Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Sylvia Plath”

Coming to Terms with Poetry


education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

They say the best education we receive is that learned while teaching.  I found this to be especially true for poetry fundamentals.

I don’t recall studying poetry in jr. high English, unless studying Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” counts.  As for high school, I remember short stories, yet nothing on the poetry radar comes up for remembrance. College yes, ohmagoodness, poetry aplenty. I do recall a cacophony of emotions as I partook in the banquet of poets found in my Norton Reader. I transversed from embarrassment to  gratitude as I feasted on William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Sylvia Plath and others I had not known existed.  Why, oh why, did I feel the compunction to resell my Norton at the campus bookstore?  College students out there?  Think twice before reselling your textbooks.  All those annotations and well-visited markings really do become appreciated some day.

norton reader

norton reader (Photo credit: cdrummbks)

These days I’m teaching to Common Core Standards and have come to terms with poetry.  They are an absolute on the schedule of attained knowledge.  I also have my AP crowd to cater.  Although I have over 200 literary terms we learn over the course of  the year in AP, I start out my ninth graders with double dozen or so.  How many do you know or remember?

  1. accent: emphasis or stress given a syllable or a particular word.
  2. alliteration: the reiterated initial consonants in prose or poetry.
  3. anaphora: repetition of an opening word or phrase in a series of lines.
  4. assonance:  the repetition of two or more vowel sounds in successive words, creating a type of rhyme.
  5. ballad: a song which tells a story; also be a poem with songlike qualities which tells a story.
  6. blank verse: the most common meter of unrhymed poetry in English; it lacks stanza form and rhyme.
  7. caesura: a pause within the line of verse.
  8. conceit: a fanciful expression, usually in the form of an extended metaphor or an analogy that usually displays intellectual cleverness due to the unusual comparison being made.
  9. consonance: a close similarity between consonants or groups of consonants, especially at the ends of words, e.g. between “strong” and “ring.”
  10. couplet: two consecutive lines of poetry that rhyme, and often have the same meter
  11. diction: the selection of words in a particular literary work, or the language appropriate for a particular (usually poetic) work.
  12. doggerel: crude verse that contains clichés, predictable rhyme, and inept meter and rhythm.
  13. elegy: a poem which mourns the death of someone.
  14. enjambment: when one verse runs into another verse
  15. epic: a long narrative poem on a serious subject, usually centered on a heroic or supernatural person.
  16. epigram: a short poem, which can be comical.
  17. figurative language: language which goes beyond what is denoted (see denotation), and has a suggestive effect on the reader; a figure of speech is part of figurative language.
  18. free verse: poetry which lacks a regular stress pattern and regular line lengths (and which may also be lacking in rhyme). Free verse should not be confused with blank verse
  19. haiku: Japanese form of poetry of seventeen syllables with three unrhymed lines of five, seven and five syllables
  20. heroic couplet: a couplet with iambic pentameter
  21. iamb: a metrical foot of one short or unstressed syllable followed by one long or stressed syllable.
  22. imagery: often taken as a synonym for figurative language, but the term may also refer to the ‘mental pictures’ which the reader experiences in his/her response to literary works or other texts.
  23. kitsch: sentimentality, tastelessness, or ostentation in any of the arts.
  24. limerick: a five line humorous poem involving a fixed aabba rhyme scheme
  25. lyric: a short non-narrative poem that has a solitary speaker, and that usually expresses a particular feeling, mood, or thought.
  26. metaphor: a direct comparison–it does not use “like,” “as,” or “than.” In literature it is a figurative statement asserting one thing is something that it is not.
  27. meter: the recurrence of a similar stress pattern in some or all lines of a poem.
  28. ode: a relatively lengthy lyric poem, usually expressing exalted emotion in a complex scheme of rhyme and meter.
  29. onomatopoeia: a word or expression which resembles the sound which it represents, like the meow of a cat or the quack of a duck.
  30. pastoral: usually written by an urban poet who idealizes the shepherds’ lives. The term has now been extended to include any literary work which views and idealizes the simple life from the perspective of a more complex life.
  31. prosody: the rhythm of spoken language, including stress and intonation, or the study of these patterns
  32. repetition: the duplication of any element of language such as a sound, word, phrase, sentence, or grammatical pattern.
  33. rhyme: the identity of the sounds of the final syllables (usually stressed) of certain proximate lines of a poem.
  34. scan: to assign stress patterns to a poem.
  35. simile: a figure of speech that draws a comparison between two different things, especially a phrase containing the word “like” or “as,” e.g. “as white as a sheet.”
  36. symbol: a person, place, thing, or event that stands both for itself and for something beyond itself.
  37. syntax: how an author chooses to join words into phrases, clauses, and sentences; similar to diction which is focused on individual words, yet syntax is concerned with groups of words.
  38. theme:  the central idea or insight about human life revealed within the work.
  39. tone: the attitude, as it is revealed in the language of a literary work, of a personage, narrator or author, towards the other personages in the work or towards the reader.
  40. voice: the writer’s distinctive use of language, which is created through the use of a writer’s tone and diction.

