situated in the city of Derry, forty miles away from the home farm, and this first departure from Mossbawn was the decisive one. It would be followed in years to come by a transfer to Belfast where he lived between 1957 and 1972, and by another move from Belfast to the Irish Republic where Heaney has made his home, and then, since 1982, by regular, annual periods of teaching in America. All of these subsequent shifts and developments were dependent, however, upon that original journey from Mossbawn which the poet has described as a removal from "the earth of farm labour to the heaven of education." It is not surprising, then, that this move has turned out to be a recurrent theme in his work, from "Digging", the first poem in his first book, through the much more orchestrated treatment of it in "Alphabets"(The Haw Lantern, 1987), to its most recent appearance in "A Sofa in the Forties" which was published this year in The Spirit Level. At St. Columb's College, Heaney was taught Latin and Irish, and these languages, together with the Anglo-Saxon which he would study while a student of Queen's University, Belfast, were determining factors in many of the developments and retrenchments which have marked his progress as a poet. The first verses he wrote when he was a young teacher in Belfast in the early 1960s and many of the best known poems in North, his important volume published in 1975, are linguistically tuned to the Anglo-Saxon note in English. His poetic line was much more resolutely stressed and packed during this period than it would be in the eighties and nineties when the "Mediterranean" elements in the literary and linguistic heritage of English became more pronounced. Station Island (1984) reveals Dante, for example, as a crucial influence, and echoes of Virgil - as well as a translation
from Book VI of The Aeneid - are to be found in Seeing Things (1991). Heaney's early study of Irish bore fruit in the translation of the Middle Irish story of Suibhne Gealt in Sweeney Astray (1982) and in several other translations and echoes and allusions: the Gaelic heritage has always has been part of his larger keyboard of reference and remains culturally and politically central to the poet and his work. Heaney's poems first came to public attention in the mid-1960s when he was active as one of a group of poets who were subsequently recognized as constituting something of a "Northern School" within Irish writing. Although Heaney is stylistically and temperamentally different from such writers as Michael Longley and Derek Mahon (his contemporaries), and Paul Muldoon, Medbh McGuckian and Ciaran Carson (members of a younger Northern Irish generation), he does share with all of them the fate of having be en born into a society deeply divided along religious and political lines, one which was doomed moreover to suffer a quarter-century of violence, polarization and inner distrust. This had the effect not only of darkening the mood of Heaney's work in the 1970s, but also of giving him a deep preoccupation with the question of poetry's responsibilities and prerogatives in the world, since poetry is poised between a need for creative freedom within itself and a pressure to express the sense of social obligation felt by the poet as citizen. The essays in Heaney's three main prose collections, but especially those in The Government of the Tongue (1988) and The Redress of Poetry (1995), bear witness to the seriousness which this question assumed for him as he was coming into his own as a writer. These concerns also lie behind Heaney's involvement for a decade and a half with Field Day, a theatre company founded in 1980 by the playwright Brian Friel and the actor Stephen Real. Here, he was also associated with the poets Seamus Deane and Tom Paulin, and the singer David Hammond in a project which sought to bring the artistic and intellectual focus of its members into productive relation with the crisis that was ongoing in Irish political life. Through a series of plays and pamphlets (culminating in Heaney's case in his version of Sophocles'Philoctetes which the company produced and toured in 1990 under the title, The Cure at Troy), Field Day contributed greatly to the vigour of the cultural debate which flourished throughout the 1980s and 1990s in Ireland. Heaney's beginnings as a poet coincided with his meeting the woman whom he was to marry and who was to be the mother of his three children. Marie Devlin, like her husband, came from a large family, several of whom are themselves writers and artists, including the poet's wife who has recently published an important collection of retellings of the classic Irish myths and legends (Over Nine Waves, 1994). Marie Heaney has been central to the poet's life, both professionally and imaginatively, appearing directly and indirectly in individual poems from all periods of his oeuvre right down to the most recent, and making it possible for him to travel annually to Harvard by staying on in Dublin as custodian of the growing family and the family home. The Heaneys had spent a very