poetry introduction

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I have eatenthe plumsthat were inthe iceboxand whichyou were probablysavingfor breakfastForgive methey were deliciousso sweetand so coldStill I Rise, Maya AngelouMaya Angelou is one of the countrys most renowned African American poets and civil rights activists, whose poetry has given voice to many young womens struggles. This bold, proud poem is one of our favorites.You may write me down in historyWith your bitter, twisted lies,You may trod me in the very dirtBut still, like dust, Ill rise.Does my sassiness upset you?Why are you beset with gloom?Cause I walk like Ive got oil wellsPumping in my living room.Just like moons and like suns,With the certainty of tides,Just like hopes springing high,Still Ill rise.Did you want to see me broken?Bowed head and lowered eyes?Shoulders falling down like teardrops.Weakened by my soulful cries.Does my haughtiness offend you?Dont you take it awful hardCause I laugh like Ive got gold minesDiggin in my own back yard.You may shoot me with your words,You may cut me with your eyes,You may kill me with your hatefulness,But still, like air, Ill rise.Does my sexiness upset you?Does it come as a surpriseThat I dance like Ive got diamondsAt the meeting of my thighs?Out of the huts of historys shameI riseUp from a past thats rooted in painI riseIm a black ocean, leaping and wide,Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.Leaving behind nights of terror and fearI riseInto a daybreak thats wondrously clearI riseBringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,I am the dream and the hope of the slave.I riseI riseI rise.

The Red Wheelbarrow - William Carlos Williamsso much dependsupon

a red wheelbarrow

glazed with rainwater

beside the whitechickens.

Old Man with a Beard -Edward Lear There was an Old Man with a beard, Who said, 'It is just as I feared!Two Owls and a Hen, Four Larks and a Wren, Have all built their nests in my beard!' 'A good poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning five or six times; a dozen or two dozen times and he is great.' Randall Jarell

'Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.' Shelley

'I could no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat.' A.E. Housman'Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting.' Frost'If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.' Emily Dickinson'There are three things, after all, that a poem must reach: the eye, the ear, and what we may call the heart or the mind. It is most important of all to reach the heart of the reader.' Frost

A Poem must begin in delight and end in wisdom- Frost

Introduction to Poetry I ask them to take a poemand hold it up to the lightlike a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poemand watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poems roomand feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterskiacross the surface of a poemwaving at the authors name on the shore.

But all they want to dois tie the poem to a chair with ropeand torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hoseto find out what it really means.

The Red Wheelbarrow - William Carlos Williamsso much dependsupon

a red wheelbarrow

glazed with rainwater

beside the whitechickens.

Old Man with a Beard -Edward Lear There was an Old Man with a beard, Who said, 'It is just as I feared!Two Owls and a Hen, Four Larks and a Wren, Have all built their nests in my beard!' "Beauty is truth. Truth, Beauty.That is all ye know on Earth and all ye need to know."

What is Poetry?Grasping at the IndefinableBy Mark Flanagan, About.com GuideThere are as many definitions of poetry as there are poets. Wordsworth defined poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings;" Emily Dickinson said, "If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry;" and Dylan Thomas defined poetry this way: "Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing."(Emily Dickinson once said that you know good poetry when you read it because "it takes off the top of your head". I think good poetry works its magic on everyone that way.)Poetry is a lot of things to a lot of people. Homer's epic,The Odyssey, described the wanderings of the adventurer, Odysseus, and has been called the greatest story ever told. During the English Renaissance, dramatic poets like John Milton, Christopher Marlowe, and of course Shakespeare gave us enough to fill textbooks, lecture halls, and universities. Poems from the romantic period include Goethe's Faust (1808), Coleridge's "Kubla Khan" and John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn."Shall I go on? Because in order to do so, I would have to continue through 19th century Japanese poetry, early Americans that include Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot, postmodernism, experimentalists, slam...So what is poetry?Perhaps the characteristic most central to the definition of poetry is its unwillingness to be defined, labeled, or nailed down. But let's not let that stop us, shall we? It's about time someone wrestled poetry to the ground and slapped a sign on its back reading, "I'm poetry. Kick me here."Poetry is the chiseled marble of language; it's a paint-spattered canvas - but the poet uses words instead of paint, and the canvas is you. Poetic definitions of poetry kind of spiral in on themselves, however, like a dog eating itself from the tail up. Let's get nitty. Let's, in fact, get gritty. I believe we can render an accessible definition of poetry by simply looking at its form and its purpose:One of the most definable characteristics of the poetic form is economy of language. Poets are miserly and unrelentingly critical in the way they dole out words to a page. Carefully selecting words for conciseness and clarity is standard, even for writers of prose, but poets go well beyond this, considering a word's emotive qualities, its musical value, its spacing, and yes, even its spacial relationship to the page. The poet, through innovation in both word choice and form, seemingly rends significance from thin air.How am I doing so far? On to purpose: One may use prose to narrate, describe, argue, or define. There are equally numerous reasons for writing poetry. But poetry, unlike prose, often has an underlying and over-arching purpose that goes beyond the literal. Poetry is evocative. It typically evokes in the reader an intense emotion: joy, sorrow, anger, catharsis, love... Alternatively, poetry has the ability to surprise the reader with an Ah Ha! Experience -- revelation, insight, further understanding of elemental truth and beauty. Like Keats said:"Beauty is truth. Truth, Beauty.That is all ye know on Earth and all ye need to know."

How's that? Do we have a definition yet?Poetry is artistically rendering words in such a way as to evoke intense emotion or an Ah Ha! experience from the reader.Pretty unsatisfying, huh? Kind of leaves you feeling cheap, dirty, all hollow and empty inside like Chinese food.Don't do this. Don't shackle poetry with your definitions. Poetry is not a frail and cerebral old woman, you know. Poetry is stronger than you think. Poetry is imagination and will break those chains faster than you can say "Harlem Renaissance."To borrow a phrase, poetry is a riddle wrapped in an enigma swathed in a cardigan sweater... or something like that. It doesn't like your definitions and will shirk them at every turn. If you really want to know what poetry is, read it. Read it carefully. Pay attention. Read it out loud. Now read it again. There's your definition of poetry. Because defining poetry is like grasping at the wind - once you catch it, it's no longer wind.How to Read a PoemReading poetry well is part attitude and part technique. Curiosity is a useful attitude, especially when its free of preconceived ideas about what poetry is or should be. Effective technique directs your curiosity into asking questions, drawing you into a conversation with the poem.In Great Books programs, the goal of careful reading is often to take up a question of meaning, an interpretive question that has more than one answer. Since the form of a poem is part of its meaning (for example, features such as repetition and rhyme may amplify or extend the meaning of a word or idea, adding emphasis, texture, or dimension), we believe that questions about form and technique, about the observable features of a poem, provide an effective point of entry for interpretation. To ask some of these questions, youll need to develop a good ear for the musical qualities of language, particularly how sound and rhythm relate to meaning. This approach is one of many ways into a poem.Getting Started: Prior AssumptionsMost readers make three false assumptions when addressing an unfamiliar poem. The first is assuming that they should understand what they encounter on the first reading, and if they dont, that something is wrong with them or with the poem. The second is assuming that the poem is a kind of code, that each detail corresponds to one, and only one, thing, and unless they can crack this code, theyve missed the point. The third is assuming that the poem can mean anything readers want it to mean.William Carlos Williams wrote a verse addressed to his wife in the poem "January Morning,":All this was for you, old woman.I wanted to write a poemthat you would understand.For what good is it to meif you cant understand it? But you got to try hardWilliams admits in these lines that poetry is often difficult. He also