West Chester University

Fall 2002

West Chester University

Spring 2002

Fall 2001





Course Information
  WRT 120 Syllabus
  Lit 165 Syllabus
  About the Instructor

Notes for Effective Writing I
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'
  Writing Descriptively
  What Makes a Good Story?
  Building a Thesis
  Notes on 'Purpose'
  Strategies for Writing Introductions
  Strategies for Writing Conclusions
  Assignment #5: Argument
  Understanding Rational Argument

Notes for Introduction to Literature
  Fundamental Questions About Literature
  Critical Approaches to Literature
  Approaching Literature
  Critical Thinking and Reading Literature
  Notes on Four Short Stories
  The Genesis of the Short Story
  Defining the Short Story
  The Art of the Short Story
  A Vocabulary for Fiction and Beyond
  Notes on Nathaniel Hawthorne
  Responding to 'The Birthmark'
  A Guided Reading of 'Bartleby the Scrivener'
  Bartleby--Questions for Analysis
  A Cultural Context for 'Bartleby the Scrivener'
  Notes on Innovative Fiction
  Study Guide for Fiction Exam
  Billy Collins - 'Introduction to Poetry'
  A Catalogue of Poems for Study
  Approaching a Definition of Poetry?
  Reading Poetry
  The Craft of Poetry: Imagery
  Readings from 'The United States of Poetry'
  The Craft of Poetry: Sound
  The Craft of Poetry: Structure
  Lines of Continuity
  Study Guide for Poetry Exam
  The Birth of Drama
  On Tragic Character
  Stepping Through 'Oedipus the King'
  Analyzing 'Oedipus the King'
  The Relevance 'Oedipus'Today
  Study Guide for the Drama Exam

Announcements and Assignments
  WRT 120 Announcements
  WRT 120 Assignments
  LIT 165 Announcements
  Lit 165 Assignments


Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Weblog for LIT 165
  Writing Assistance on the Web

Join an Online Forum
  WRT 120 Composition Forum
  LIT 165 Introduction to Literature Forum

~~ Approaching Poetry ~~

SAMUEL JOHNSON (from Preface to Shakespeare):
"The end of writing is to instruct; the end of poetry is to instruct by pleasing."

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH (from Preface to Lyrical Ballads):
"Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind."


"A poem begins with a lump in the throat, a home-sickness or a love-sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where the emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the words."


" an ancient art or technology: older than the computer, older than print, older than writing and indeed, though some may find this surprising, much older than prose. I presume that the technology of poetry, using the human body as its medium, evolved for specific uses; to hold things in memory, both within and beyond the individual life span; to achieve intensity and sensuous appeal; to express feelings and ideas rapidly and memorably. To share those feelings and ideas with companions, and also with the dead and with those to come after us."

(A journalist/poet from Rochester, NY)

A piece of writing is poetic when it:

1. Sings
2. Moves
3. Shimmers
4. Cracks the whip
5. Has an undefinable "woo woo" quality
6. Recreates the early childhood pleasures of moon, Mom, and mud
7. Forces an epiphany
8. Imitates nature
9. Contains the music of plain speech
10. Marries sound and meaning
11. Just sounds good
12. Shatters self-important, secluded views of the world
13. Snaps you into a different state of mind
14. Sets off your indicator lights
15. Is the exact opposite of a gazebungle
16. Connects the reader with an interior "otherness," sort of like music
17. Brings the whole soul of man into activity
18. Offers the most accurate possible symbolic image of objects which when they are actually seen cause distress (corpses, worms, etc.)
19. Instructs by pleasing
20. Proposes pleasure, not truth, as the immediate object of attention
21. Creates a sort of religious feeling
22. Is nothing else, so is poetic by default
23. Remembers things silently gone out of mind
24. Induces movement by precise expression
25. Transforms contemplated emotion into actual, felt emotion
26. Breathes the finer spirit of all knowledge
27. Looks before and after
28. Sees relationships and love everywhere
29. Binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society
30. Feels as if it was always intended to be written as a poem and does not feel like prose in drag
31. Achieves a certain level of song that exceeds the limits of human language
32. Causes a crackling blue spark to arc from the page to the reader's mind
33. Purges pity and terror
34. Ritualistically recalls horrible memories in loving detail
35. Is news that stays news
36. Hits you with a brick
37. Lives beautifully for a moment and then dies
38. Burns for the joy of it
39. Rings your bell
40. Lifts you off

Also see "Poetry and Pleasure" by Doug McGill.

BRYANT H. McGILL (from Preface to Existence)
"Good poetry does not exist merely for the sake of itself, but rather, is a byproduct of yearning and growth; great poetry canonizes that yearning for the growth of others."
(sent in by S. Hernandez, Sierra Vista, AZ)

"Introduction To Poetry"

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.


"Ars Poetica"

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as he sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown-

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds


A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind-

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.


A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea-

A poem should not mean
But be.

Main Entry:
Function: noun
Date: 14th century
1 (a) metrical writing; verse (b) the productions of a poet; poems
2 writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound and rhythm
3 (a) something likened to poetry especially in beauty of expression (b) poetic quality or aspect

Entry: "poem"
· "poem" noun [C]
a piece of writing in which the words are chosen for their sound and the images and ideas they suggest, not just their obvious meaning. The words are arranged in separate lines, often ending in rhyme.

If something has poetry, it is very beautiful or expressive.
This film has a savage poetry and brilliance.
The young gymnast's moves were poetry in motion.

Definitions from the Oxford Paperback Dictionary and Thesaurus and the Little Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

1 emotive, flowery, imaginative, lyrial, metrical, musical.

/"p:m/ noun 1 metrical composition. 2 elevated composition in verse or prose. 3 something with poetic qualities

1 ballad, eclogue (short, pastoral poem), elegy, epic, haiku, lay, limerick, lyric, ode, pastoral, rhyme, sonnet, verse.

3 poetic or tenderly pleasing quality.

/"lrk/ adjective 1 (of poetry) expressing writer's emotion, usually briefly. 2 (of poet) writing in this way. 3 meant or fit to be sun; songlike.
Noun 1 lyric poem. 2 (in plural) words of song.

Adjective 1 lyric. 2 resembling, or using language appropriate to, lyric poetry. 3 colloquial highly enthusiastic.

1,2 emotional, expressive, impassioned, inspired, melodious, musical, poetic, rapturous, rhapsodic, sweet, tuneful. 3 emotional, enthusiastic, impassioned, rapturous, rhapsodic.







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