liberating year abroad in 1970/71 when Seamus was a visiting lecturer at the Berkeley campus of the University of California. It was the sense of self-challenge and new scope which he experienced in the American context that encouraged him to resign his lectureship at Queen's University (196672) not long after he returned to Ireland, and to move to a cottage in County Wicklow in order to work full time as a poet and free-lance writer. A few years later, the family moved to Dublin and Seamus worked as a lecturer in Carysfort College, a teacher training college, where he functioned as Head of the English Department until 1982, when his present arrangement with Harvard University came into existence. This allows the poet to spend eight months at home without teaching in exchange for one semester's work at Harvard. In 1984, Heaney was named Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, one of the university's most prestigious offices. In 1989, he was elected for a five-year period to be Professor of Poetry at Oxford University, a post which requires the incumbent to deliver three public lectures every year but which does not require him to reside in Oxford. In the course of his career, Seamus Heaney has always contributed to the promotion of artistic and educational causes, both in Ireland and abroad. While a young lecturer at Queen's University, he was active in the publication
of pamphlets of poetry by the rising generation and took over the running of an influential poetry workshop which had been established there by the English poet, Philip Hobsbaum, when Hobsbaum left Belfast in 1966. He also served for five years on The Arts Council in the Republic of Ireland (1973-1978) and over the years has acted as judge and lecturer for countless poetry competitions and literary conferences, establishing a special relationship with the annual W.B. Yeats International Summer School in Sligo. In recent years, he has been the recipient of several honorary degrees; he is a member of Aosdana, the Irish academy of artists and writers, and a Foreign Member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1996, subsequent to his winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995, he was made a Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.
From Les Prix Nobel. The Nobel Prizes 1995, Editor Tore Frängsmyr, [Nobel Foundation], Stockholm, 1996 This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and later published in the book seriesLes Prix Nobel/Nobel Lectures. The information is sometimes updated with an addendum submitted by the Laureate.
An Advancement of Learning I took the embankment path (As always deferring The bridge). The river nosed past, Pliable, oil-skinned, wearing A transfer of gables and sky. Hunched over the railing, Well away from the road now, I Considered the dirty-keeled swans. Something slobbered curtly, close, Smudging the silence: a rat Slimed out of the water and My throat thickened so quickly that I turned down the path in cold sweat But God, another was nimbling Up the far bank, tracing its wet Arcs on the stones, incredibly then I established a dreaded Bridgehead. I turned to stare With deliberate, thrilled care At my hitherto snubbed rodent. He clockworked aimlessly a while, Stopped, back bunched and glistening, Ears plastered down on his knobbed skull, Insidiously listening. The tapered tail that followed him, The raindrop eye, the old snout: One by one I took all in. He trained on me, I stared him out Forgetting how I used to panic When his grey brothers scraped and fed Behind the hen-coop in our yard, On ceiling boards above my bed. This terror, cold, wet-furred, small-clawed, Retreated up a pipe of sewage. I stared a minute after him. Then I walked on and crossed the bridge. 20
ANCESTRAL PHOTOGRAPH Jaws puff round and solid as a turnip, Dead eyes are statue's and the upper lip Bullies the heavy mouth down to a droop. A bowler suggests the stage Irishman Whose look has two parts scorn, two parts dead man His silver watch chain girds him like a hoop. My father's uncle, from whom he learnt the trade, Long fixed in sepia tints, begins to fade And must come down. Now on the bedroom wall There is a faded patch where he has been As if a bandage had been ripped from skin, Empty plaque to a house's rise and fall. Twenty years ago I herded cattle Into pens or held them against a wall Until my father won at arguing His own price on a crowd of cattlemen Who handled rumps, groped teats, stood, paused and then Bought a round of drinks to clinch the bargain. Uncle and nephew, fifty years ago, Hackled and herded through the fair days too. This barrel of a man penned in the frame: I see him with the jaunty hat pushed back, Draw thumbs out of his waistcoat, curtly smack Hands and sell. Father, I've watched you do the same And watched you sadden when the fairs were stopped. No room for dealers if the farmers shopped Like housewives at an auction ring. Your stick Was parked behind the door and stands there still. Closing this chapter of our chronicle Take your uncle's portrait to the attic.
