Tag: poetry

April 9, 2014

In Honor of National Poetry Month | Five Poets to Inspire

For the most part, poetry terrifies me. In honor of National Poetry Month, I wanted to introduce you to some poets that helped me get over my trouble with poems. I’ve put the particular school of poetry each poet falls into with a link to poets.org’s site if you want to explore further.

Poetry Foundation

SHARON OLDS (Confessional)

Sharon Olds writes poetry about life. I love reading her work in particular because it’s so personal; she explores every side of her life without shame, qualm, or worries. Confessional poetry is great for exploring the different sides of the human experience, emotions and life. 

READ: My Son The Man

Poetry Foundation

ALLEN GINSBERG (Beat)

Allen Ginsberg was a revolutionary. His poetry changed my entire perspective. He used his poetry to make a statement about the state of the culture, to express his beliefs, to defend himself against those who thought he was wrong. It’s such a unique perspective and his work speaks for itself.

READ: Howl

Poetry Foundation

LANGSTON HUGHES (Jazz)

Hughes is regarded to be one of America’s greatest artists and the leader of the Harlem Renassiance. He used poetry to affect change and make a statement about society as well, but he made it relatable to his cause. There was such an onslaught against him in the media, but he stood strong in what he believed in. 

READ: The Negro Speaks of Rivers


Poetry Foundation

T.S. ELIOT (Modernism)

I bet this poet isn’t a surprise to you guys – you know how I love “The Waste Land”! Eliot represents a movement that spoke about cultural change and it’s reflected in his work. Eliot’s work combines a mass of different images from different eras, mixing them together to create one solid message. Discerning the particular message is what keeps poets and readers alike coming back to his work again and again. 

READ: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock


Poetry Foundation

JOHN KEATS (Romantic)

When I first started studying poetry and literature, I though the Romantic period would be kind of like the contemporary romance section at the library; lots of love, heartbreak, and happily ever afters. Instead, Keats and his counterparts explore the world, both physically and metaphysically. Romantic describes their state of mind: the rose-colored glasses, the beauty of nature, the simplicity of life. Whenever the world gets to be too fast, too busy, or just too much, Keats is a good poet to turn to in order to slow things down. 

READ: La Belle Dame sans Merci


If you have any questions or want to learn more about the different schools of poetry, Poets.org has an amazing list! I also love Poetry Foundation‘s website – it’s a bit more user-friendly. 

Posted April 9, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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April 2, 2014

O Poetry | How I Loved to Learn The Subject I Hated

Poetry and I didn’t get along. 


There. I admitted it. 


I love books because there are so many potential perspectives; everyone reads a book differently. But when a teacher pulled out a poem in high school to read, there seemed to be only one answer. They would start talking about how the bird actually meant leaves and this meant that, and…well, this is where I ended up  with this look on my face…




 For years, poetry just felt inaccessible. I didn’t know how to decipher the birds and the bees to leaves and trees (hah!), so I avoided poetry as much as possible. Then two things happened:


1. I took a Intro to Poetry class.
2. I took an American Gothic lit class.


Intro to Poetry was at first a filler class, to be honest. I needed a class to make sure I had enough units in the semester and this professor had pretty good ratings on RateMyProfessor (yep, that’s mostly how I picked classes). I’ve never had a teacher with so much passion about his subject, especially poetry, which everyone else approached with caution. Professor M jumped in, head first, and yanked us all in after him. What I loved about his approach to poetry was there was no right/wrong answer. To him, poetry is about the power of words as well as the meaning behind them. We studied all aspects of poetry, from the somewhat strange poems of Robert Creeley to the overly emotionally and incredibly intimate work of Sharon Olds. After studying each poet, we were required to write a two page journal entry, describing the experience, the poem, whatever. It was strange; as the semester progressed, I found myself beginning to love poetry


The judgment was gone; I could say I thought the birds meant oranges instead of trees and Professor M would listen to my argument, then open it up for the class discussion. Instead of being perpetually confused, poetry began to become a part of me.


My American Gothic class was where poetry and I really began to be friends. I’ve always loved the era of the American Gothic (or dark romanticism) because of its intrinsically mysterious nature. Professor S introduced me to the worlds of T.S. Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe and Henry James (not necessarily a poet, but the man has a way with words) and I fell in love.  


