How do you analyze poetry?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by NickSo, May 9, 2002.

  1. NickSo

    NickSo Producer

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    Okay, so im online today, and my friend tells me to help him analyze this poem by leonard cohen:
    http://www.windgallery.com/poetry/victim.htm
    Well, i didn't know how to. Though I do like reading poetry once in a blue moon, sometimes when i HAVE to read it and say write something about it more than "oh that was nice" in an essay or whatnot, i dont know where to start.
    My english teacher hasn't taught us how to analyze poetry, but a tutor awhile ago said the Grade 12 english final is based alot on analyzing poetry. I always thought it was something a person 'had' in them, wheter they could analyze poetry or not, or how they interpreted it. But it turns out its not, and theres a way to do it.
    So, how do i do it? How do I analyze a poem?
     
  2. Ben Motley

    Ben Motley Supporting Actor

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    Hell man, if I knew this, life would be so much richer. I have the same problem with modern and abstract art. I can't personally get over my own perceived inability to understand art and poetry, and just enjoy it on a surface level. And until you can just look at art or read poetry for sheer enjoyment, I think understanding and analyzing it can only be that much more agonizing.
    Let me know if you ever find the secret Nick. [​IMG]
     
  3. Wayne Bundrick

    Wayne Bundrick Cinematographer

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    You start with a Vogon-designed poetry appreciation chair.
     
  4. Andrew W

    Andrew W Supporting Actor

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    Analysis of literature is a pile of crap invented by English professors. They will claim to know what the author meant and how symbolic it is.

    The funny thing is that living authors usually say they meant no such thing and state that they were just trying to write a good story. The English professors then counter with, "It must be subliminal."

    Yeah, sure.
     
  5. Ben Motley

    Ben Motley Supporting Actor

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    Well, now you're talkin' literature, which is different than poetry, of course. And I agree with ya... to a point. Herman Melville said there was absolutley nothing analogous in Moby Dick, but if any story was ever open to symbolic interpretation, Moby Dick certainly is. Whether Melville likes it or not, Moby Dick is rife with analogy. Just because an author refuses to admit any symbolism in his works doesn't mean it can't be read into it, or that he's telling the truth in the first place. Now, for a professor to declare that his interpretations are "correct" and yours aren't, that's a load of crap.
     
  6. Jeff Braddock

    Jeff Braddock Second Unit

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    I have not read this poem, but the way we were taught to interpret passages for exegetical papers at school was: look for figures of speech ie metaphors, similes,etc; also look at the parallellisms used ie antithetic, synthetic, etc.; look for word tools used ie inclusio, merism (sp?), etc. This is what we were taught to use when analyzing Hebrew poetry, but I think it would still be applicable to any kind of poetry. Also, you might want to know what was going on during the period when the piece was written. Finding out the reason it was written is often times the most important step. Hope this helps.
     
  7. Darren H

    Darren H Second Unit

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  8. Darren H

    Darren H Second Unit

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  9. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Another thing to consider is meter. Look at the dominant syllable of a line. For example:
    Or, maybe English professors exist in the first place because of the need for literature analysis.
     
  10. AllanN

    AllanN Supporting Actor

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    Looks like you also riped out the forward by mr J. Evans Prichard. I know im no help but I thought it was fitting.
     
  11. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    You hold the poem in your hand

    You put the poem on a stand

    You look at it from different sides

    And try to figure what it hides

    If it comes out really good

    And flows as though you think it should

    Then maybe it was worth the time

    You analysed a silly rhyme
     
  12. Jared_B

    Jared_B Supporting Actor

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    I totally agree with Andrew.

    Why should anyone have to analyze someone else's book/poem? If it means something to you, why does it matter if it means something different to a professor? Why should students have to write big essays about what an authoer MIGHT be referring to in their book?

    It would be much easier to teach students how to write when they are writing about something they care about, not some 50 year-old novel written by a crazy guy that lived by himself in a cabin in the woods for several years.
     