At a Potato Digging I. A mechanical digger wrecks the drill, Spins up a dark shower of roots and mould. Labourers swarm in behind, stoop to fill Wicker creels. Fingers go dead in the cold. Like crows attacking crow-black fields, they stretch A higgledy line from hedge to headland; Some pairs keep breaking ragged ranks to fetch A full creel to the pit and straighten, stand Tall for a moment but soon stumble back To fish a new load from the crumbled surf. Heads bow, trunks bend, hands fumble towards the black Mother. Processional stooping through the turf Recurs mindlessly as autumn. Centuries Of fear and homage to the famine god Toughen the muscles behind their humbled knees, Make a seasonal altar of the sod. II. Flint-white, purple. They lie scattered like inflated pebbles. Native to the black hutch of clay where the halved seed shot and clotted these knobbed and slit-eyed tubers seem the petrified hearts of drills. Split by the spade, they show white as cream. Good smells exude from crumbled earth. The rough bark of humus erupts knots of potatoes (a clean birth) whose solid feel, whose wet inside promises taste of ground and root. To be piled in pits; live skulls, blind-eyed.
III. Live skulls, blind-eyed, balanced on wild higgledy skeletons scoured the land in ‗forty-five, wolfed the blighted root and died. The new potato, sound as stone, putrefied when it had lain three days in the long clay pit. Millions rotted along with it. Mouths tightened in, eyes died hard, faces chilled to a plucked bird. In a million wicker huts beaks of famine snipped at guts. A people hungering from birth, grubbing, like plants, in the bitch earth, were grafted with a great sorrow. Hope rotted like a marrow. Stinking potatoes fouled the land, pits turned pus into filthy mounds: and where potato diggers are you still smell the running sore. IV. Under a gay flotilla of gulls The rhythm deadens, the workers stop. Brown bread and tea in bright canfuls Are served for lunch. Dead-beat, they flop Down in the ditch and take their fill Thankfully breaking timeless fasts; Then, stretched on the faithless ground, spill Libations of cold tea, scatter crusts.
The Barn Threshed corn lay piled like grit of ivory Or solid as cement in two-lugged sacks. The musty dark hoarded an armoury Of farmyard implements, harness, plough-socks. The floor was mouse-grey, smooth, chilly concrete. There were no windows, just two narrow shafts Of gilded motes, crossing, from air-holes slit High in each gable. The one door meant no draughts All summer when the zinc burned like an oven. A scythe's edge, a clean spade, a pitch-fork's prongs: Slowly bright objects formed when you went in. Then you felt cobwebs clogging up your lungs And scuttled fast into the sunlit yard And into nights when bats were on the wing Over the rafters of sleep, where bright eyes stared From piles of grain in corners, fierce, unblinking. The dark gulfed like a roof-space. I was chaff To be pecked up when birds shot through the air-slits. I lay face-down to shun the fear above. The two-lugged sacks moved in like great blind rats.
Blackberry-Picking Late August, given heavy rain and sun For a full week, the blackberries would ripen. At first, just one, a glossy purple clot Among others, red, green, hard as a knot. You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots. Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills We trekked and picked until the cans were full Until the tinkling bottom had been covered With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's. We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre. But when the bath was filled we found a fur, A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache. The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour. I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot. Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.
Churning Day A thick crust, coarse-grained as limestone rough-cast, hardened gradually on top of the four crocks that stood, large pottery bombs, in the small pantry. After the hot brewery of gland, cud and udder, cool porous earthenware fermented the butter milk for churning day, when the hooped churn was scoured with plumping kettles and the busy scrubber echoed daintily on the seasoned wood. It stood then, purified, on the flagged kitchen floor. Out came the four crocks, spilled their heavy lip of cream, their white insides, into the sterile churn. The staff, like a great whiskey muddler fashioned in deal wood, was plunged in, the lid fitted. My mother took first turn, set up rhythms that, slugged and thumped for hours. Arms ached. Hands blistered. Cheeks and clothes were spattered with flabby milk. Where finally gold flecks began to dance. They poured hot water then, sterilised a birchwood bowl and little corrugated butter-spades. Their short stroke quickened, suddenly a yellow curd was weighting the churned-up white, heavy and rich, coagulated sunlight that they fished, dripping, in a wide tin strainer, heaped up like gilded gravel in the bowl. The house would stink long after churning day, acrid as a sulphur mine. The empty crocks were ranged along the wall again, the butter in soft printed slabs was piled on pantry shelves. And in the house we moved with gravid ease, our brains turned crystals full of clean deal churns, the plash and gurgle of the sour-breathed milk, the pat and slap of small spades on wet lumps.
