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Crafting an Exegesis for the Lyric Poem Assignment

Read the poem aloud: what characteristics immediately strike your ear?
The lyric poem is an oral/auditory form. If you have not read the poem aloud you should do so
immediately. If you have you should pro!a!ly read it aloud a"ain payin" particular attention to
how the poem feels as you make its sounds and the effects it achieves as those sounds hit your
#hat is the experience or situation descri!ed in the poem? #hat is the poem$s settin"? #ho are
its characters? #hat precisely is "oin" on in the poem? %oes the poem move from one set of
feelin"s perceptions or ideas to another?
%o you know what all the words in the poem mean? &ou will need a "ood dictionary. %o any
words in the poem carry connotations?
The !est dictionary is the 'E%. #hy do you need the !est dictionary? (ecause poets live for and
in a world of words. Poets trade on the denotations and connotations of the words they employ.
)ow is the poem put to"ether? The fundamental !uildin" !lock of lyric poetry is the ima"e. *n
ima"e is a representation of a sensory experience. #hat ima"ery is presented in the poem?
Ima"es are !uilt of nouns. +ouns can !e a!stract and concrete. ,ook for and hi"hli"ht the
a!stract and concrete nouns. The concrete nouns will tend to appeal to one of more of your five
senses. To which senses does the poem appeal? )ow do the a!stract nouns function in the poem?
Ima"ery can !e literal or fi"urative. %oes your poem contain any fi"urative lan"ua"e? If so what
is the effect of the fi"urative lan"ua"e?
-i"urative lan"ua"e refers to expressions that are not meant literally !ut to some extent must !e
understood ima"inatively. Types of fi"urative lan"ua"e include simile metaphor
personification metonymy synecdoche sym!ol fa!le allusion paradox oxymoron hyper!ole
understatement .includin" litotes/.
0erely notin" the appearance of fi"urative lan"ua"e is insufficient1 you need to consider the
effects of the fi"urative lan"ua"e.
#hat a!out sound? )ow do sound elements function within your poem? -or example is rhyme
employed? *re other sound devices in evidence? 0ost importantly to what effect?
2ound devices include rhyme .masculine rhyme feminine rhyme end rhyme internal rhyme
eye rhyme slant rhyme/ alliteration assonance consonance onomatopoeia euphony and
cacophony. &ou may even recall the related term 3do""erel.4 (ut keep in mind that you$re not
en"a"ed in a mere treasure hunt: once you$ve identified sound devices you should consider their
effects. )ow do they shape the overall meanin" of the poem?
In most poems the poet has made an effort to control the rhythm of the verse. %oes your poem
present a dominant rhythmic pattern? In what other ways does the poem reveal its rhythm? To
what effect?
*s you$re performin" scansion to determine the rhythm of your poem keep in mind these
familiar terms: couplet end5stopped line en6am!ment caesura foot .iam! trochee spondee
pyrrhic anapest dactyl/ .monometer dimeter trimeter tetrameter pentameter hexameter etc./
accentual meter sprun" rhythm anaphora and catalexis .ad6. catalectic/.
*"ain the purpose is not simply to identify the rhythm !ut to assess the effects of the poem$s
Is the poem presented in a form that you reco"ni7e? %oes the poem esta!lish an unfamiliar
pattern to which it sticks? Is the poem open in its form? To what effect?
&ou know many terms related to form: stan7a open form closed form free verse !lank verse
dramatic monolo"ue sonnet .Petrarchan 2penserian Eli7a!ethan/ 8uatrain couplet .closed
couplet/ octave and sestet villanelle limerick ode epi"ram !allad !allad stan7a sestina
envoy pantoum tercet ter7a rima haiku and cin8uain.
)ow does the form of your poem contri!ute to the work$s meanin"?
The su!6ect of some poetry is art itself includin" the art of poetry. %oes your poem offer an
example of ars poetica?
3*rs poetica4 literally 3the art of poetry4 refers to poetry a!out poetry.
+ow that you have identified the experience descri!ed in the poem and taken a close look at the
elements of poetry what is the relationship !etween function and form?
This 8uestion a!out how form and function work to"ether to reveal the meanin" of the poem is
central to craftin" an exe"esis.
Rou"h out a workin" thesis !y identifyin" the most si"nificant elements of the poem and
explainin" how they produce the poem$s meanin" .e". )ow do formal elements constitute
)ere are examples of two 9ER& R':;) #'R<I+; E=E;ETI>*, T)E2E2:
?. 3* 9alediction: of #eepin"4 uses multi5layered conceits complicated ima"ery concise
lan"ua"e strainin" rhyme scheme am!i"uity of lan"ua"e and o!scure allusions to dramati7e the
conflict !etween speaker and mistress !y providin" a deeper look at the speaker$s emotions.
@. The simple diction soothin" sounds steady rockin" rhythm and primeval ima"ery all serve to
express the speaker$s lon"in" for death in -rost$s 32toppin" !y #oods on a 2nowy Evenin".4