In english class we have been looking at different poems on the website poetry 180. We all chose a poem we liked and did a presentation on it. This included a reading of the poem, an analysis of a few quotations from the poem, and a creative response. We were also put in groups to write reviews on our group members and one extra person. In my group was Rhiannu, Eddie and Mario, and I decided to also review Sam’s.
Rhiannu – Before She Died by Karen Chase
Rhiannu used quotations from her poem to explain the poem’s meaning well. The first quotation she chose was: “When I look at the sky now, I look at it for you. As if with enough attention, I could take it in for you.” These are the opening lines of the poem, and she thought that this meant that the poet was trying to save the dying, or trying to go back to help someone dead. The poet could be trying to live life for the other person, instead of just herself, to try to get back what was lost. Her second quotation was: “I wondered how finite theses lustered days seem to you, A stand of hemlock across the lake catches my eye.” She explained that this part is talking about how something beautiful can just be indifferent for someone near death. It is as if you are looking out at something, but you know you can’t have it.
For Rhiannu’s creative response, she drew a picture of a withering tree, with its leaves flying up to the sky, slowly becoming and meeting the stars:
Eddie – The Farewell by Edward Field
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by Patrick Cain: http://flickr.com/photos/patrickcain/5344386495/%5B/caption%5D
The main idea of his poem was to use a situation involving ice to talk about trust. His first quotation was: “They say the ice will hold”, which is the opening line of the poem. Eddie explained that this is a very dangerous situation, because it seems that if “the ice” were to break, the poet would fall into some sort of water underneath, and would drown. It is as if the poet must trust others and his friends to decide his fate. His last quotation was: “as the ice meets again over my head with a click.” This suggests that a similar situation has happened before, and trust may have betrayed him the first time.
Eddie’s creative response was a poem he wrote that I really enjoyed:
I stand there,
my hands tightly together
wishing to take the right path,
stare upon my gaze,
I stare at them
with their hard faces upon me,
I slowly walk towards to one
with my hands tightly sitting in front
of me tightly,
I thought that this was a really good response to his original poem, because he mentions three paths that there are to take, but instead of choosing one of the paths, none of them necessarily good, he chooses trust. I think this worked well because the original poem is mainly about how trust can betray you, but in this one he decides to choose it anyway, because it is better than the alternative options.
Mario – Turtle by Kay Ryan
This poem was, quite obviously, about a turtle, and how challenged they are by things that seem so easy to people. Mario explained that the poem talks about how the turtle’s “only levity is patience,” and how one of the only things a turtle can do well is be patient. With the quotation: “And almost any slope Defeats her modest hopes,” he explained that any small challenge can stop the turtle from achieving her goal. His creative response was a drawing of an old woman, which he explained was like the turtle, because in Japan you see many old women walking up steep hills or going shopping, and he thought it was the same idea of getting past challenges and doing what you can.
cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Ian: http://flickr.com/photos/lonecellotheory/1140972751/%5B/caption%5D
Sam – Social Security by Terence Winch
Sam started the analysis of her poem by explaining that all the things that had been mentioned in it were used ironically, as it is hard to get any safer than these things, and we are probably now living in one of the safest times that our world has known. However, she told us that the first time she read the poem, she had taken it seriously, before later realizing what the poet was trying to do. Sam used her creative response also to show that the whole poem was about people over-thinking reality. This was a drawing that included several of the things mentioned in the poem, and some other things that could be considered unsafe in the same way.
In general, it was a really enjoyable experience, because we got to sit back and listen to the poetry and presentations for a few classes, while learning new things.
Poetry 180 is an online collection of poems compiled by US Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Below I have made a list of 10 poems I liked out of the 180, along with a few thoughts on each poem. Enjoy!
Poem 79 – “My Life”
One idea I really like in this poem is how the poet uses personification to make their life seem like a living creature. However then half way through the poem it’s as if they have lost control over their life and it could go in any direction from that point.
