The moment, the feeling, the punch. Only for Quality!


Talk not of wasted affection; affection never was wasted.


A Poem’s Basic Elements

 Speaker: The person in the poem whose thoughts, feelings and ideas are being expressed. The speaker is not always the same as the poet.

 Line: A single (horizontal) line in a poem; not always a sentence.

 Stanza: The sections of lines in the poem – the units of meaning.

 A speaker sounds similar to… a narrator  A line is pretty easy to identify because… it’s visual  A stanza is similar to… a paragraph

The three things a poem does:

1. Moment 2. Feeling 3. Punch

A poem puts you “in a moment”

1. Moment Ignore everything about the poem except the scene it’s setting for you. Does it make you feel as though you are there? Or at least that you know where the poem is taking place?

Does the poem transport you to a busy bus station or a messy apartment? Is the speaker showing you a family scene or pondering nature?

A poem gives you a feeling

2. Feeling Even if you understand almost none of the poem the first time you read it, I bet you get some sense of how it feels.

 Is the speaker mad?

 Is the speaker in love?

 Is the speaker trying to figure something out?

Poems are better than almost any other kind of writing at communicating feelings simply and strongly.

A poem has punch

3. Punch Something about the poem is powerful. It’s more elegant or commanding than basic phrasing.

Consider “I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.”

Even if you consider that “cheesy,” “extra,” or “over-the-top,” that line is more powerful than “I love you a lot.”

“ ”

“It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die every day/for lack/of what is found/there.”


Poetry – Teachers make it “too technical”

 Enjambment, schema, and technical terms only matter after poetry matters to you. You don’t care about them until you care about poetry – until poetry already has the power to make you happier, and sadder, and more reflective.

Poetry – What’s the point?

 Poetry is not one thing that serves one purpose – just like music or computer programming aren’t single things that serves single purposes.

Poetry – What’s the point of it?

 Poetry – set of techniques that put emotions into words

 The more techniques you know, the more emotions you can instill

Poetry – What’s it good for? Poetry is especially good at dealing

with some things.

 We are all going to die. Poetry can help us live with that.

Poetry – What’s it good for?, cont  This passage from “Making a Fist,” communicates an image

and feeling (and definitely a punch).  A child (“small hand”) experiences loss (“who am still living”)

and is angry (“clenching”) and confused (“all my questions.”)  The moment is the child in the backseat of the car.  The feeling is sadness, grief.  The punch is the realization that this is a child, at a funeral.

When you read a poem,

You can imagine someone is speaking TO you, or you can imagine that someone is speaking FOR you.

Poetry – Why care?

Poetry can be important to people who are not English teachers, poets, and book critics, because poems can speak to us and can speak for us.

“At a Certain Age”

 This poem is about an ordinary older couple.

 The husband is having a hard time adjusting to retired life.

Once too busy, now he’s bored.

 There are a number of visual details that help us “see” this moment.

Poetry – What’s do I do with it?

 Rather than a static item printed on a page, a poem is an event that occurs with each new reader and with each new reading. And the opposite is also true: Without a reader, a poem is nothing but an imprint, the residue of an idea one writer had once.

“For a Father”

 The speaker is the child of a now deceased father.

 The poem’s “punch” comes from the repetition, and how the word “Wait!” changes meaning throughout the speaker’s life.

 There are a number of moments clearly described.

Reading a Poem

 Topic: What thing, what feeling, what idea does it seem to be about? Love? Nature? Writing?

 Tone/Attitude: How does the speaker feel? Angry? In love? Adoring?

 Theme: What statement, what universal truth, is being expressed or explored in the poem. Remember that a theme can usually be determined when you consider TOPIC + TONE…

Topic … Common Poem Topics

 Nature  Love  Country  Memory/Adolescence  Dreams  Family  Relationships beginning or ending  Future  Place

Tone … Common Poetic Tones  Accepting  Loving  Adoring  Loathsome  Angry  Amused  Boastful / Bragging  Exciting / Eager  Anxious / Frightened  Condescending  Solemn  Sympathetic

Theme… Common Poetic Themes

 Painful experiences can be valuable.  Struggle makes a person stronger.  Not all good things can last – it is important to appreciate them while they are here.  Fear can ruin a relationship.  The past has a major impact on the present.  Nature can prove our vulnerability.  A person’s identity is more than his place in society.  A person creates her own destiny.  Love requires sacrifice.  The natural world provides us clarity and understanding of ourselves.

“For a Lady I Know” She even thinks that up in heaven Her class lies late and snores

While poor black cherubs rise at seven To do celestial chores

-Countee Cullen, 1939

“For a Lady I Know” meaning  The title and first line tell us the speaker is writing about a woman he knows.  “Her class” tells us that the speaker and the woman do not belong to the same social

class.  “While poor black cherubs” tells us that the speaker identifies as poor and as black,

and that he sees the woman’s beliefs as so ingrained that they will persist.

 This poem is definitely about racism and classism.  This poem’s tone is mocking, and maybe angry.  This poem shows us the absurdity of racism.  This poem touches on hypocrisy: “She” is a Christian women, who still holds on to racist

beliefs.  This poem shows us something about stubbornness: The speaker believes the woman

won’t change, even after death.


 A vivid appeal to any of the reader’s primary five senses.

 Used to  create images or


 connect the reader to the poem.

 share an impression.

 to emphasize the tone.

 clarify.

At sunset, the clouds were edged with pink and gold.

She shook his hands; his palms scratched like tree bark.

If only smell of the coffee hadn’t filled the room with a cloud of vanilla and nuts.

Your turn… “Those Winter Sundays” – Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early

and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labor in the weekday weather made

banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.

When the rooms were warm, he’d call,

and slowly I would rise and dress,

fearing the chronic angers of that house,

Speaking indifferently to him,

who had driven out the cold

and polished my good shoes as well.

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?

  • Talk not of wasted affection; affection never was wasted.
  • A Poem’s Basic Elements
  • The three things a poem does:
  • A poem puts you “in a moment”
  • A poem gives you a feeling
  • A poem has punch
  •  “It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die every day/for lack/of what is found/there.”
  • Poetry – Teachers make it “too technical”
  • Poetry – What’s the point?
  • Poetry – What’s the point of it?
  • Poetry – What’s it good for?
  • Poetry – What’s it good for?, cont
  • When you read a poem,
  • Poetry – Why care?
  • “At a Certain Age”
  • Poetry – What’s do I do with it?
  • “For a Father”
  • Reading a Poem
  • Topic … Common Poem Topics
  • Tone … Common Poetic Tones
  • Theme… Common Poetic Themes
  • “For a Lady I Know”
  • “For a Lady I Know” meaning
  • Imagery
  • Your turn…
  • Slide Number 26