I dwell in Possibility Poem by Emily Dickinson. Variation on a Theme by Rilke Poem by Denise Levertov. blessing the boats Poem by Lucille Clifton

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1 Before Reading I dwell in Possibility Poem by Emily Dickinson Variation on a Theme by Rilke Poem by Denise Levertov blessing the boats Poem by Lucille Clifton What if you couldn t FAIL? RL 2 Determine a theme of a text. RL 4 Determine the figurative meanings of words; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning. RL 5 Analyze an author s choices concerning how to structure a text. RL 10 Read and comprehend poems. Think about living in a world of endless possibility. You have no limitations, and you have every advantage available to you. If you want to sing, you have an extraordinary voice. If you want to feed the hungry, world leaders adopt your plans. What would you do in life if you knew that you could only succeed? QUICKWRITE Make a short to-do list of things you d like to accomplish if success were assured. Then, with a partner, discuss your list. What are some of the entries? How do you feel inside as you imagine completing these tasks? 786

2 poetic form: lyric poetry A lyric poem is a short poem in which a single speaker expresses personal thoughts and feelings on a subject. In ancient Greece, lyric poets expressed their feelings in song, accompanied by a lyre. While modern lyric poems are no longer sung, they still retain common characteristics such as: a sense of rhythm and melody imaginative language exploration of a single feeling or thought Reading the lyric poems on the following pages aloud will help you appreciate these characteristics. text analysis: figurative language Figurative language is an expression of ideas beyond what the words literally mean. Three basic types of figurative language, or figures of speech, follow: A simile compares two unlike things that have something in common, using like or as. (bats, sailing like kites) A metaphor compares two unlike things by saying that one thing actually is the other. (bats, snub seven-pointed kites) Personification lends human qualities to an object, animal, or idea. (bats, performing a graceful ballet) Poets use figurative language both to convey abstract thoughts and to offer a fresh outlook on everyday things. As you read the following poems, use a chart like this one to record and analyze examples of simile, metaphor, and personification. Example Type Two Things Compared I dwell in Possibility / A fairer House than Prose metaphor poetry/possibility and a house reading skill: compare and contrast Complete the activities in your Reader/Writer Notebook. Ideas Suggested Comparing and contrasting the poems identifying the similarities and the differences between them will help you understand each poem s central theme. As you read, compare the feelings expressed and the figurative language used. Also think about the time period in which each poem was written. Meet the Authors Emily Dickinson Passionate Poet As an adult, Emily Dickinson rarely left her father s home or welcomed visitors. Yet she managed to write poems that are remarkable for their originality and awareness of human passion. Using unusual imagery and syntax, she explored such powerful emotions as love, despair, and ecstasy. Denise Levertov A Poetic Vocation Denise Levertov s view that writing poetry should be like a religious calling was influenced by the early 20th-century poet Rainer Maria Rilke, whom she claimed as a role model. Levertov often used her art in service of political ideals, tackling such issues as the Vietnam War and the nuclear arms race. Lucille Clifton born 1936 Honoring Heritage Lucille Clifton s poetry honors African heritage and expresses optimism about life. Clifton is a professor of humanities at St. Mary s College, which boasts a premier varsity sailing program. Sailboat races there may have inspired blessing the boats. Authors Online Go to thinkcentral.com. KEYWORD: HML

3 I DWELL INPOSSIBILITY emily dickinson 5 10 I dwell in Possibility A fairer House than Prose More numerous of Windows Superior for Doors a Of Chambers as the Cedars Impregnable 1 of Eye And for an Everlasting Roof The Gambrels 2 of the Sky b Of Visitors the fairest For Occupation This The spreading wide my narrow Hands To gather Paradise a b FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE The speaker is not literally living in a House of Possibility. What idea is really being conveyed in this metaphor? FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE An extended metaphor compares two unlike things in more than one way. The house metaphor continues from the first stanza to the next. In lines 5 8, what is Dickinson saying about the size and scope of this house? 788 unit 7: the language of poetry 1. Impregnable: unconquerable. 2. Gambrels: a type of roof with two slopes on each side. Detail of Cape Cod Morning (1950), Edward Hopper. Oil on canvas, 34 1 / /4. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper, licensed by the Whitney Museum of American Art.

