week 1 - Using the Staff Site

Dr Rose Lucas
A particular and concentrated form of
linguistic expression
One that comes with its own histories and
tradition – the Genre of poetry
Tends to foreground imagery, emotional
intensity, the senses – above narrative,
rational debate
When would we use poetic language? When
would we turn to poetry as the preferred mode
of expression?
 To express something emotionally intense –
love, grief
 To describe the ‘beautiful’ or the dramatic:
the power of word pictures
 When we are trying to express the ambiguous
or something not clearly defined
 To lift words into a more formal or elevated
Poetry also has a close relationship to song.
Where song has pitch and melody, poetry has
rhythm, rhyme, metre. The lyrics are a
component of the song, just as the words are
a component of the poem
Poetry retains a close connection to the idea
of the body – of breath and pulse
Historically, poetry has been more aligned
with story (the transmission of story within
oral cultures eg), religious feeling, even
political ideas; eg. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey,
Milton’s Paradise Lost, Donne’s ‘Holy
Sonnets,’ Paterson’s The Man from Snowy
A lot of more modern poetry in particular is
very influenced by the personal and the
subjective. Eg. Poems about romance,
emotional lives, personal convictions
Even where poetry can be described as the
language of an interior self, it also always
bears some connection to place and time
Ballad: telling a story, usually with regular
Ode: a ‘grand’ and long poem of heroic tone
Epic: long narrative poem, usually of heroes
and battles
Elegy: poem in honour of the dead
Sonnet: 14 line poem, either Petrarchan or
Lyric: short verse, usually subjective or
Free verse: not using regular rhyme or rhythm
Concrete Poetry: poetry that foreground
visual shape
Performance poetry: where the meaning of a
poem is indistinguishable from its
presentation; eg Luca Lesson
Anonymous Ballads: c.14th -18th centuries
The English Renaissance (c. 1550-1700)
The Romantic Period (c. 1800-1850)
Modernism (c. 1910-1930)
Confessional Poetry
Concrete Poetry
Performance Poetry….
Don’t panic! Take it slowly – it requires a
different style of reading to prose
Read it aloud at least a couple of times,
paying attention to both its grammatical
structure (syntax) and its line breaks
Work through it closely line by line, building a
sense of how the imagery and the ideas are
Don’t ask ‘what does it mean’ first up. Rather, get a
feel for it; find the key images on which it turns and
try to unpack them; ask what emotional impact the
poem has
Poetry requires a particular kind of close reading
– going slow, reading for suggestion and nuance,
allowing the poem and its meanings to marinate
in the mind. All essay work using poetry is based
on the close reading, and you will always need to
quote specifically from the poem to show exactly
where your interpretation comes from.
You will always need to consider both the
formal elements of poem (its layout, its
punctuation, its rhythm etc) in conjunction
with its ideas. Because poetry is such a
particularised and compressed art form, you
must always take into account how it is said
in order to understand what is being said.
Fetch me the sandmartin
skimming and veering
breast to breast with himself
in the clouds in the river.
At the worn mouth of the hole
flight after flight after flight
the swoop of his wings
gloved and kissed home.
A glottal stillness. An eardrum.
Far in, featherbrains tucked in silence,
a silence of water
lipping the bank.
Mould my shoulders inward to you.
Occlude me.
Be damp clay pouting.
Let me listen under your eaves.
This subject involves:
 A brief overview of poetry in English
 Introduction to a vocabulary of poetry – kinds
of poems and various techniques
 Development of confidence in reading and
interpreting a range of poems
 Development of skills in discussing poetry
and its ideas
 Development of skills in writing about poetry,
and having some sense of it in its historical
You will need:
Seven Centuries of Poetry in English (ed) John
Unit Reader -also available from the bookshop.
Leonard (bookshop)
This contains additional poems
NB: You must have a copy of the poems set for
each week available in front of you for each class
– anthology, reader, online or printed out.
The power point slides for each week’s
lecture will be on-line at Ian Syson’s
This can be useful to look through ahead of
the lecture, or to revise subsequently.