Death Of A Naturalist All year the flax-dam festered in the heart Of the townland; green and heavy headed Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods. Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun. Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell. There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies, But best of all was the warm thick slobber Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied Specks to range on window-sills at home, On shelves at school, and wait and watch until The fattening dots burst into nimbleSwimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how The daddy frog was called a bullfrog And how he croaked and how the mammy frog Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too For they were yellow in the sun and brown In rain. Then one hot day when fields were rank With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges To a coarse croaking that I had not heard Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus. Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped: The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting. I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.
Digging Between my finger and my thumb The squat pin rest; snug as a gun. Under my window, a clean rasping sound When the spade sinks into gravelly ground: My father, digging. I look down Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds Bends low, comes up twenty years away Stooping in rhythm through potato drills Where he was digging. The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft Against the inside knee was levered firmly. He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep To scatter new potatoes that we picked, Loving their cool hardness in our hands. By God, the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man. My grandfather cut more turf in a day Than any other man on Toner's bog. Once I carried him milk in a bottle Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up To drink it, then fell to right away Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods Over his shoulder, going down and down For the good turf. Digging. The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge Through living roots awaken in my head. But I've no spade to follow men like them. Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests. I'll dig with it.
The Early Purges I was six when I first saw kittens drown. Dan Taggart pitched them, 'the scraggy wee shits', Into a bucket; a frail metal sound, Soft paws scraping like mad. But their tiny din Was soon soused. They were slung on the snout Of the pump and the water pumped in. 'Sure, isn't it better for them now?' Dan said. Like wet gloves they bobbed and shone till he sluiced Them out on the dunghill, glossy and dead. Suddenly frightened, for days I sadly hung Round the yard, watching the three sogged remains Turn mealy and crisp as old summer dung Until I forgot them. But the fear came back When Dan trapped big rats, snared rabbits, shot crows Or, with a sickening tug, pulled old hens' necks. Still, living displaces false sentiments And now, when shrill pups are prodded to drown I just shrug, 'Bloody pups'. It makes sense: 'Prevention of cruelty' talk cuts ice in town Where they consider death unnatural But on well-run farms pests have to be kept down.
Follower My father worked with a horse-plough, His shoulders globed like a full sail strung Between the shafts and the furrow. The horse strained at his clicking tongue. An expert. He would set the wing And fit the bright steel-pointed sock. The sod rolled over without breaking. At the headrig, with a single pluck Of reins, the sweating team turned round And back into the land. His eye Narrowed and angled at the ground, Mapping the furrow exactly. I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake, Fell sometimes on the polished sod; Sometimes he rode me on his back Dipping and rising to his plod. I wanted to grow up and plough, To close one eye, stiffen my arm. All I ever did was follow In his broad shadow round the farm. I was a nuisance, tripping, falling, Yapping always. But today It is my father who keeps stumbling Behind me, and will not go away.
Mid-Term Break I sat all morning in the college sick bay Counting bells knelling classes to a close. At two o'clock our neighbors drove me home. In the porch I met my father crying-He had always taken funerals in his stride-And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow. The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram When I came in, and I was embarrassed By old men standing up to shake my hand And tell me they were 'sorry for my trouble,' Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest, Away at school, as my mother held my hand In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs. At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses. Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him For the first time in six weeks. Paler now, Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple, He lay in the four foot box as in his cot. No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear. A four foot box, a foot for every year.
Personal Helicon for Michael Longley As a child, they could not keep me from wells And old pumps with buckets and windlasses. I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.
One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top. I savoured the rich crash when a bucket Plummeted down at the end of a rope. So deep you saw no reflection in it.
A shallow one under a dry stone ditch Fructified like any aquarium. When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch A white face hovered over the bottom.
Others had echoes, gave back your own call With a clean new music in it. And one Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.
Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime, To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.
Scaffolding Masons, when they start upon a building, Are careful to test out the scaffolding; Make sure that planks won't slip at busy points, Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints. And yet all this comes down when the job's done Showing off walls of sure and solid stone. So if, my dear, there sometimes seems to be Old bridges breaking between you and me Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall Confident that we have built our wall.