It was The Waste Land” that changed it all for good. I love this poem. The combination of dramatic, dark images and the double meanings behind words makes this poem into the ultimate puzzle to figure out. I love the vast amount of references – I could have happily spent the entire semester disseminating the meanings behind each and every word. Then Professor S moved on to Dickinson, whose complete collection of poetry sits on my shelf between Whitman’s and Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” There’s the same kind of magic in her words that drew me in and I am always fascinated by her double use of language. 


Now, poetry and I are cool. 


We understand each other. 




Well, not completely. There will always be some poems that are still completely foreign to me – like Creeley’s – but now, I’m willing to give them a try. In honor of National Poetry Month, I’m going to give it a try.




Want more? Check these out:

National Poetry Month’s site


Poetry Out Loud


Poetry Foundation (my personal fav)

Posted April 2, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 14, 2013

Poetry Friday: Emily Dickinson, Part 2

Good morning! 


In her work, Dickinson addresses pretty much everything: religion, life, love, family, and especially death. Not to sound overly morbid, but I feel she is at her best with poems that concern death and the afterlife. Here’s one of my favorites, taken from Brooklyn College English website:


Because I could not stop for Death,

He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste, 

And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove

At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;

The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed

A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then ’tis centuries, and yet each

Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses’ heads
Were toward eternity.
There’s some pretty cool imagery in here, including Dickinson’s description of Death as “kindly.” Typically, we don’t associate the Grim Reaper as a nice guy, but Dickinson portrays him here as someone with a bad reputation. To her, Death’s job is to curry her from this life to the next. 
Do you see where Dickinson’s speaker’s life flashes before her eyes? “We passed the school, where children strove / At recess, in the ring” represents childhood. The “fields of gazing grain” is the mid part of life, adulthood, and “the setting sun” represents our old age. I always find it extraordinary that even in Dickinson’s time, one’s life flashing before the eyes before death was a common enough occurrence to mention it in a poem.
Dickinson’s speaker only finds panic as they approach the next life, the “swelling of the ground.” This represents the unknown afterlife, the one that we on Earth question and wonder about so constantly. It’s fascinating to me she separates her fear of death from her fear of the afterlife.
Keep reading! There’s tons of analytical sources online that offer different opinions about Dickinson’s work besides my theories. I’d love to know what you’ve come up with!

Posted June 14, 2013 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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May 31, 2013

Poetry Friday: Why I Love Rita Dove

The pun was accidental, I promise!

Photo Credit to Wikipedia


In my Modern Poetry class, my professor introduced us to a lot of  different poets…some were a little strange, some were just plain odd (like Robert Creeley…). Out of all of the poets we studied, I loved Rita Dove.

Biographically, Dove is a notable woman. Her Wikipedia biography as well as her Poetry Foundation biography is littered with awards and achievements; among the biggest is the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. My personal favorite is her role as United States Poet Laureate from 1993-95!

In class we read two specific poems of Dove’s, ones that have stuck out in my mind since the class two semesters ago. “Ars Poetica” and “Parsley”. Since I’m not entirely sure how the magic of copyright works, I will just post these links so you guys can go take a look for yourselves! If you are a true lover of poetry (like my professor), “Ars Poetica”is definitely the one for you. “Parsley,” which I discovered later, is based upon a real event. In “Parsley,” Dove examines the psychology of a man who discriminated and executed based upon a single word, which I found fascinating. His mama obsessions were borderline creepy and give new meaning to the psychological disorders.

What I loved most about “Parsley” was the rhyme scheme. It is written as a villanelle. Dove’s use of this type of scheme creates a certain pattern within the poem, an almost frightening overtone.

