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Shawna Rambur

on 11 March 2014

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Transcript of Poetry


Writing, and especially poetry, was originally characterized as narrative, lyric or drama. Since the term drama is understood differently today, as it is no longer considered a poetic form, we will focus on the narrative and lyric mode for this presentation.

Narrative: The narrative poem tells a story. This poetic mode was developed from the “ritualistic chanting of myths.” Narrative poetry initially consisted of either a ballad or an epic. Today’s definition of narrative poetry is much broader and includes many other forms, including free verse and prose poetry.

Lyric: The lyric poetic mode originated as an oral poetic form of performance, accompanied by music and to be recited or sung. The singing itself occurred with and for an audience and was accompanied by an instrument called the lyre. Northrop Frye famously remarked, “the lyric is preeminently the utterance that is overheard.” The lyric was neither focused on narrative nor on interactions between characters, but instead on the poet’s feelings. Some examples of the lyric include odes, elegies, sonnets, psalms and the haiku.
Poetic Forms
Genres and Movements of Poetry
Shawna Rambur, Sara Shockey, Evan Bostelmann, Carina Farrero, Kate Breckenridge

Ancient Greek Poetry (7th-4th centuries B.C.)

• The origins of poetry can be traced back to ancient Greece. The Lyric poetic mode was originally an oral poetic form of performance, accompanied by music to be recited or sung. The singing itself occurred with and for an audience. Northrop Frye famously remarked, “the lyric is preeminently the utterance that is overheard.”

•Greeks developed classic forms that would later make up the major genres of literature, including drama, music, and poetry, as well as the epic, tragedy and comedy

• Romans borrowed from Greek precedents to inform their own dramatic, literary and poetic works

• Greek works became disseminated across the Western world, forming the basis for modern literature
• An example of epic poetry from this is Homer's the "Iliad" and "The Odyssey"
Provencal Literature
(11th to 13th centuries)
• Troubadour musicians in southern France who wrote and sang lyrics—influenced by Arabic civilization, Latin and Greek poets, and Christian precepts
• Spiritualization of passion, imagery, and secret love
• Would later influence writers like Dante Alighieri and Chaucer

Noteworthy Works of this time:
12th century-Tristan and Isolde
1307-Dante's "The Divine Comedy"
1387-Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
Sicilian School
(13th to 14th centuries)
• Poets in the court of Frederick II, whose poetry about courtly love would become the first manifestations of the Renaissance

• Wrote poetry to be read, not set to music, as well as the 14-line sonnet structure that would become majorly popular in Elizabethan and Shakespearean work


A sonnet, one of the most well-known verse forms in the Western world, is a fourteen-line poem, perhaps invented by Giacomo da Lentini, an italian poet, sometime around 1200 (Padgett).
Dylan Thomas
A haiku is a Japanese poetic form, consisting of seventeen syllables and three lines, divided into five, seven and five words respectively. Haikus often evoke images of the natural world and the seasons.
Elizabethan and Shakespearean eras
• Sir Thomas Wyatt and Geoffrey Chaucer brought Renaissance and Provencal styles to England, where lyrical and narrative poetry was beginning to shape what we know as English literature

• A more socially open attitude in the Elizabethan era led poets to take on humanistic as well as religious subject matter

• New poetry was introduced into the national education system, spreading literacy and scholarly discussion of poetic and literary works

Metaphysical poets
• Departure from religious imagery to musings on nature, philosophy, love, and the afterlife

• Poets “sought to minimize their place within the poem and look beyond the obvious” (“Poetry Through the Ages”).

• Strong influence on Romantics and American transcendentalists

Harlem Renaissance
Originated in the 1920’s in Harlem. Burgeoning movement of African American art, literature and ideology, which included poets, novelists, thinkers and musicians. Work often included elements of the Blues and folklore. Most notable poet: Langston Hughes.

