The Close Reading of Poetry | A Practical Introduction and Guide to Explication
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Is the poem full of movement, or does it seem to stay still and look at one thing? Do certain words seem to clash with each other, and what effect does this have?
Think in terms of oppositions, tensions, conflicts, and binaries. Consider word choice, or diction: Is the word choice distinctive? How would you describe the level of language and vocabulary register: Is the tone serious, ironic, amorous, argumentative, distant, intimate, somber, abrupt, playful, cheerful, despondent, conversational, yearning, etc. Focus on how the words are ordered. Look for patterns; in drawing attention to themselves, they require your attention: Is the word order or sentence structure syntax unusual in any way, and what is the effect of this?
Are there any noticeable patterns in the ordering of words? If so, how do the patterns contribute to meaning? Do the lines have strong end-stops, or do they break across lines enjamb?
Do the lines end with a final stress or rhyme? Does each line tend to be a self-contained, grammatical unit, or does it vary? What effect does this have? Are there lots of long, complete sentences simple or complex? Does the poem stop and start, or does it move or flow continuously? What is the effect of this? Punctuation organizes and creates relationship between words, phrases, clauses, and sentences.
In poetry, where lines are often seen as units of meaning, the importance of punctuation is sometimes magnified, though often overlooked.TAKING A BREAK // RELATIONSHIP ADVICE
Punctuation can create or reinforce rhythm. It can also control meaning or make meaning uncertain by its placement and usage, especially if it is used minimally, or in some cases, not at all. What role does punctuation have in the poem? Does it follow accepted rules and conventions, or is it used in unusual ways? Related to word meaning is figurative language, which often plays a crucial role in both condensing language yet expanding meaning.
Most generally, figurative language refers to language that is not literal. Are certain words used in unusual, non-literal, non-standard, exaggerated, or metaphorical ways?
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What effect do these figures of speech have? Which words or phrases are used literally they denote something literal and which are used figuratively they connote something figurative? The evening sky was dark; he looked up; he felt sick. The evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table. Here we have an evening a thingspreading an actiona patient thingetherizing an actionand a table thing. How does non-literal or figurative language suggest a certain meaning?
What mood or feeling is evoked via this figurative, non-literal language? What imagery, if any, is most striking, frequent, or patterned? What images seem related or connected to each other? What mood or atmosphere is created by the imagery? Which details stand out? What sense if any seems to dominate the poem: Sometimes they are obvious and direct, and sometimes they are subtle, indirect, and debatable.
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Allusions are frequently references made to other texts for example, to the Bible, or to another poem. What allusions, if any, can you detect? What effect do the allusions have upon the poem? If it is a literary allusion, how does it relate to or connect with the original text? You probably first read a poem to yourself, silently, but most poems also create sense though sounds, unlike concrete poetry, which operates visually.
Try reading the poem aloud. What tone do these sounds create quiet, loud, sensual, aggressive, etc. Does the poem move differently at different places in the poem? Does a particular sound or sounds dominate the poem? When it has regular rhythmical sound patterns, we say the poem has a certain meter. When you count out scan the syllables of a line, do they follow a rhythm?
Is there a name for it? If so, in what way or ways? Melody refers to sound effects, such as rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and consonance, with each producing a unique melodic effect. Do words at the end of lines rhyme?
Paulo Coelho I will not try to convince you to love me, to respect me, to commit to me. A heart is to be spent. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. Steve Jobs Hold on to the thought that no emotion lasts forever, no matter how wonderful or how terrible the emotion may be.
The tears may last a little longer than you would like, but it will get better. Jocelyn Soriano Nothing in the universe can stop you from letting go and starting over. Guy Finley The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.
These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. Laurel House The Breakup Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, So what. Put it this way: Sloane Crosley Even on my weakest days I get a little bit stronger. Sara Evans Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.
Love, in most cases, betrays the one feeling it. No one is that amazing, certainly not the one who would pass you up. This means you irrationally mortgage what little logic you own to pay for this one thing. Sloane Crosley This is why we call people exes, I guess — because the paths that cross in the middle end up separating at the end.
John Green Life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself at its most brilliant. Paulo Coelho When a dreamer loses his lover, his dream profits. After all, you have yourself. Tony Robbins I wanted a perfect ending. Gilda Radner Read more about life after the break-up here. More From Thought Catalog.