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Poetry Analysis - Practice

Example of poetry analysis.

Tom Cross

on 13 July 2010

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Transcript of Poetry Analysis - Practice

Double click anywhere & add an idea The Poem The most unusual thing I ever stole? A snowman.
Midnight. He looked magnificent; a tall, white mute
beneath the winter moon. I wanted him, a mate
with a mind as cold as the slice of ice
within my own brain. I started with the head.

Better off dead than giving in, not taking
what you want. He weighed a ton; his torso,
frozen stiff, hugged to my chest, a fierce chill
piercing my gut. Part of the thrill was knowing
that children would cry in the morning. Life's tough.

Sometimes I steal things I don't need. I joy-ride cars
to nowhere, break into houses just to have a look.
I'm a mucky ghost, leave a mess, maybe pinch a camera.
I watch my gloved hand twisting the doorknob.
A stranger's bedroom. Mirrors. I sigh like this - Aah.

It took some time. Reassembled in the yard,
he didn't look the same. I took a run
and booted him. Again. Again. My breath ripped out
in rags. It seems daft now. Then I was standing
alone among lumps of snow, sick of the world.

Boredom. Mostly I'm so bored I could eat myself.
One time, I stole a guitar and thought I might
learn to play. I nicked a bust of Shakespeare once,
flogged it, but the snowman was the strangest.
You don't understand a word I'm saying, do you?
"Stealing" by Carol Ann Duffy Analysis Summary Analysis for "Stealing" by Carol Ann Duffy. Things
Consider Structure
& Style Meaning Purpose Tone Poetic
Devices Consider the structure of the sentences and phrases in the first stanza. What do you notice? How would you label these lines? Telegraphic sentences are typically
shorter than five words in length (< 5). Short sentences are between
5-9 words in length (5-9). Medium sentences are typically 10-20 words long. Long and involved sentences are
usually 21 words or more in length. Does the language in this poem replicate (a) colloquial speech, (b) informal speech, (c) formal speech, or (d) old-fashioned speech? Diction can be described in many ways. Consider the following:
Words may be monosyllabic (one syllable) or polysyllabic (more than one syllable in length).
Words may be mainly colloquial (slang), informal (conversational), formal (literary), or old-fashioned.
Words may be mainly denotative (containing an exact meaning) or connotative (containing a suggested meaning).
Words may be concrete (specific) or abstract (general).
Words may be euphonious (pleasant sounding) or cacophonous (harsh sounding). Are the words mostly
monosyllabic or polysyllabic? ? ? Do any of the words have a "hidden" meaning? ? Consider the sound of the words.
Do any words stand out in your mind? ? Keep a copy of the poem handy. You can save or print a copy of this poem from the class website. A declarative sentence makes a statement.

An imperative sentence gives a command.

An interrogative sentence asks a question.

An exclamatory sentence makes an exclamation. Consider the diction, word order, and voice
(active or passive) Duffy uses in this poem.
"He weighed a ton; his torso,
frozen stiff, hugged to my chest..."

Is there passive or active language in this excerpt? Both?
What difference does passive voice make?
What difference does active voice make? "I watch my gloved hand twisting the doorknob."

The speaker watches his or her hand -- why might this be significant?
How would the meaning change if the speaker said "My hand twisted the doorknob" or "I felt my hand on the doorknob"? "My breath ripped out / in rags."

Is the language in these lines active or passive?
What difference does voice make in these lines?
You've probably heard of "ragged breath" -- but, have you ever heard breath described as being "ripped out / in rags"? Let's Review... Read lines 11-12, 17-18, and 18-19.
These lines represent what poetic device?
What is the effect of this device? These lines represent "enjambment."
Enjambment is the continuation of a sentence or clause over a line-break.
Enjambment is one way of creating audible interest. In these lines, the line breaks "act out" what is being described. Imagery is the representation through language of sense experience. Poetry indirectly appeals to our senses through imagery. Imagery is more incidental to a poem than metaphors, symbols and theme and they are often confused. Nevertheless, an image should conjure up something more than the mere mentioning of the object or situation. A mistake often made is to take every image as though it were a symbol or metaphor. Visual - something seen in the mind's eye
Auditory - represents a sound
Olfactory - a smell
Gustatory - a taste
Tactile - touch (heat, cold, hardness, etc.)
Organic - internal sensation (hunger, thirst, fatigue, fear, etc.)
Kinesthetic - movement or tension
What is the central image in this poem? The central image of this poem is that of a snowman--alone in someone's backyard in the middle of a cold night. Consider these lines:
"beneath the winter moon ..."
"a mind as cold as the slice of ice / within my own brain ..."
"frozen stiff, hugged to my chest, a fierce chill / piercing my gut ..." How does this image add to the impact of the poem?
There is a parallel between the ice-cold snowman, alone in his yard, and the speaker,

"standing / alone among lumps of snow ..."

The parallel is underlined by the speaker when s/he describes the "ice within my own brain", and the "chill piercing my gut" - as if the snowman is inside them, as well as on the outside. The snowman, in other words, stands as a symbol for the cold and loneliness of the speaker's own situation. Because the speaker smashes the snowman up ("booted him. Again. Again.") it is also symbolic of his or her self-destructive behavior.
-from BBC Bitesize It might help to refresh yourself on the meaning of the following literary / poetic devices.

symbol What is Duffy's purpose in writing this poem? Is she trying to entertain? To prove a point? Why would she write such a poem in this way? What is the poet is trying to say in this poem? All the following ideas are contained in the poem: it's down to you to decide which you think are the most important.

She is sympathizing with the speaker - who is obviously lonely and bored and needs someone to pay attention to him/her.
She is trying to understand why someone would want to commit a senseless crime. If there is enough snow for someone to have made a snowman, surely there is enough snow for the speaker to have made one too, so why steal one?
She is examining someone else's attitude to life - "Better off dead than giving in."
We are shown the speaker's loneliness (s/he needs the snowman as a "mate"; s/he is "alone".
We see how the writer regards him or herself as a failure - "I stole a guitar once and thought I might learn to play" - who cannot succeed in an 'ordinary' way.
We see the speaker's pessimistic attitude: although they'd like their life to be glamorous, they are reduced to getting kicks from stealing a snowman and "'things I don't need".
-from BBC Bitesize Tone is the writer's attitude toward his or her subject matter or audience.
A good way to decide on the tone of a poem is to work out how you would read it aloud.
Is the tone of this poem:

sneering and aggressive, almost spitting at 'ordinary' people who cannot understand?
sad, lonely and asking for help?

Either tone would work (as could others). In fact the poem seems to shift between the two, sometimes cynical and cruel ("Part of the thrill was knowing / that children would cry in the morning.") sometimes almost appealing for sympathy ("I was standing / alone among lumps of snow, sick of the world"). It is as if the speaker's toughness masks something else, something far more vulnerable.
Duffy's poem, "Stealing," contains much more than what is on the surface. Part of the fun of reading poetry is thinking about it deeply. You can read a poem just for the pleasure of reading it... but, if you do not think about, you might be missing something even more exciting. As you read this poem, consider the structure & style, the poetic devices used, the poet's purpose, the meaning of the poem, and the tone. Add these all up and you get a complex, interesting poem. This guide has only covered a portion of "Stealing" -- and explored only a bit of its complexity. Whether you're just learning how to analyze poetry, or you are studying this for AP Literature (with a poetry analysis guide to help you), I hope that you will consider even more aspects of this poem.
See the class website to find a link to more poems by Carol Ann Duffy.
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