SOLILOQUY FOR AN OLD RESIDENT The place has gone down badly. Not like then. Then it was all so very right, each room Furnished so lovingly and in good taste According to its function. All of us Had a real weakness for good solid oak: The loaded sideboard stood, a great carved bulwark, In the dining room; mirrors, plates, and trays Glinting in candlelight like silver shields. And maids sailed in, tureens gulping like tides, And thick delph rattled curtly as they served. Father would say the grace with eyes cast down Upon the stiff white cloth and then would nod Permission to begin. The maids cleared off Very punctually until the final course When we withdrew into the drawing room. They had prepared a grate of sputtering logs And as we talked till ash began to fall Grandfather, in oils, stared steady from the wall. And it was all so thoughtfully arranged. The scullery commodious, the larder deep, Running water in the big enamelled sink. Bedrooms were never shared - except for maids Who had an attic room, a wide brass bed And two hotwater bottles, if they wished: Father insisted that maids know their place But treated good ones as if they were his own. And after dark the house would settle gently. We lay and listened to the shunting trains. But the place has gone badly. We never thought, when the young men dealt with us, Of things like this: the good room downstairs Fitted with a foul electric stove, beds In the kitchen, and other stoves reeking On landings. There is a dull smell of grease In father's room, the paper has been torn And left hanging. Instead of hunting prints They hang these ugly photographs of girls Curling their naked bodies like she-cats. No maids, no order, and no silent nights. They come for one year, cook their wretched meals, Swill beer from cans and in the noisy dark Perhaps bring bad girls to our crumbling walls. 34
They come and go, each year they come and go, Bringing no family, leaving only stains. The place has gone down badly. Not like then. Agents have no care: for them houses are Houses, never homes. And birds of passage Will dirty the nest, then just fly off again. No neighbours, no respect, and no good name. These new proprietors are much to blame.
STORM ON THE ISLAND We are prepared: we build our houses squat, Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate. This wizened earth has never troubled us With hay, so, as you see, there are no stacks Or stooks that can be lost. Nor are there trees Which might prove company when it blows full Blast: you know what I mean - leaves and branches Can raise a tragic chorus in a gale So that you listen to the thing you fear Forgetting that it pummels your house too. But there are no trees, no natural shelter. You might think that the sea is company, Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs But no: when it begins, the flung spray hits The very windows, spits like a tame cat Turned savage. We just sit tight while wind dives And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo, We are bombarded with the empty air. Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.
Valediction 1966 Lady with the frilled blouse And simple tartan skirt, Since you have left the house Its emptiness has hurt All thought. In your presence Time rode easy, anchored On a smile; but absence Rocked love's balance, unmoored The days. They buck and bound Across the calendar Pitched from the quiet sound Of your flower-tender Voice. Need breaks on my strand; You've gone, I am at sea. Until you resume command Self is in mutiny.
Questions on the poems AN ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING In your own words, explain the title. How does Heaney use alliteration in this poem? Give examples of word choice which are intended to register the poet‘s discuss. Explain how this poem represents a journey for the young protagonist. ANCESTRAL PHOTOGRAPH How does Heaney bring the characters in the photograph to life? In your own words, describe them. What would you say the tone of the poem is? What message is Heaney making regarding family and tradition?
AT A POTATO DIGGING How, in this poem, does Heaney connect past and present? What view does the poem give of man's relationship with the earth? Does the poet really think (and want the reader to think) of the earth as a ―bitch‖ and ―faithless‖? Modern readers in the west may no longer have a sense of where our food comes from - does this poem challenge us not to take things for granted? How does this poem explore ideas of religion, ritual and ceremony? THE BARN Find an example of juxtaposition and explain its effectiveness. How does Heaney evoke the fear of the youngster in the poem? IN what ways does the structure affect the reading of the poem? 38
BLACKBERRY PICKING How far is this poem about something particular or about life in general? Explain how the poem contrasts ideas of expected pleasure and disappointment. Does this poem give the viewpoint of a child or an adult or both? Can you explain why Heaney, in the last line, says that he ―hoped‖ for something, even though he ―knew‖ it would not happen? CHURNING DAY
How does Heaney appeal to our senses? Why would a poet write a poem about such a topic? Why does the poet use the word ―Crystal‖? In what way does Heaney use punctuation to guide the reader?
DEATH OF A NATURALIST
How would you react (as a young adult or as a child) to the sight of a horde of frogs invading a familiar place? How far does this poem tell the truth about frogs and how far does it tell the reader about the power of imagination? Is this poem comic, serious or both? How far does the poet invite us to laugh at him? Heaney describes the frogs' heads as ―farting‖. As a boy he might have said this word to friends, but would not repeat it at home or write it in school work. How does it work in the poem? How well does this poem fit in with your ideas of what poetry should normally be like? How truthful is the title? Did Heaney really lose his interest in, and love of, nature. Or does the poem record only a dramatic change of attitude, or something else?
