A quick post with key words and phrases that you should try to include in your poetry responses:
To prepare for the unseen element, you can revise by trying to explore unseen poems in detail. Use this blog to find poems and explore what you notice in the comments section below.
In this poem, explore how Robert Frost presents the ‘road’ as a symbol of the choices we make in life:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
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;
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,
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 should ever come back.
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.
This weekend, Guled has explored an unseen poem and written a terrific response to it. Here is his annotated poem:
It can also be dowloaded here: GY Blake poem annotations
Guled created his own question for the poem:
How does William Blake explore the theme of love in his poem ‘Love’s Secret’?
Again, we began the lesson by reading an unseen poem: If I Could Tell You by W H Auden. In just 15 minutes, were able to make some very original and imaginative interpretations.
Amelia and Mariam have very kindly compiled the ideas from the lesson and have written some thoughtful interpretations of key lines from the poem:
“Time will say nothing but I told you so”
The use of this phrase repeated throughout the poem indicates how time is always there right in front of us, also it shows how he wants to get his point across as he keeps repeating it. Another interpretation of this quote is that time is being secretive as it knows what is written for our future. Therefore this makes the reader feel curious because ‘time’ knows everything, however we don’t. This can also be seen as ‘time’ mocking us by knowing our deepest secrets or it can be seen as time protecting us by hiding it.
“If we should weep when clowns put on their show”
The use of the oxymoron connotes that time delivers more bad than good as clowns are represented to be a happy symbol which contrasts with the idea of weeping. It also shows that time knows about the bad events of our future which is why it might not let us enjoy the good times. Another connotation of this quote is that the theme of ‘regret’ presents how weeping was wasted, making us as the reader aware that time should be cherished.
“Perhaps the roses really want to grow”
The literal point is that ‘roses’ want to grow however are being prevented or cut off from growing as time is disrupting it. On the other hand the ‘roses’ can be seen metaphorically as a relationship not being able to develop.
“Will time say nothing but I told you so?”
The most frequent line in the poem is used, however in the last stanza it has been turned into a question. This shows that there is uncertainty in the writer’s tone which portrays that time is confused. ‘Time’ has a capital letter which emphasizes that it is a personified figure, much like a conscience. His conscience is a constant reminder of regret. The regret could be the result of fear presented throughout the poem.
The poem is written in iambic pentameter. All the stanzas have 3 lines except the last stanza which has 4 lines. This suggests that the last stanza is a summary of his feelings and adding one extra line is a use of dramatic effect. The use of natural imagery throughout the poem suggests a kinder view however the use of the words ‘brooks’ and ‘soldiers’ in the last stanza depicts how harsh he has become, just wanting to get his point across. As each stanza only has 3 lines it infers that the writer is stuck in time however in the last stanza it shows that he is finally letting go of time as well as his fears.
At the start of our last lesson, we revised our unseen poetry skills by reading In the Orchard After Midnight by Brian Patten. We were asked to look at the presentation of the narrator and his relationship with the ghost (his dead friend).
We were able to make some insightful comments in the short time given:
“whiskey on the table”
This could connote two things. Firstly, his reliance upon alcohol may represent a sign of his grief. This could also be an explanation for the appearance of the ‘ghost’ – a drunken hallucination. Additionally, it could signify an invite or welcome to call upon the ghost of his best friend.
“I raise a glass to him- two months dead now-“
The two separate statements seem to juxtapose each other as to ‘raise a glass’ suggests a toast in celebration, but the stark reality of ‘two months dead’ contradicts a celebratory tone. We could infer that the ‘glass to him’ is a sign of his acceptance of the death of his friend or perhaps he has relied on alcohol to mourn and is not yet over his grief.
“- who cares if we get smashed now?
Celia’s up in London-“
When he sits with his friend, we get the impression that their relationship is unchanged despite death. The use of colloquial language ‘smashed’ reinforces an informal and relaxed exchange. The humour in their ‘banter’ about ‘Celia’ (who we assume to be a wife) also shows that they had a strong bond both before and after death,
“Tendrils of river mist drift through him.
Somewhere an owl takes out its oboe.”
Despite their relaxed tone, the use of natural imagery adds a magical element to the poem – reminding us that this isn’t an ordinary encounter between two old friends. The fact that ‘tendrils of river mist drift though him’ evokes a typical image of a cloudy, white ghost. The subtle assonance in ‘river mist drift’ enhances the mysterious but nonthreatening nature of the ghost. The reference to an ‘owl’ who ‘takes out his oboe’ is an unlikely image; perhaps a metaphor for the deep hoot of an owl, or perhaps a literal depiction which adds to the magic of this unusual night.
These are just some of our thoughts. We have been asked to write a timed response to the question for homework this week. As well as making considerations about the structure, we could also look at these quotations:
He smiles, takes a chair opposite,
Falls through it, grimaces, nods OK, tries again.
“Not used to this being dead stuff,” he says.
The grass white, crunchy as sugar,
We exchange banter, his ghost and I, the best of mates still.
Hopefully we will update this blog with an example answer soon.
Poetry is a strong point in our class, we all feel quite confident about out ability to analyse poetry and this has been confirmed with some pleasing results in past papers. However, there is always room to improve, so take a look at some of the slides that we have used in class. They will help you with revising poetic techniques, planning and structuring your answer as well as the mark scheme (click images to enlarge)
In order to revise, why not attempt to explore one of the poems from a different cluster in your anthology. Attempt one of these questions:
How does Grace Nichols feel about her mother in ‘Praise song for my mother?’ (p. 56)
How does Ted Hughes present war in ‘Bayonet Charge?’ (p. 44)
How does William Blake present London in ‘London?’ (p. 28)