 Okay, there is about a triple dozen and a dose for good measure here. Some terms crossover into prose which is why we start off with poetry before short stories. We’ve found our students grasp analyzing smaller chunks of literary concepts and then retain those terms and skills for the longer works.

So, how did you do?  I didn’t include the various types of poems in this set.  Stay tuned…

Happy Poetry Month


Poetry (Photo credit: Kimli)


One Shot Authors

Cover of "To Kill a Mockingbird: 50th Ann...

Cover via Amazon

This summer I have pledged to really, really get going on getting my manuscripts out and into the hands of editors, agents, and/or publishers.  It’s time for a published book.  After years of published articles and magazine stories I should be content, but I’m not.  One of my B.I.G. (Before I Get–too old, too tired, too complacent, etc) goals is to be able to walk into a bookstore or a library and find my book on the shelf.  Or better yet, watch someone reading my book while I am on a plane, train, or passing through the library.  I’m not looking for fame or even fortune–truly.  I’m merely looking for shelf status.

Then I start to wonder the “what if”? What if I do get a manuscript published and a novel is born? And what if it is the only book that bears my name?  That can be a disconcerting “what if.”  Who would want to be a one shot author? on the other hand, I would be in good company.  I found this post in a surfing session and it’s so well done I’m reprinting it. Giving credit where credit is due, click on the title to thorughly check it out.

10 Acclaimed Authors Who Only Wrote One Book

1.  Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird: This notoriously reclusive author was terrified of the criticism she felt she would receive for this classic American novel. Of course, the novel didn’t tank and was an immediate bestseller, winning great critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. While Lee spent several years working on a novel called The Long Goodbye, she eventually abandoned it and has yet to publish anything other than a few essays since her early success and none since 1965.

Cover of "Invisible Man (Modern Library)&...

2. Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man: Invisible Man is Ellison’s best known work, most likely because it was the only novel he ever published during his lifetime and because it won him the National Book Award in 1953. Ellison worked hard to match his earlier success but felt himself stagnating on his next novel that eventually came to encompass well over 2000 pages. It was not until Ellison’s death that this novel was condensed, edited and published under the title Juneteenth.

3. Boris Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago: Pasternak’s inclusion here by no means limits him as a one hit wonder, as he was and is known as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. But when it came to writing novels, Pasternak was to only create one work, the epic Dr. Zhivago. It was a miracle that even this novel was published, as the manuscript had to be smuggled out of Russia and published abroad. Even when it won Pasternak the Nobel Prize in 1958, he was forced to decline due to pressure from Soviet authorities, lest he be exiled or imprisoned. Pasternak died two years later of lung cancer, never completing another novel.

Cover of "Doctor Zhivago"

Cover of Doctor Zhivago

Cover of "Gone with the Wind"

4. Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind: Margaret Mitchell never wanted to seek out literary success and wrote this expansive work in secret, only sending it to publishers after she was mocked by a colleague who didn’t believe she was capable of writing a novel. She turned out to be more than capable; however, and the book won a Pulitzer and was adapted into one of the best known and loved films of all time. Mitchell would not get a chance to write another novel, as she was struck and killed by a car on her way to the cinema at only 49 years of age.

5. Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights: As part of a family of women who enjoyed writing, Emily did work on a collection of poetry during her life, though the vast majority of her work was published under a more androgynous pen name at first. While Wuthering Heights received criticism at first for it’s innovative style, it has since become a classic and was edited and republished in 1850 by her sister under her real name. It is entirely possible that Emily may have gone on to create other novels, but her poor health and the harsh climate she lived in shortened her life, and she died at 30 of tuberculosis.

Wuthering Heights (1998 film)

Wuthering Heights (1998 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6. Anna Sewell, Black Beauty: Sewell didn’t start off her life intending to be a novelist. Indeed, she didn’t begin writing Black Beauty until she was 51 years old, motivated by the need to create a work that encouraged people to treat horses (and humans) humanely, and it took her six years to complete it. Upon publication it was an immediate bestseller, rocketing Sewell into success. Unfortunately, she would not live to enjoy but a little of it as she died from hepatitis five months after her book was released.

English: Cover of the novel Black Beauty, firs...

English: Cover of the novel Black Beauty, first edition 1877, published by London: Jarrold and Sons (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These represent novels of authors whose work we tend not to associate beyond their books.  There are other writers, like Oscar Wilde and Sylvia Plath, whom we recognize for their other writings, such as poetry, which were spotlighted in the post. I thought how sad it must have been for Margaret Mitchell and Anna Sewell to have only produced one book.  Then again, what about Nelle?  I wouldn’t mind becoming a one shot author if my one lone book would have as much impact as Harper Lee’s has over time.

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