Reading: In The Poet’s Companion, read the chapters “The Family,” “Death and Grief,”
and “Simile and Metaphor” (pages 30-45 and 94-103) BEFORE doing the writing
assignments due on Friday (Jan 13).
READ: Milocz, Book of Luminous Things, 29-69. This is 34 poems; some of them quite
Please don’t hurry, but read a few poems a day… perhaps early in the morning, before
bed, or while you wait for a bus or for the coffee to brew. Instructions for the annotation
are below. Due Friday, Jan 13.
Week 2: Annotation Assignment
This week we are practicing a specific and detailed strategy for gathering evidence and
extended observation. The process is broken down into deliberate, slow steps.
Read the Milocz anthology, p. 29-69. Choose one of the longer poems to work with for
this exercise; for example “Orchards in July,” “Butterfly,” “Wild Geese,” “Carmel
Point,” “Destruction.” (A very short poem won’t give you enough to work with for this
exercise to be effective.)
Follow the directions carefully, without hurrying. Hurrying, or rushing to judge some
details as important and others not important, will undermine the purpose of the exercise
and make it difficult to learn from it. Don’t skip steps; do each one in order.
Our purpose is to break down the observation process and deliberately notice different
kinds of details. It’s called “the Method,” and it can be applied to any written text. With
some modification, it can be used to develop a response to a film, piece of art, music, etc.
Take it slow.
Choose a poem to work with. Plan to spend at least an hour on the observing stage of
this process. A cup of tea might be helpful! 
1. Make a list of exact repetitions – identical or nearly identical words or details – and
note the number of times each repeats. Consider different forms of the same word
(run, ran, running) as repetitions. Skip generic tiny words (a, the, of), but don’t
neglect any words that carry meaning. To find repetitions, write the word as soon
as you notice a repetition and make check marks next to it as you go through the
section – how many times can you find it?
EXAMPLE: goes through (3) goes (4) eats/ate (4)
2. Make a list of repetitions of the same kind of detail or word. This is called a strand, a
grouping of similar kinds of words or details. For example, tree, vine, plant, herb
could be a strand, or hot, sun, boiling, bright. Be able to explain the strand’s
connecting logic, how the words are linked together. Most likely some of the words
from your “repetition” list will turn up here as well, as part of a strand.
takes, eats, chomps up, rips open, knocks over (destructive activities)
desert, landscapes, prairies, mountains, rivers (landscape types)
minerals, granite, clay (soil elements)
good/repent/despair (spiritual attitudes)
3. Locate details or words that suggest binary oppositions, binaries or organizing
contrasts. For example: open/closed, polite/rude, growing/dying. Binaries need not
be opposites. They are pairs of words that are linked in a meaningful way, perhaps
in contrast, similarity, or differences of degree. Words from your first two lists
might turn up here again.
EXAMPLE: eats/takes a shit
repenting / loves
4. Look back at your lists. They should be pretty long. Identify the most interesting or
key details (key repletion, key strands, key binary) and highlight them. Arrange your
lists in some kind of order of importance, from most important to least. Type up your
lists if you haven’t yet.
5. To finish, choose just ONE detail (a repletion or a strand or a binary) that seems
especially significant. Write a healthy paragraph in which you explain your choice.
What does this detail reveal about the text? What have you noticed about the poem
that you didn’t see at first?
6. Submit your responses in a single document that includes:
o Full bibliographic listing of poem you worked with. An example:
Lawrence, D.H. “Maximus.” A Book of Luminous Things. Ed. Czeslaw Milosz.
Orlando: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1996. 5.
o list of repeated words
o list of strands (related words)
o list of binaries (pairs of words)
o your final detail paragraph.
This process is based on an exercise in Writing Analytically, by David Rosenwasser and
Jill Stephen.