Diction: the poet’s word choice, determines not only meaning but just about every effect a poem produces. Denotation: a word’s unambiguous “dictionary” meaning. Connotations: a word’s emotional implications and the associations it evokes. Precision of denotation may be just as impressive and productive of special effects as the resonance or ambiguous suggestiveness of connotation. Syntax: the way the sentences are put together. Audio: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/my-papaswaltz What is the situation in this poem? Is there more than one interpretation? How does Roethke make the situation ambiguous? Look at diction, word order, syntax. What words make it sound like this is an enjoyable, evening activity? What words make it something OTHER than an enjoyable father-son moment? Based on the details in the poem, what do you know about this family? Economic status? Social class? Father’s occupation? How does the speaker feel about this ritual with his father? How does the mother feel about it? How old is the speaker? What is the tone of the poem? How do you explain the title? William Carlos Williams is sometimes referred to as an “imagist” poet. While Williams did not subscribe to all of the tenets of imagism and was not very involved in its founding as a poetic movement, he published some poems in imagist anthologies and his work certainly shares some of the imagists’ aesthetic goals and values. Imagism emerged in the early twentieth century with the objective of producing poetry that used only precise, clear language to reveal “the essence” of its subjects. The imagists, a sometimes contentious group of poets led at different moments by Ezra Pound and Amy Lowell, were committed to what they called “direct treatment of the ‘thing’” and to a rejection of all sentimental or imprecise language. In some ways, imagism mirrored early twentieth-century developments in the visual arts, such as the cubist paintings and collages of artists like Picasso, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris, and the work of modernist photographers like Alfred Stieglitz. Imagist poets were also profoundly influenced by the spare beauty they found in traditional Japanese art, poetry, and drama. Williams’s poetry tends toward an imagistic compression of language and a focus on concrete, precise images. He characterized his own approach to poetry in his famous maxim “No ideas but in things.” As we discuss“The Red Wheelbarrow” and “This Is Just to Say,” consider the status of objects in the poems and the presentation of “things” within them. In “The Red Wheelbarrow,” what information is left out of the poem? Are you left wondering about the speaker, the setting, and the context? How would you describe the tone of “The Red Wheelbarrow”? The speaker of “The Red Wheelbarrow” tells us immediately that “so much depends upon” the wheelbarrow, but he never actually specifies what exactly that “so much” is. What do you think the speaker means? What is it that “depends” on the wheelbarrow? When asked about the composition of “This Is Just to Say,” Williams claimed that it was an actual note that he left for his wife after eating some plums: “It actually took place just as it . . . says here. And my wife being out, I left a note for her just that way. . . .” Critics have often understood this text as a “found poem”—that is, a poem composed of words and phrases borrowed from another, nonpoetic, text that have been rearranged or reframed as poetry. The poet, for example, might refashion language found in an instruction manual, or a political speech, or on a street sign, and then present it as a poem. (A recent example of found poetry is Hart Seely’s 2003 publication of Donald Rumsfeld’s Defense Department briefings as The Existential Poetry of Donald Rumsfeld.) In “pure” examples of found poetry, the poet changes spacing and adds line breaks but leaves the words of the poem largely in the order in which they appeared in the source text, with few additions or omissions. Sometimes, however, poets will add or delete words, or will combine phrases from multiple source texts into a single poem. The “found” quality of “This Is Just to Say” introduces questions about the poem’s speaker and its intended reader(s) and opens up a wide range of interpretive possibilities. Who is the speaker in this poem? Who is the intended reader? In “This Is Just to Say,” line 9 asks the addressee to “Forgive me.” Is this poem meant to be an apology? If so, how sincere is the speaker’s regret? What clues does “This Is Just to Say” provide about the relationship between the speaker and the addressee? How would you describe their relationship? If time, list to Listen to This American Life’s funny appreciation of “This is Just to Say.” What figurative language is in this clip? Figurative language: language that uses figures of speech. Figures of speech: any word or phrase that creates a "figure" in the mind of the reader by effecting an obvious change in the usual meaning or order of words, by comparing or identifying one thing with another; also called tropes. Metaphor, simile, metonymy, overstatement, oxymoron, and understatement are common figures of speech. Simile: a figure of speech involving a direct, explicit comparison of one thing to another, usually using the words like or as to draw the connection, as in "My love is like a red, red rose." Ananalogy is an extended simile. Metaphors: a particular figure of speech in which two unlike things are compared implicitly—that is, without the use of a signal such as the word like or as—as in "Love is a rose, but you better not pick Extended metaphor: is a detailed and complex metaphor that stretches across a long section of a work. Controlling metaphor: a metaphor which dominates or organizes an entire literary work, especially a poem. In Linda Pastan’s "Marks," for example, the controlling metaphor involves the use of "marks" or grades to talk about the speaker’s performance of her familial roles. Mixed metaphor: occurs when two or more usually incompatible metaphors are entangled together so as to become unclear and often unintentionally humorous, as in "Her blazing words dripped all over him.“ Personification: a figure of speech that involves treating something nonhuman, such as an abstraction, as if it were a person by endowing it with humanlike qualities, as in "Death entered the room." From childhood on, Emily Dickinson led a sequestered and obscure life. Yet her verse has traveled far beyond the cultured yet relatively circumscribed environment in which she lived: her room, her father’s house, her family, a few close friends, and the small town of Amherst, Massachusetts. Indeed, along with Walt Whitman, her far more public contemporary, she all but invented American poetry. Born in Amherst, the daughter of a respected lawyer whom she revered (“His heart was pure and terrible,” she once wrote), Dickinson studied for less than a year at the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, returning permanently to her family home. She became more and more reclusive, dressing only in white, seeing no visitors, yet working ceaselessly at her poems— nearly eighteen hundred in all, only a few of which were published during her lifetime. After her death, her sister Lavinia discovered the rest in a trunk, neatly bound into packets with blue ribbons—among the most important bodies of work in all of American literature. At the time of her death in 1886, Emily Dickinson—today considered one of America’s greatest poets—had published only ten of the almost 1,800 poems she had penned. Instead, Dickinson made use of an unusual form of self-publication, copying drafted poems into bound packets of folded, unlined paper, each containing around twenty poems. Scholars refer to these handwritten booklets as “fascicles.” The fascicles have provided fodder for many literary critical debates about Dickinson’s work: scholars have debated the significance in which the poems are arranged, the punctuation and spacing of words within poems, and Dickinson’s practice of including notations for alternative words and phrasings within particular poems. No printed text of a Dickinson poem can accurately capture its appearance in handwritten form in her fascicles, so editors and publishers have had to make difficult decisions about how to reproduce the poems in print. Early editors often insisted on regularizing Dickinson’s punctuation, assigning titles (Dickinson left all of her poems untitled), and rephrasing lines they considered ambiguous or controversial. Some poems, particularly those which have many alternate versions in the fascicles, have had convoluted publication histories. “[Because I could not stop for Death]” does not have as complicated a publication history as some of Dickinson’s other poems, but it has appeared in different forms at different times. Where is the speaker? What is her situation? How is she presented? What sort of person is she? How is “Death” characterized in this poem? What words are capitalized when they normally wouldn’t be? Are these words emphasized? How are readers to understand them? Given the form of the poem, are there any words that you would have thought would be capitalized but aren’t? What role do the em dashes play in this poem? How important are they? What are the implications of silence in “[Because I could not stop for Death—]”? What sort of details does the speaker of this poem notice? Are these important? Why is her perspective somewhat obscured or confused?