4 In what way does this image illustrate the feelings expressed in Dickinson s poem? Give specific details. i dwell in possibility 789

5 Variation on a Theme by Rilke (The Book of Hours, Book I, Poem I, Stanza I) denise levertov A certain day became a presence to me; there it was, confronting me a sky, air, light: a being. And before it started to descend from the height of noon, it leaned over 5 and struck my shoulder as if with the flat of a sword, granting me honor and a task. The day s blow c rang out, metallic or it was I, a bell awakened, and what I heard was my whole self 10 saying and singing what it knew: I can. d c d FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE In this poem, a day is given human qualities. What idea does Levertov highlight through this use of personification? COMPARE AND CONTRAST How similar are the feelings expressed in this poem and Dickinson s poem? 790

6 blessing the boats (at St. Mary s) lucille clifton 5 10 may the tide that is entering even now the lip of our understanding carry you out beyond the face of fear may you kiss the wind then turn from it certain that it will love your back may you open your eyes to water water waving forever and may you in your innocence sail through this to that e e LYRIC POETRY What feeling is the speaker expressing? 20 variation on a theme by rilke / blessing the boats 791

7 After Reading Comprehension 1. Recall In Dickinson s poem, what is the speaker s house fairer than? 2. Recall What did the speaker of Levertov s poem hear when the day s blow rang out? 3. Paraphrase What does the speaker of Clifton s poem wish? Text Analysis 4. Interpret Metaphor In Dickinson s poem, the house is the basis for a metaphor that is carried throughout the poem. What does this extended metaphor suggest about being a poet and living a life of the imagination? 5. Interpret Figurative Language Reread lines 4 7 in Levertov s poem and identify two examples of figurative language. What idea is conveyed? How does the figurative language illustrate the relationship between the speaker and the day? 6. Analyze Personification Find two or three examples of personification in Clifton s poem. What is given human qualities, and to what effect? 7. Compare and Contrast Themes Complete a chart like the one shown. Then, use this information to compare and contrast the themes of the poems you ve read. What does each poem say about possibility? RL 2 Determine a theme of a text. RL 4 Determine the figurative meanings of words and phrases; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning. RL 5 Analyze an author s choices concerning how to structure a text. RL 10 Read and comprehend poems. Feelings Expressed Figurative Language Used I dwell in Possibility Variation on a Theme by Rilke blessing the boats 8. Evaluate Lyric Poems Review the characteristics of lyric poetry listed on page 787. Which poem would work best as the lyrics of a song, and why? Text Criticism 9. Critical Interpretations French poet Jean de La Fontaine said, Man is so made that when anything fires his soul, impossibilities vanish. Evaluate the three poems against his statement. Do they support his claim? Why or why not? What if you couldn t FAIL? Does fear ever limit your possibilities? Explain. 792 unit 7: the language of poetry

8 Language grammar and style: Create Rhythm Parallelism is the use of similar grammatical constructions to express ideas that are related or equal in importance. In the following excerpt from her poem blessing the boats, Lucille Clifton uses parallelism to add rhythmic cadence to her writing. Notice how, in two different instances, she uses an inverted sentence structure that begins with the words may you, followed by predicates. may you kiss the wind then turn from it certain that it will love your back may you open your eyes to water water waving forever (lines 6 11) Note how the revisions in blue use parallelism to improve this first draft. Revise your poem by making similar changes. L 1a Use parallel structure. student model Through confusion, my mind becomes spaghetti. Through, my dreams become Confusion makes meatballs of my dreams. reading-writing connection YOUR TURN Broaden your understanding of lyrical poems by responding to this prompt. Then use the revising tip to improve your writing. writing prompt Short Constructed Response: Lyric Poem In four or more lines, write a poem about a feeling you ve had. Incorporate at least two examples of figurative language. revising tip Review your response. Have you used parallelism to add rhythm to your poem? Interactive Revision Go to thinkcentral.com. KEYWORD: HML i dwell... / variation... / blessing the boats 793

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