DIGGING How does the poem explore ideas of heritage and family tradition? What does the poem suggest about physical labour? Explain in your own words the image in the last line of the poem. EARLY PURGES How does Heaney use juxtaposition in this poem? Throughout the poem we are subjected to cruel images. How does Heaney achieve this? Is there a ―bigger picture‖ here? Consider the title. What other poems could you compare this to?
FOLLOWER What does the poem show of the relationship of father and son, and how time has changed this? What does the last line of the poem mean? Does Heaney really want his father to ―go away‖? Is this a poem about farming specifically or is it relevant to other skills and occupations? How does Heaney explore the idea of family tradition here?
Contrast the reactions of the two parents - how does the reader react to this? With whom, do you think, is the mother angry? How does the poem contrast the fuss of the homecoming with the calmness of the scene when Seamus sees his brother's body? What do you think is the meaning of the poem's last line?
Explain the title. How do wells attract the young poet? Identify and comment on assonance in the poem. How does this poem compare to Heaney‘s other childhood reflections?
SCAFFOLDING Consider the structure of the poem and the title. What comparisons can you draw? What lessons are there to be learned? How does this poem reflect biblical parables? STORM ON THE ISLAND How in this poem does Heaney suggest the power of nature? Does the poem suggest that extreme weather is frightening or enjoyable for people (or both, perhaps)? What do you think is the meaning of the last line of the poem? VALEDICTION
Explain the title. How and why does Heaney use nautical imagery? Find examples of antithesis in the poem. How does Heaney use sibilance in the poem?
ORGANIZING YOUR COMMENTARY When you approach a poem for the first time, don‘t expect to know the meaning. It is only after you have pulled the poem apart that you can why (and how) the poem was written. AFTER you have analyzed the poem, organize your commentary in the following way. Give relevant cultural, philosophical or authorial background
In 2-3 sentences, explain the literal events of the poem
Segue into what the overall point or purpose of the poem is (It may also be appropriate to identify major themes)
Explain what the progression of the poem is—how are the poem’s ideas organized? (This becomes the way you organize your analysis. Remember, while this is an appropriate time to mention number of stanzas, whether it’s a sonnet, and what the rhyme scheme may be, you must do more than identify the structure—you must explain how the IDEAS in the poem progress. Usually you can follow the sequence of the poem itself.)
Based on how the poem’s ideas are organized, elaborate on the ways in which the poet influences the reader in each “chunk.” (A chunk might be one line, a whole stanza or even multiple stanzas, depending on how the poem’s ideas are organized.)
A conclusion is not necessary. Once you have come to the end of your analysis of the poem, you are finished. However, you should be prepared to answer questions about the poem and your analysis.
IOC Rubric HL Criterion A: Knowledge and understanding of the poem How well is the student’s knowledge and understanding of the poem demonstrated by their interpretation? Criterion B: Appreciation of the writer’s choices To what extent does the student appreciate how the writer’s choices of language, structure, technique and style shape meaning? Criterion C: Organization and presentation of the commentary To what extent does the student deliver a structured, well-focused commentary? Criterion D: Knowledge and understanding of the work used in the discussion How much knowledge and understanding has the student shown of the work used in the discussion? Criterion E: Response to the discussion questions How effectively does the student respond to the discussion questions? Criterion F: Language How clear, varied and accurate is the language? How appropriate is the choice of register and style? (“Register” refers, in this context, to the student’s use of elements such as vocabulary, tone, sentence structure and terminology appropriate to the commentary.)
0 does not reach standa rd
1 There is limited knowledge and little or no understanding, with poor interpretation and virtually no relevant references to the poem.
2 There is superficial knowledge and some understanding, with limited interpretation occasionally supported by references to the poem.
3 There is adequate knowledge and understanding, demonstrated by interpretation supported by appropriate references to the poem.
4 There is very good knowledge and understanding, demonstrated by careful interpretation supported by well-chosen references to the poem.
5 There is excellent knowledge and understanding, demonstrated by individual interpretation effectively supported by precise and wellchosen references to the poem.
does not reach standa rd
There are few references to, and no appreciation, of the ways in which language, structure, technique and style shape meaning in the poem.
