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  • Literary Criticism (Approaching Unseen Poems) - English Advanced 1st year – Dr Elton Stivala – Hand Out no.9

    1. Subject, Situation or Theme What seems to be the point of the poem? What ideas are being communicated by the speaker?

    2. Speaker / Voice Who is speaking? Is the voice in the third or first person? How would you characterize the speaker? To whom is he or she speaking? What is the speaker's tone? Why is he or she speaking?

    3. Structure / Form Is the poem in a closed or open form? Enjambment? Is the poem presented in a traditional form? Is there a pattern of end rhymes? a syllabic line count? a set metrical pattern? How are the stanzas arranged? the lines? How do these contribute to the subject of the poem?

    4. Tone and Atmosphere How would you describe the poet’s tone of voice? Give examples Is there an atmosphere or feeling that pervades the poem such as gladness, doom or joy and if yes, what are the words that project this atmosphere (for example long sentences with repetitive use of ‘oo’ tend to create a sombre effect.

    5. Imagery Did you note any descriptive passages? For each image, name the sense that is being appealed to. What is the dominant impression being created? What is the relationship of the descriptive images to the speaker's state of mind? How do images create sense of time of day? season of year? atmosphere? mood? Do the images progress? (day to night, hot to cold, soft to loud, color to color, etc) How does the writer use simile and metaphor. How do these contribute to the subject of the poem?

    6. Word Choice, Word Order What type of diction is the poet employing? How does the poet's word choice affect the meaning of the poem? Relate with the tone? Does the poet employ other figures of speech? (personification, hyperbole, understatement, etc.) Does the word order impact the reading of or the meaning of the poem? Are there any ideas hidden ‘below the surface of the text’? Irony?

    7. Rhyme, Rhythm and Sound effects Does the poem contain an obvious meter or rhythm? (if not discussed in pt.3) What sounds are emphasized by the rhyme scheme? Are there eye rhymes, slant rhymes, alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia, etc? Does the rhythm change? What is the effect that they leave on the reading of the poem?

    8. Conclusion Return to an overview of the text. Sum, up how the effects of detail, language and style you have analysed come together to create one piece of writing. Go back to the theme and mention how your reading has developed the way the poem projects its theme. Feel free to provide a very brief personal response.

  • Literary Criticism (Approaching Unseen Poems) - English Advanced 1st year – Dr Elton Stivala – Hand Out no.9

    The Letter by Miriam Lo (2004)

    How it sits in his hands.

    “Who’s it from?” Her son looks away. “Susan.” Su-san. A girl’s name. An Australian girl is writing to her son. The coffeeshop patrons grow quiet. Fat sizzles in the restaurant’s woks, upstairs. Traffic roars round the corner.

    Questions, as if he is suddenly a stranger, as if he has come from a far-away place, sat down in strange clothes, demanding a coffee.

    Someone strange has come in and sat down in their coffeeshop. There! Her breath in the words of the letter. A glimpse of the handwriting— round, neat letters. A faint outline of a person is starting to form.

    His mother thinks of how words flow out of a body and carry the ghost of fingers, a face, a heart. She thinks of the words that have etched themselves on the walls of her life: I surrender, We are at war; the words that weigh heavily on her tongue as she stands and watches the face of her son: I love you, Come home. Come Home.

    But she cannot hold him, how quickly he slips from her gaze to those words on the page that are taking him away, to a place she has no name for.

  • Literary Criticism (Approaching Unseen Poems) - English Advanced 1st year – Dr Elton Stivala – Hand Out no.9

  • Literary Criticism (Approaching Unseen Poems) - English Advanced 1st year – Dr Elton Stivala – Hand Out no.9

    Swifts by Ted Hughes

    Fifteenth of May. Cherry blossom. The swifts Materialize at the tip of a long scream Of needle. ‘Look! They’re back! Look!’ And they’re gone On a steep

    Controlled scream of skid Round the house-end and away under the cherries. Gone. Suddenly flickering in sky summit, three or four together, Gnat-whisp frail, and hover-searching, and listening

    For air-chills – are they too early? With a bowing Power-thrust to left, then to right, then a flicker they Tilt into a slide, a tremble for balance, Then a lashing down disappearance

    Behind elms. They’ve made it again, Which means the globe’s still working, the Creation’s Still waking refreshed, our summer’s Still all to come -- And here they are, here they are again Erupting across yard stones Shrapnel-scatter terror. Frog-gapers, Speedway goggles, international mobsters --

    A bolas of three or four wire screams Jockeying across each other On their switchback wheel of death. They swat past, hard-fletched

    Veer on the hard air, toss up over the roof, And are gone again. Their mole-dark labouring, Their lunatic limber scramming frenzy And their whirling blades

    Sparkle out into blue -- Not ours any more. Rats ransacked their nests so now they shun us. Round luckier houses now They crowd their evening dirt-track meetings,

    Racing their discords, screaming as if speed-burned, Head-height, clipping the doorway With their leaden velocity and their butterfly lightness, Their too much power, their arrow-thwack into the eaves.

    Every year a first-fling, nearly flying Misfit flopped in our yard, Groggily somersaulting to get airborne. He bat-crawled on his tiny useless feet, tangling his flails

    Like a broken toy, and shrieking thinly Till I tossed him up — then suddenly he flowed away under His bowed shoulders of enormous swimming power, Slid away along levels wobbling

    On the fine wire they have reduced life to, And crashed among the raspberries. Then followed fiery hospital hours In a kitchen. The moustached goblin savage

    Nested in a scarf. The bright blank Blind, like an angel, to my meat-crumbs and flies. Then eyelids resting. Wasted clingers curled. The inevitable balsa death. Finally burial For the husk Of my little Apollo --

    The charred scream Folded in its huge power.

  • Literary Criticism (Approaching Unseen Poems) - English Advanced 1st year – Dr Elton Stivala – Hand Out no.9

  • Literary Criticism (Approaching Unseen Poems) - English Advanced 1st year – Dr Elton Stivala – Hand Out no.9