Modern American poet Billy Collins reading his poem "Sonnet"
"Poetry is above all a concentration of the power of language, which is the power of our ultimate relationship to everything in the universe."
-Adrienne Rich
Elements of Poetry
Denotation and Connotation
Figurative Language
Tone and Musical Devices
Rhythm and Meter
Romanticism: artistic movement (including poetry movement) spanning from the late 1700’s until the mid-nineteenth century. “In opposition to the order and rationality of classical and neoclassical artists.” (http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5670)

Regarded “as one of the greatest and most illustrious movements in literary history” (“Poetry Through the Ages”)
Artistic movement (including poetry movement) spanning from the late 1700’s until the mid-nineteenth century. “In opposition to the order and rationality of classical and neoclassical artists.” It was a reaction to and against what was understood as the consequences of the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment; the Romantics imagined a different self, a new subject, an individual isolated with and by their own ability, within their art, to touch the sublime. The Romantics aspired to understand themselves within the context of static, recognizable notions of self.
Would influence free verse, transcendentalism, the Beat movement, and many other literary and poetic genres
Notable figures: French poet: Victor Hugo, LoGerman poets: Fredrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
Sample of poetry from Goethe-

British poets: William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, George Gordon Lord Byron, and John Keats.
Denotation – dictionary meaning of a word

Cow - the mature female of a bovine animal, especially of the genus Bos. (dictionary.com)

Connotation- what the words suggests beyond what it expresses. Connotations are historical and cultural.

Cow – a sacred animal in the Hindu tradition
Imagery can be defined as the representation through language of the five senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling and touching).

James Tate evokes the image of a mutilated body in this poem.

“ A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled
back, skin falling off.” From Goodtime Jesus by James Tate

Figurative language in poetry refers to words or phrases which convey something other than the literal meaning of the words in question in order to emphasize, clarify or compare. Here are some examples that occur in poetry.
- Metaphor
- Simile
- Personification
- Synechdoche
- Symbol
- Allegory
- Allusion
- Irony
Anne Sexton makes an allusion to Greek mythology in the poem "To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph"
“Consider Icarus, pasting those sticking wings on”

Tone in poetry is the writer’s or speaker’s attitude toward the subject, the audience or toward himself/herself.

Some musical devices frequently employed in poetry are alliteration, assonance and consonance.

Kay Ryan, in her book The Niagara River, makes use of alliteration in her poem "Home to roost".
"Now they have
come home to roost—all
the same kind
at the same speed."
Rhythym is the musical quality produced by the repetition of stressed and unstressed syllables.
Both rhythm and meter contribute to the musical quality of a poem.

Hilaire Belloc's poem "The Frog" has a very simple rhythm and meter. The entire poem follows the same rhythm of unstressed / stressed feet and a meter of 4 feet per line followed by 3 feet per line. This is perhaps what makes the poem's only deviation (in the penultimate line) from this rhythm and meter so charming.

Free Verse
Walt Whitman
Prose Poem
The prose poem reads like prose, but may engage some of the techniques associated with poetry, such as repetition, rhyme and compression. Prose poems, unlike flash fiction, do not need to focus as intently on narrative, though they can.
This is not a comprehensive list, but a general overview
Modernism: (1912-1945)
World War I and its catastrophic toll on human life altered the world’s perspective on warfare irreparably. For artists (and others) “it was a time of profound disillusion with the values on which a whole civilization had been founded.” The feeling of fragmentation and alienation impacted artists of the time, and in particular, the poets. Experimental art movements/ the avant-garde proliferated. “Indeed, the speaker of modernist poems characteristically wrestles with the fundamental question of “self,” often feeling fragmented and alienated from the world around him.” With Modernism, the lyric speaker as a solitary, isolated individual contemplating the sublime fell away. The speaker of the poem became socially and culturally contextualized within a discourse.
Some of the most important poets of what was to be known as Modernism were T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle. Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevesn and William Carlos Williams wre also important figures of the time period.

T. S. Elliot's "The Wasteland"
Structural Elements
Elements to consider when reading a poem:
rhyme, meter, stanzas, line breaks

