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Friday, April 11, 2008

Deconstructing Poems

Poetry analysis is what we do in English classrooms. We deconstruct these things of beauty, examine their parts, and then put them back together. This process we hope and believe provides a greater understanding of how to appreciate and love poetry. We believe if we can deconstruct and reconstruct poems, we gain a better understanding of it and of us. To that end I devised a fact sheet for poetry that helped guide the scholars through this deconstruction process. Other tools exist to do this.

Fact sheets abound on the Internet in all shapes and sizes. These two images (above and below) are two such poetry analysis sheets one can find and use from the Internet. By clicking on each image, you will be directed to poetry analysis lessons.


Steve Luebke with help from Betsy Draine of the University of Wisconsin-Madison has created a very useful document titled, "How to Explicate a Poem." This document breaks down the poem analysis process into steps with lucid definitions and explanation of why this part of the process is being done.

You now have four tools you can use for poetry analysis. The reason I use my fact sheet is that I want the scholars to examine a poem by seeing its parts to give them a better idea and to provide the proof from the text to support their opinion of that poem in an essay they write about the poem. Poem analysis requires an essay built on evidence from the poem itself. The fact sheet provides the map, the guide, the scholars need and use to explicate, deconstruct, and analyze a poem. One more important tool are the literary devices such as metaphor, personification, allusions, and the like used in a poem and by the poet to convey an idea. Locating and diagnosing the literary devises in a poem provides the reader with the evidence, the proof needed in poetry analysis.

In order for the scholars to eventually write their own poetry, understanding the parts helps them in constructing their own. The rules of the construction of the sonnet, limerick, haiku, and others is the very way we deconstruct them. These rules are necessary to follow when we write a poem as well. The interesting fact that Walt Whitman wrote controlled poems before he started the free verse poem. He needed to know the rules before he broke them. Same for ee cummings.

Analyzing poetry is a useful exercise for all teachers because it can be done in a class period and the process extends to other forms of literature we teach and to aspects of our life outside the English class and outside school. It is a life experience tool.

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