  13. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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  14. Janna S

    Janna S Second Unit

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    I am disappointed to see the hostility toward analysis and insight that is expressed in some of these replies.

    In my experience, the value of almost anything of quality - a poem, a book, a song, a speech; a film, a painting, a building; or maybe even a car, a concert, a meal, a home theater system - is enhanced when I understand more about it - how was it built, what are its components, why might the poet/builder/painter/person have made those choices, what memories or reactions does it evoke, what does it make me feel, think, remember, want, do?

    People often feel hostile toward things they don't understand. Perhaps even the idea that some kind of insight might be possible is enough to make some hostile.
     
  15. Joe Tilley

    Joe Tilley Supporting Actor

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    This may not apply here,but to me a poem is something you feel...

    I live in a world where everyone can see,but no one can hear

    Where my pain is very obvious,but no one seams to care

    I cut open my veins as they stand there and watch

    But no one hears me screaming,all I wont is to be loved

    My blood makes a shallow puddle as I lie here to die

    Everyone can see me,but no one hears me cry

    My skin withers away as my heart slowly stops

    I feel every last beet,I count each last drop

    So if this is all life has to offer than just let me die

    Because I can no longer go on living this life....

    This is one of my many poem's Joe 96
     
  16. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Jared,

    The most important step of learning to write is to read. Any hack can just come up with a bunch of stuff. The great artists build on their predecessors and create their own voice from that.

    Jenna,

    Excellent post. These sort of complaints come in all shapes and colors, in every field of endeavor. Terms like "pretentious," "pompous," "self-indulgent" are often used as excuses to attack things that talented people put a lot of effort into.
     
  17. Randy Tennison

    Randy Tennison Screenwriter

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    My senior year of college, I had to analyze a poem. I really tried to get into it, but just couldn't find "symbolism" or "meaning" from it. (I later learned that I am wired for problem solving, not abstraction).

    So, I wrote a 3 page bullsh!t paper on what the poem "meant to me". I didn't mean any of it.

    My professor loved my analysis so much, she wanted to have it published, as there had not been a published analysis of this poem before. I said "no thanks", but never told her that my work was crap. I got an "A" for the course because of that BS analysis. I've never forgotten that.
     
  18. Ben Motley

    Ben Motley Supporting Actor

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    Randy, don't be so quick to sell yourself short man. Maybe you did in fact "get it", at least from your perspective. Please note my first post in this thread; I have zilch faith in my ability to understand the arts, yet my highest marks in school and in college came in English and writing. And the whole time I was just "bullshitting my way through". Under pressure, I just kinda go on autopilot, and once there, all the real bullshit, that of my lack of self-confidence, takes a back seat to the fact that it's time to get down to business. Folks like me and you aren't fakes, we're genius. [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  19. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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  20. NickSo

    NickSo Producer

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    Thanks guys...
    I've always thought that analyzing poems and whatnot was completely useless, but i found it very interesting to see how the author uses the words to describe something more subliminal, and underlying. Different metaphors and analogies can mean the same thing, but the kinds of metaphors and analogies used can alter the meaning completely (to some extent)
    Janna: great post, and i totally agree with you. Being a car guy and HT enthusiast, with your analogies i can finally see why english teachers want us to all understand literature on all its levels.
    In a car, i don't admire it for its speed, or its 1/4 mile time, I really admire the engineering it takes to make a good car. The honda S2000 for example, an engineering feat to get huge amounts of power from a 1.9l engine in a production car.
    In HT, its not the amount of bass it can deliver, its the combining of sounds to make the whole sound image, and how each component is important in delivering that image to its viewers.
    I see the same thing now with poetry/literature. To really appreciate the author's works, you gotta get underneath its literal meaning, and read between the lines. Otherwise its the same as any other book you can get at Safeway. Just a bunch of text printed on paper bind into a book.
    Just my thoughts [​IMG]
     

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