(solution) Considerations for Critical Reading and Thinking: Poetry Before

 Considerations for Critical Reading and Thinking: Poetry

Before you begin this assignment, please skim through the chapters in your book on poetry.  If it has been a while since you analyzed a poem, you may wish to read the first few pages of each chapter that deals with poetry, in addition to the sample student essays at the end of each chapter.

To understand poetry, it is especially important to understand the literal level of the work before proceeding. You need to make more than one first (or literal reading) to understand what is happening in a poem. Since poetry is a compressed form, each word or detail, including punctuation, is potentially important to the poem's meaning or significance. In your first few readings, simply allow the words and sounds to flow.  Remember to record your initial impressions, along with a brief summary of what is happening in the each of the poems.

"My Papa's Waltz" can be found on page 706 of your textbook, or online.  "We Real Cool" can be found on page 891.

In subsequent readings, notice how deceptively simple these poems are in their language and how vivid are their images. Consider the symbolic possibilities of the images in each poem by considering what associations you might have with the objects and situations portrayed.  You might ask yourself some of the following questions: 

"We Real Cool"

  • Do you identify with the experiences of the narrator?
  • How does the form of the poem relate to its content?
  • How do the pool players relate to innocence and experience?

"My Papa's Waltz"

  • Who is the speaker of the poem?
  • Is this a positive or negative memory for the narrator?
  • What does this poem argue about experience?
  • How does the form of the poem relate to its content?

Take a few moments to write down your personal response to each poem after completing this process.  Next, listen to the authors reading their own poems:

?We Real Cool?  

?My Papa?s Waltz?

Did the authors read the poems differently than you did?  Did their readings add anything to your understanding of the poem?  What can you add to your written personal responses to each poem?  

Finally, consider someone else's interpretation of each poem.  Go to, click on Videos, and watch John Ulrich's video on "We Real Cool" and William Van Field's video on "My Papa's Waltz."  Again, jot down notes, observations, reactions, or emotions as you watch the poem.

For this critical reading and thinking process, you first considered your own response to the poems, then you considered the author's interpretation, and then you considered someone else's interpretation.  How did your response to each poem change or develop through this analytical process?  For the class discussion, spend some time reviewing your written responses to each step of the analytical process.  Then craft them into thoughtful paragraphs that describe your journey of interp


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