One line in this poem I really like is “Between My Life and me, a silence is coming. Together, we will not get through this.” because it is a very unsettling line, and it is the complete opposite of the beginning of the poem. It starts off with the poet taking in “My Life” and taking care of it, but then it sort of runs free and leaves the poet clueless about what to do.
Poem 83 – “Turtle” by Kay Ryan
My favorite thing about this poem is how the poet in a way pities the turtle, because they list all the things they struggle with, but they also compare the turtle to several things in a negative way, which builds up an effect that stays in your head.
One line I like in this poem is “Her only levity is patience, The sport of truly chastened things.” because it makes you feel really bad for the turtle. If patience is the only thing it can laugh at, then it truly is a “chastened” creature, especially considering the build up of the earlier parts of the poem.
Poem 115 – “The Death of Santa Claus” by Charles Webb
One idea I really like in this poem is how the poet shows the truth about Santa Claus by saying that he is dead instead of that he was never real in the first place. A child would probably much rather believe that he is dead instead of the alternative.
One line in this poem that I really like is “and the elves wring their little hands, and Rudolph’s nose blinks like a sad ambulance light” because the poet takes all these things that should be happy and puts them into a sad perspective, like the “sad ambulance light”.
Poem 140 – “The Dead” by Susan Mitchell
One idea that I really like in this poem is how the poet is comparing the dead to the alive and how similar they are to how they used to be. The poet also makes it seem like the dead are not completely dead and are still in a way alive and always there, which can be a bit of an unsettling thought.
One line in this poem I really like is “They make so much noise they wake us as they did when we were children and they stayed up drinking all night in the kitchen.” because it shows either how similar the dead are to the alive, or simply how similar the poet wants to think they are.
Poem 39 – “Snow” by David Berman
One thing I really like about this poem is that it gives an example of how there are always people who are constantly asking questions, no matter what answer you give them.
My favorite line in this poem is “But why were they on his property, he asked.” This is the last line of the poem, which makes it seem like it could go on and on with more questions and answers.
Poem 37 – “She Didn’t Mean to Do It” by Daisy Fried
One idea that I really like in this poem is how throughout the whole poem you know that “she” did something wrong, but you never find out what it is, and you have to deduce that as the reader.
One line I really like is “Certain thrills stay tucked in your limbs, go no further than your fingers, move your legs through their paces, but no more.” because it illustrates the rush of how you feel if you do something exciting, but then they can quickly die out if it was something wrong. It starts as a great feeling but then just stops.
Poem 27 – “Poetry” by Don Paterson
One idea that I like in this poem is how the poet uses both similes and metaphors to compare poetry to such a beautiful thing, and he does so in a poetic way. This poem is a bit hard to completely understand, but I think this is to show that most poems are.
One line in this poem I really like is “the pure verse, when it finally comes, will sound like a mountain spring, anonymous and serene.” because it uses a simile to describe how mysteriously delightful poetry can be once it is read.
Poem 66 – “The Moon” by Robert Bly
One idea that I really like in this poem is how the poet compares the moon to a house, which makes me think about it in a completely different way.
One line in this poem that I really like is “But the deep part of her house is in the darkness” because it makes you realize that you never see the whole moon at once, like the back of a house where everything is dark compared to the welcoming light of the front porch.
Poem 5 – “Lines” by Martha Collins
One idea that I really like in this poem is how the poet uses an implied extended metaphor to compare a line to love in different ways. However I didn’t realize what the comparison was until I read the last few lines of the poem.
My favorite line in this poem is the last line, which is “consider the shortest distance from x to y, let x be me, let y be you.” When I read this I realized what the whole point of the poem had been, which made me see the rest of the words in a new way as well.
Poem 33 – “The Meadow” by Kate Knapp Johnson
One idea that I really like about this poem is the meadow isn’t really a main part of the poem, but it is still the title. It is only mentioned as an example of how time has passed, yet to me it still seems to fit the mood.
One part of this poem that I really like is “two inches of snow have fallen over the meadow. Where did I go, how long was I out looking for you?” because it explains how long the narrator has been lost in their thoughts. Instead of saying something like ‘it’s been two hours’, they use snow and their surroundings to say how long it has been.