Rhyme - "repetition of identical or similar concluding syllables in different words" (Meyer 757)
Meter - recurrent rhythmic pattern of stresses (Meyer 754)
Stanza - "a grouping of lines... that usually ha[ve] a set pattern of meter and rhyme " (Meyer 758)
Line break or enjambment - "when one line ends without pause and continues into the next line for its meaning" (Meyer 749)
-Poetry was, even prior to widespread literacy/writing systems, a way to transmit oral histories, epic stories, genealogy, musical traditions, and mythology/religion. In short, poetic form was the way to remember, recite and share important ideas, occasions, and stories in ancient cultures.
-Poetry's legacy as the oldest literary form, especially when compared to other forms like the novel: e.g., "The Tale of the Shipwrecked Soldier" (est. 4500 B.C.E.) and "The Epic of Gilgamesh" (app. 2000 B.C.E)
--Poetry's versatility and long-standing impact on other aspects of life ranging from lengthy epics with distinct narrative arcs to the uplifting form and style of psalms/hymns as opposed to the hard-hitting emotional content of tragedy: Poetic form influenced early political rhetoric/diplomatic speech. It was also an important part of children's literature and education.
--Although poetry occupies a certain place within the literary tradition, its influence extends well beyond its current locus.
Samples of a few types....
A movement that began after WWII, which encompassed the arts, architecture, philosophy and theory. “ As a term, it tends to refer to an intellectual, artistic, or cultural outlook or practice that is suspicious of hierarchy and objective knowledge and embraces complexity, contradiction, ambiguity, and diversity….a common emphasis on discourse and the power of language in structuring thought and experience.” (Poetry Foundation)

Postmodernism spanned and/or covers a wide range of avant-garde poetry movements, and influenced generations of poetry movements to follow: the Beats, New York School of poets, Black Mountain Poets, Confessional poetry as well as L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E and performance poetry and others. Some of these movements are still quite influental today. Notable poets include: Charles Olson, Denise Levertov, and Allen Ginsberg , Robert Creeley, Frank O’Hara, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath. Rae Armantrout, and Lyn Hejinian
Poetry Translation
“Pardon the blemishes of the translation for the sake of the original; and remember always that when you see a version, you see merely a faint print of a beautiful picture.” – Voltaire translating Shakespeare
(© Paul Halsall, August 1998 )
Historically poets have been translators for other poets. They had to make decisions about what elements of poetry to preserve from the original.

Alexander Pope, a Neoclassical poet, translated Homer’s "The Illiad" into English. The translation rhymes even though the original does not.

Ezra Pound, a Modernist poet, translated the Anglo Saxon poem "The Seafarer" into English. Pound chose to remove the line breaks in the original from, but preserved the alliterative patterning.

Voltaire, a French Enlightenment poet, translated Shakespeare into French.

Paul Celan, a very influential 20th century German-language poet, translated and was widely translated.

Examples of influential poets from different traditions that have been heavily translated into other languages:

Homer (Ancient Greek)

Shakespeare (English)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German)

Anna Akhmatova (Russian)

Pablo Neruda (Chilean)

Rainer Maria Rilke (German)
The villanelle has existed since the 1600’s and has undergone quite a few transformations. It is a highly structured form, and consists of nineteen lines, two repeating rhymes and two refrains. As evidenced in Dylan Thomas’ villanelle, it contains five tercets and one quatrain.
In the twilight rain
these brilliant-hued hibiscus -
A lovely sunset


Free verse does not contain the traditional constrains of more formal poetic modes. It has no fixed meter or rhyme scheme. Early 20th century poets were the first to write in “free verse,” The poet may shape the poem as he/she sees fit, at liberty to ignore or include the constraints generally associated with poetic forms.
Charles Simic was the first to receive the Pulitzer Prize for prose poetry in 1990.
“I am the last . . .”
I am the last Napoleonic soldier. It’s almost two hundred years later and I am still retreating from Moscow. The road is lined with white birch trees and the mud comes up to my knees. The one-eyed woman wants to sell me a chicken, and I don’t even have any clothes on.
The Germans are going one way; I am going the other. The Russians are going still another way and waving good-by. I have a ceremonial saber. I use it to cut my hair, which is four feet long.
Link to a reading of "The Wasteland"
Link to Sylvia Plath reading a poem:
• Focus on nature and self-reliance. In opposition to corruption of organized religion and political parties.
Notable figures: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau

• Utopian virtues, spiritual exploration, and development of the arts

• Influenced by Hinduism, spiritual Christianity, and Immanuel Kant’s transcendental philosophy

• Like Romantics, sought personal connection and socialized community

(19th century American movement) (1836-1860)

Although it is difficult to make out the details in this diagram, it demonstrates how complex, intertwined, and overlapping many of these poetry movements were.
Link to Hughes reading a poem:
The following slides will present the elements of poetry, which may influence the meaning of a poem, either overtly or subtly. Analyzing poetry can help us access the parts of a poem that do not come to us intuitively or with ease. Each of these elements is important to consider when reading poetry in order to glean a more comprehensive meaning of the poem.
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