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RedDeerGuy1's avatar

How does someone learn to read poetry?

Asked by RedDeerGuy1 (17705points) December 9th, 2015

I have an exam on January 13 that has a poem worth a big chunk of my English grade , and I need to overcome my hatred of poetry? I signed out “The Divine Comedy ”, by Dante , and hope to practice reading poetry. I have an urge to skip over poetry bits. Can you help?

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18 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s a helluva piece of poetry to pick out, @RedDeerGuy1. Can’t you go for something lighter, like The Charge of the Light Brigade?

Read this and tell me what you think. It’s a true story, BTW.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

1
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

2
“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

3
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

4
Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

5
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

6
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made,
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@Dutchess_III It’s a suicide mission and the 600 soldiers are honour bound to obey the order. I liked it.

dappled_leaves's avatar

You don’t need to “learn to read poetry”. Just read it.

Were you assigned something from The Divine Comedy? If not, reading Dante will not help you read or understand the poem you have been assigned, though I’m sure you already know that.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@dappled_leaves No and no. I didn’t know that. I thought I could learn something spiritual that did not come from D&D or the bible. It excited me.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Well, sure, you can do all of those things by reading the Dante. But that’s not why you told us that you brought it home. Do you have a question about the poem you were actually assigned?

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@dappled_leaves It’s secret until exam day January13th . It is a one page poem is all I know. I thought that reading the trilogy might be useful for Dungeon Mastering DMing In the future (or the past).

Dutchess_III's avatar

Take a gander at this

dappled_leaves's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1 Oh, I see. In that case, you must have been given poems to read that are part of the curriculum for the course you are now taking. You can expect the poem on your exam to be similar to these poems in terms of ease/difficulty, format, and themes. Your best preparation is to reread those poems, and learn to identify the characteristics that you know are there from your study materials.

Then, perhaps find some similar poems out in the world, and practice the same. If you are looking for suggestions from us, it would be helpful for us to know what sorts of poems you’ve already seen in the course.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@dappled_leaves I haven’t taken a English class in 15 years I am only taking the exam to get a higher mark. I am reading according with the required books to read. King lear, Frankenstein , Hamlet , Othello and Macbeth.

dappled_leaves's avatar

That’s nice, but it doesn’t address what I said in my post. ;)

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@dappled_leaves I was never given a poetry list to read.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Skip Dante for now, although it was a good idea. I’m not sure you have enough time.

Try reading some things here under the “Poetry Magazine” tab.

When you read it, start by just reading the words for understanding. Next, go back through it and read it out loud, and pay attention to the rhythm the words create. Ask yourself if that rhythm affects the way you think about the meaning.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@RedDeerGuy1 How can they put a poem on your final exam that is worth a large part of your grade if you’ve never seen a poem in class? That makes no sense.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@dappled_leaves it’s to make it more daunting.

dappled_leaves's avatar

Mkay. I guess you are just trolling. If you actually want someone’s help, do let us know.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

@dappled_leaves Sure. Thanks for trying to help. I don’t believe that I was trolling.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@dappled_leaves The OP is searching for help. He is not trolling. This is a genuine question. I’m not sure where you got that idea.

Haleth's avatar

If you want to learn to love poetry, Dante isn’t where I’d start. The thing to do is get a small poetry anthology and start leafing through it during your spare time. There are big ones and small ones. I have one that’s called something like “100 great poems” that’s the size of a regular novel. Harold Bloom’s Best Poems of the English Language is great. This is a big book, but there are a lot of great things in there and the anthologist actually explains what each poem is all about. This book went a long way toward me “getting” poetry.

That said, you probably still won’t like every poem. But what is great about poetry is the vivid imagery and meaning- it’s sort of a condensed, super-potent version of what you get from reading a book. Everything about it is chosen carefully. The words have a pleasing rhythm and there will often be double or triple meanings. If you know the basics of Greek/ Roman mythology and Christianity, you will pick up a lot of the references in western poetry.

Also, it’s really beautiful. Sometimes the right poem can send a shiver up your spine. Here are a few of my favorites:

Walt Whitman, When I heard at the Close of Day
DH Lawrence, The Ship of Death
Hart Crane, Voyages ii
Emily Dickinson, I Taste a Liquor Never Brewed (she is talking about the heady feeling of being out in nature on a beautiful day, not actual drinking)

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