Y’all? In the last ten or so years of teaching English 150 I’ve noticed that folks tend—when it comes to writing a poetry-related essay or a poetry-related essay-like thing—to utilize an analytical, distant, rather formal mode. What’s interesting to me about this is that these very same folks express to me how they, well, actually hate writing in this style… And the resulting papers tend to evidence that grrryness, making for well-meaning but rather lifeless and rote-feeling compositions. So, in order to maybe avoid this trouble, what I ask you to do in this assignment is to—first of all—highlight your own “I-/my-ness.” Specifically, I ask that you please pick a poem from our anthology and then reflect on the experience of choosing/reading this poem. As we’ll discuss, I think of poems as something more like events/happenings rather than puzzles or codes or inert objects. I’m also interested in poems as magical things of wonder or awe—spells that do something to each reader… So here are a few questions you might want to consider:
Why do you think you picked this particular poem?Are there any particular moments in the poem that are especially striking for you?Are there any particular moments in the poem that are especially challenging? Do you see any evidence of “chicken mind” at work in the poem?What does your chosen poem do with rhythm or sense or nonsense or syntax or image or blanks or call-backs or questions or silence or dreams or humour or juxtaposition or wowness or pressurized-language generally? What is the opening line and what is the closing line and whaddya make of em?If you had to point to the most beautiful or disturbing or inspiring moment in the poem how would you offer that moment/explain that moment to your reader? In other words, please do speculate on why you think that moment is so particularly stirring.
Harjo’s “The Woman Hanging”
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