Presentation on theme: "About two hundred years ago, an English poet by the name of William Wordsworth wrote that “we murder to dissect.” He meant that in order to study and."— Presentation transcript:
About two hundred years ago, an English poet by the name of William Wordsworth wrote that “we murder to dissect.” He meant that in order to study and analyze a living thing, first we have to kill it.
Some people feel that what Wordsworth said applies to more than what goes on in a laboratory. They think that Wordsworth, as a poet, saw a poem as a living thing. And they worry that to analyze a poem—to study it in detail, to look closely at specific lines and words—is to dissect the poem, which would mean, unfortunately, to take all the life out of it.
These people feel that poetry is something you should read (and write) not with your mind but with your heart. Poetry, they say, is more a matter of emotions than of thinking.
In some ways, that’s true. When you first read a poem, you probably read it for enjoyment. When you first start to talk about it, probably the questions that come to mind are “Do I like this poem? How does it make me feel?”
But then another question often occurs, a question that moves you from feeling into thinking: “What does the poem mean?” As soon as you start thinking about that question, you have to go back to the poem itself. You have to linger over certain lines and words. You begin to wonder why the poet used those particular words, in that particular order.
For example, you might wonder why Robert Frost repeated the same line at the end of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Here are the last four lines of that poem: The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep. ＊ More about the Poem... ＊
There are good reasons why Frost repeats that line. And the place to look for those reasons is in the poem, in specific words and lines.
But wait a minute—now you’re analyzing the poem. Does that mean you’ve murdered it to dissect it? No, not if you don’t go overboard. Instead, it means that you are being respectful to the poet.
You are acknowledging that he didn’t just slap any old words down on a page but carefully chose and arranged certain words, just as a painter would carefully choose certain paints or a furniture maker would carefully choose the right pieces of wood—or just as you would carefully choose exactly the words you want in writing a poem of your own.
You’ll find that you can enjoy many poems even more if you look at the craft that went into making them. You might even find that this kind of study, far from killing a poem, breathes life into it, because it brings you closer to the poet who shaped its words. As you read the following poem, note how carefully Wordsworth chose his words.
The Rainbow My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky: So was it when my life began; So is it now I am a man; So be it when I shall grow old, Or let me die! The Child is father of the Man; And I could wish my days to be Bound each to each by natural piety.
By examining the words used in the poem, we seem to be able to get close to the poet’s state of mind. In this manner you will be able to analyze a poem and enjoy it.