Here’s a good video of “Parsley”…

Posted May 31, 2013 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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May 17, 2013

Poetry Friday: The Descent of Alette by Alice Notley

Title: The Descent of Alette
Author: Alice Notley
Publication Date: April 1996
Source: Owned (Bought for Narrative Poetry class)
Links: GoodReadsAmazon
My Rating: Four Stars

In “The Descent of Alette,” Alice Notley presents a feminist epic, a bold journey into the deeper realms. Alette, the narrator, finds herself underground, deep beneath the city, where spirits and people ride endlessly on subways, not allowed to live in the world above. Traveling deeper and deeper, she is on a journey of continual transformation, encountering a series of figures and undergoing fragmentations and metamorphoses as she seeks to confront the Tyrant and heal the world. Using a new measure, with rhythmic units indicated by quotation marks, Notley has created a “spoken” text, a rich and mesmerizing work of imagination, mystery, and power.








Okay. Bear with me. This book, on the first glance is terrifying. Here’s why:


“There is past, present” :& future’ ” “The Future then cried out,” ” ‘Where is my life?” ‘Where is my life?” “You have stolen” “my life!’ ”

Yeah. The entire book is written this way. Wait! I know. It freaked me out too. But read that part out loud, pausing at the end-quotes. Notley wrote like this to emphasize particular phrasing and words. It’s kind of cool!


Notley rewrites a lot of the accepted characteristics of epic poetry in The Descent of Alette. She throws out the good-ol’-boys’ club ideals and makes room for herself and her feminist heroine in the canon. 


This poem has everything. Even sex, strangely enough. The best part about this poem for me was the science fiction aspect of it. In Alette’s world, most of society lives underground, riding the subways endlessly, controlled by the evil tyrant. In class, we couldn’t quite put our finger on who/what the tyrant was…I think that adds to the magic of this story. There are so many different possibilities, so many different readings, it’s extraordinary. Sorry. Got distracted. Alette is the only one who can defeat the tyrant (hello heroic journey) and defeat the tyrant. Piece of cake? Not really. But she does get an owl spirit guide, a couple of cool weapons, and magic powers.


Final Thoughts:
On first crack, this poem terrified me. The language, the layout all made me go ohh no (my poetry prof has a wacky sense of humor; this is something he would throw at us and say “good luck, kiddos”), but I’m so happy I read this. It was actually a pleasure, once I got the hang of the language and form. P.S. the ending? It might surprise you…

Posted May 17, 2013 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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May 3, 2013

Poetry Friday: Maya Angelou

Happy Friday, everyone! I want to introduce a new feature I have been toying with…

P O E T R Y  F R I D A Y 

I’ll think of a better title soon, hopefully, but until then…
Poetry is one of those issues in English that either terrorizes or entrances students. Personally, I’m terrorized until someone explains it to me, then it’s ohh… I get it! So, I thought introducing poetry on The Canon might help make us all (even me) a lot more familiar with this unique aspect of literature.

(photo sourced from Wikpedia)

Maya Angelou appears to attract two types of emotions. Either you love her poetry, or you detest it. This prolific writer and poet has lived the life of tales. She knew Malcolm X, worked alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., and has traveled the world. More on her biography is here. I picked this photo in particular for a reason – she was the first poet asked to read at a presidential inauguration since Robert Frost read at JFK’s. 

Her poetry strikes a chord in me. Her most famous book of poetry I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1996, deals with her personal background in the deep South, controversial issues even today were the main topic. I adore Ms. Angelou’s work because she is empowered. This woman has faced the worst of human nature, and “Still I Rise.”

Please, watch this. She reads one of my favorite poems “Still I Rise,” (beginning at 0:44). You’ll see why she has enchanted millions.


Posted May 3, 2013 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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February 3, 2013

Sunday Afternoon Classics: William Butler Yeats

I fell in love with W.B. Yeats‘ work during last semester’s Irish Lit class. Oh my goodness, I’m so glad we spent weeks working on his poems. Every one has so many intricate layers, multiple meanings and references to everything from the Ancient Greeks to his own era. 


During class, we used Selected Poems and Four Plays of William Butler Yeats, which explores poems from every work. Personally, I think everyone should own this book, regardless if you like poetry or not. Just the references to the struggle of the Irish alone is worth the book.


The poems I wanted to mention are mostly available only on print, although I found two on the Poetry Foundation website: “Easter, 1916” and “The Second Coming.” Both of these focus upon the struggle of the Irish, their constant battles against the invading English.


I’m sorry I can’t write more. I only managed this one in between shifts (thank you, Superbowl!). Happy reading!

Posted February 3, 2013 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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