There is some mention, but little appreciation, of the ways in which language, structure, technique and style shape meaning in the poem.
There is adequate appreciation of the ways in which language, structure, technique and style shape meaning in the poem.
There is very good appreciation of the ways in which language, structure, technique and style shape meaning in the poem.
There is excellent appreciation of the ways in which language, structure, technique and style shape meaning in the poem.
does not reach standa rd
The commentary shows little evidence of planning, with very limited structure and/or focus.
The commentary shows some structure and focus.
The commentary shows evidence of a planned structure and is generally focused.
The commentary is clearly structured and the focus is sustained.
The commentary is effectively structured, with a clear, purposeful and sustained focus.
does not reach standa rd
There is little knowledge or understanding of the content of the work discussed.
There is some knowledge and superficial understanding of the content of the work discussed.
There is adequate knowledge and understanding of the content and some of the implications of the work discussed.
There is very good knowledge and understanding of the content and most of the implications of the work discussed.
There is excellent knowledge and understanding of the content and the implications of the work discussed.
There is limited ability to respond meaningfully to the discussion questions.
Responses to the discussion questions are sometimes relevant.
Responses to the discussion questions are relevant and show some evidence of independent thought.
Well-informed responses to the discussion questions show a good degree of independent thought.
There are persuasive and independent responses to the discussion questions.
The language is rarely clear and appropriate, with many errors in grammar and sentence construction and little sense of register and style.
The language is sometimes clear and appropriate; grammar and sentence construction are generally accurate, although errors and inconsistencies are apparent; register and style are to some extent appropriate.
The language is mostly clear and appropriate, with an adequate degree of accuracy in grammar and sentence construction; the register and style are mostly appropriate.
The language is clear and appropriate, with a good degree of accuracy in grammar and sentence construction; register and style are effective and appropriate.
The language is very clear and entirely appropriate, with a high degree of accuracy in grammar and sentence construction; the register and style are consistently effective and appropriate.
does not reach standa rd
The Discussion What will the discussion be about? The discussion is about one of the two works you have studied besides the poetry. In your case, it will be about either Othello or Wessex Tales. You will not know ahead of time which text it will be. What kinds of questions should you expect for the discussion? The questions, whether directly or indirectly, will be asking you do demonstrate your in-depth understanding of the texts and will probably be connected to literary ideas we have discussed in class. The following samples are just that—samples. They merely give you an idea of the kind of question you may receive.
What is a memorable moment in the text and how did the author make it memorable? o The response could first address a personal response to the story but then follow-up with specific examples of plot development, dramatic irony, stylistic devices, diction, etc. to establish how the author achieved a particular effect.
There are some very memorable main characters in the story. Which minor character do you think was most pivotal to the story? o The answer would connect an important minor character to plot or character development, impact of setting, presentation of alternative viewpoints, etc.
Besides the central conflict, how does the author/playwright develop a sense of intrigue to the story? o A response may deal with the subplots and how they develop overarching themes, contribute to the development of main characters or offer alternative perspectives. Statements about style, narrative structure or author‘s voice would be appropriate, too.
The author/playwright uses a variety of powerful symbols in the text. Which do you think has the most impact and why? o While this question does suggest ask for personal opinion, the response should move quickly beyond the subjective and analyze significant details about the chosen symbol.
How can I give an effective answer? Obviously, reading the texts carefully and paying attention will help you respond to any question well. Use specific evidence from the work. This may include character names, details of settings, intimate knowledge of the narrative structure, specific references to style, etc.
Answer the question in detail. First respond to the initial question, using specific examples and then develop your answer further through connecting evidence. For example, if the question dealt with how the reader is 45
sympathetic to a particular character, you would answer how the character‘s actions, thoughts, predicaments helped us to empathize with him or her. To develop it further, you may talk about how the narrative structure introduced various pieces of information to us first that allowed us to identify with the character in a sympathetic fashion, or the way a foil character was developed forced us to sympathize and identify more with the main character. By building on your initial answer, you develop your analysis further and demonstrate a more intimate knowledge of the work.
Rehearse responding to questions. While you cannot anticipate all questions, you should have a decent idea of the probable range of questions based upon what we address in class. Practice responding to questions with a friend, so that your answers are more fluid and comfortable. The less foreign a question is, the more probable you will be able to answer well.