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Monday, April 28, 2014

Why didn't the poet use simple language?

Today, one of my students asked me why did poets write poems in languages that were difficult for the students to understand. He said,"Why didn't the poet use simple/straight forward language?" It was a straight forward question and I tried my best to satisfy him with an answer.

I told him to compare two sentences:

  1.   "I miss you" 
  2.   "I miss you like the dry earth misses the fresh showers of spring. "
I asked him which one did he like.

He said that he liked the second sentence. I asked why and he said the second sentence was more beautiful and I asked him why again and he said because the second sentence was talking about spring. 

Then I told him to close his eyes and listen to the second sentence when I read it. I asked him what pictures did he imagine when he heard the words. He told me that he saw the rain in spring. I asked him what else did he see and he said, "flowers". I told him to imagine the rain on his face and asked him if he would like the feel of the gentle rain in spring when feeling hot. He said "Yes". Why? "Fresh feeling". 

So, I told him that the language used by the poets are far more beautiful than the other language one reads in other forms of literature. The words used, create pictures in the reader's mind and touches the soul. The images used, arouse emotions of love, romance, happiness and sometimes even loathing. In this case, the intensity of missing the other person is compared to the dry earth and its happiness when receiving the fresh showers of spring. This is a powerful image if we are imagining the words. So many emotions/feelings are aroused if one tries to imagine: dryness, heat, beautiful spring, freshness, and the gentle rain.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Teaching Poetry

I have always loved poetry. My all time favorite is Ulysses by Tennyson. At the moment I am teaching 'We are Seven' by William Wordsworth and it is a joy to read it aloud with my students. Every word conjures pictures so vivid that I can't help but live the moments and sing the song.

Before reading the poem, my students wrote their own poem on the title 'We are seven' and that was an overwhelming experience to draw the pictures with their words. Pictures of seven stars that wrote, pictures of seven friends they spoke, and pictures of the seven beautiful colors of the rainbow arched over snow caped mountains and the wide open sky did they draw. It is a beautify poem, 'We are Seven', the simplicity with which Wordsworth touches on the subtle pleasure of being innocent and living in ignorance of death and the bliss that follows.

We Are Seven

———A simple Child,
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage Girl:
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air,
And she was wildly clad:
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
—Her beauty made me glad.

“Sisters and brothers, little Maid,
How many may you be?”
“How many? Seven in all,” she said,
And wondering looked at me.

“And where are they? I pray you tell.”
She answered, “Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea.

“Two of us in the church-yard lie,
My sister and my brother;
And, in the church-yard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother.”

“You say that two at Conway dwell,
And two are gone to sea,
Yet ye are seven! I pray you tell,
Sweet Maid, how this may be.”

Then did the little Maid reply,
“Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the church-yard lie,
Beneath the church-yard tree.”

“You run about, my little Maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the church-yard laid,
Then ye are only five.”

“Their graves are green, they may be seen,”
The little Maid replied,
“Twelve steps or more from my mother’s door,
And they are side by side.

“My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.

“And often after sun-set, Sir,
When it is light and fair,
I take my little porringer,
And eat my supper there.

“The first that dies was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain;
And then she went away.

“So in the church-yard she was laid;
And, when the grass was dry,
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I.

“And when the ground was white with snow,
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go,
And he lies by her side.”

“How many are you, then,” said I,
“If they two are in heaven?”
Quick was the little Maid’s reply,
“O Master! we are seven.”

“But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!”
’Twas throwing words away; for still
The little Maid would have her will,
And said, “Nay, we are seven!”