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UNDERSTANDING POETRY

In the literature component


By : ABIDAH BT SARAJUL HAQ ENGLISH LANGUAGE MASTER TEACHER SEKOLAH TUANKU ABDUL RAHMAN , IPOH

What is Poetry?
It is quite difficult to define what is poetry , yet I have been more successful at describing and appreciating poetry than at defining it. Poetry might be defined, initially, as a kind of language that describes and expresses more intensely than does an ordinary language. William Wordsworth defined poetry as the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, recollected in tranquility . Indeed I might add to say that poetry is the most condensed and concentrated form of literature, saying most in the fewest number of words. As students the love for poetry comes at about this time. Learn how to appreciate poetry, only then will you understand and enjoy it. Here are some useful tips to appreciate poetry. Read the poem more than once. Keep a dictionary by your side and use it to locate meanings of difficult words. Read it again so as to hear the sounds of the words in your mind. Poetry is written to be heard: its meanings are conveyed through sounds as well as through print. Every word is therefore important. Always pay careful attention to what the poem is saying. Practice reading poems aloud. Ask yourself the following questions: i. Who is the speaker and what is the occasion? ii. What is the poet trying to convey in the poem? iii Does the poem have an impact on you ?

Below are some elements I would like to highlight to enhance your understanding of poetry.

The Use of Imagery


Poetry communicates experience and experience comes to us largely through our senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, and touching). Imagery may be defined as the use of clear descriptions to create a word picture or image. The word image is perhaps most often used to suggest a mental picture or something seen in the mind and visual imagery is the most frequently used imagery in poetry. An image may also represent a sound; a smell; a taste or even an internal sensation.

Figurative Language
Metaphor, Simile, Personification and Alliteration : A figure of speech is another way of adding extra dimensions to the poetic language. Broadly defined, a figure of speech is saying something other than the ordinary way. Figurative language is a language that cannot be taken literally. Metaphor and simile are both used as a means of comparing things that are essentially unlike; in simile the comparison is expressed by the use of some words or phrase such as like, as than, similar to, resembles or seems; in metaphor the comparison is implied - that is, a way of comparing two or more things without using the words like or as . On the other hand , personification is a type of metaphor in which human qualities are used to describe non- human objects. Alliteration is the repetition of the same or similar consonants in the words which are close together. * Examples of the above poetic devices will be discussed as I go through the following poems . In paper 1 of the PMR English Language exam , students are required to answer objective questions on three poems that they have learnt in form 1. The three poems are The Dead Crow by A. Samad Said , The Lake Isle of Innisfree by and Lifes Brief Candle by William Shakespeare. Below are some important aspects of the poems that students need to focus.

The Dead Crow by A. Samad Said

He saw a dead crow In a drain near the post office. He saw an old man gasping for air and a baby barely able to breathe in a crowded morning clinic . This land is so rich . Why should we suffer like this ?

I want clean air for my grandchildren. I want the damned fools to leave the forest alone. I want the trees to grow, the rivers run free, and the earth covered with grass Let the politicians plan how we may live with dignity, now and always.

Overview
The poet describes a situation where humans are faced with an unhealthy environment. His furious tone shows that he is angry at what is happening to our environment. He sees a dead crow which is a symbol of a tough bird ( that can withstand difficult conditions), but it cannot stand the polluted air. Although our land is rich in natural resources, yet people suffer due to environmental pollution which is a threat to health. The poet continues to question the role of the damned fools - the greedy businessmen who destroy our forests in their effort to make huge profits. The poet wants the government and the politicians to plan and develop our country carefully towards a cleaner and healthier environment for the people. Consequently, he wants clean air , greeneries and unpolluted , free- flowing rivers. Symbol : The dead crow is a symbol of the fatal effects of pollution. Repetition is used in this free verse poem : I want.. , I want. suggesting a demanding and persistent tone.

Lifes Brief Candle by William Shakespeare Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

Overview
Lifes Brief Candle is a famous soliloquy by Macbeth in William Shakespares tragic play Macbeth . When Macbeth learns of his wife's death, he cries out the above lines, which can be used as a clue to the meaning of the poem. The idea that life is nothing but a shadow is clearly indicated here. The implication that life is a shadow is used to suggest that the actions performed by a person are only shadows when compared with the greater actions performed by men of the past. Macbeth is disillusioned and sees life as short and empty.

FIGURES OF SPEECH
Alliteration: Metaphors: day to day; dusty death; petty pace; poor player; baby-creeps in this petty pace (tomorrow = baby) Yesterdays candle Life as a walking shadow and actor

Personification : out, out, brief candle. Discusses yesterday, today, tomorrow Personification of time and candle. Symbol : Burning candle

The last line consists of only two words: line is cut short, thus emphasizing futility and brevity of life.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by William Butler Yeats

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree, And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made; Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee, And live alone in the bee-loud glade. And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow, Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings; There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow, And evening full of the linnet's wings. I will arise and go now, for always night and day I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray, I hear it in the deep heart's core.
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Overview
Yeats expresses his desire to build a small cabin at Innisfree, out of natural materials, and to live alone. He will find peace on the lake, where it drops from the morning, and the beautiful midnight. He is determined to leave immediately, because even when he stands on a road or on a city pavement, he hears the lapping of the lake waters in his heart. The Lake Isle of Innisfree is an example of Yeatss earlier lyric poem. Throughout the three short stanzas the poem explores the poets longing for the peace and tranquility of Innisfree. The Lake Isle of Innisfree suggests that a life of simplicity in nature will bring peace to the poet. However, Innisfree may be a symbol for the poets passed youth and he is unable to return to the real, or physical, world when he was young. Emotionally, the poet can return to the tranquility of Innisfree.

FIGURES OF SPEECH
Imagery : Visual Imagery - Veils of the morning , midnights all a glimmer, noon a purple glow , evening full of linnets wings Imagery related to sounds - bee-loud glade, cricket sings, lake water lapping Alliteration : lake water lapping with low sounds