Assignment 1 – Poem on Sight

Ida Lou on 82

From Lubbock to Spur

The dust bowl

A small house on the horizon

Amid desolate cotton fields

The shack with its windows blown out

A wind howls through its shell

Taking its heart on to another journey

The landscape dotted with cotton debris

Loaves of lint sit in tilled ruts

The road: an arrow to the distance

And the next town

Assignment 1 – Reflective Commentary – Poetry

Part One in The Art of Poetry covered the tools of the trade and observing the world through all our senses. The assignment was to write five short pieces, each making particular use of one of my senses concentrating on the content rather than the form of the writing. The sixth piece was to write about a situation where I deliberately trying to shut off one of my senses.

The first lesson taught me the basics of writing: somewhere to write, tools of writing, reference books, and a notebook for my ideas. The notebook is also where I free write about anything and everything. Goldberg states in Writing Down the Bones that ‘…the aim is to burn through to first thoughts, to the place where energy is unobstructed by social politeness or the internal censor, to the place where you are writing what your mind actually sees and feels…’ (1986,p.9).

The poems grew from freewriting ideas about the different senses. Reading poetry also gave me inspiration. All poetry uses one sense or another, even if it is only sight. When I can see something vivid within a poem, I am inspired. Raisin Pumpernickel by Piercy caught my attention with the first four lines. I could clearly see the sugar maple’s bright autumn leaves lying resplendent on the ground:

‘You shine, my love, like a sugar maple in October,

a golden-orange overarching blaze of leaves,

each painted its own tint of flames

Tossed on the ground bright as silk scarves (2002,p.253).’

In the poem regarding smell, I wrote about how, when drinking wine, the smell overwhelms the body. As the smell of wine makes me feel languid, I decided to write long words and lines to slow the poem down. Oliver writes in A Poetry Handbook that ‘… when the prevailing mood is one of confidence and leisure, we take the time for length and breadth… The longer line… can also indicate abundance, richness, and a sense of joy’ (1994,p.40-41).

Because my hearing poem is about music, I decided to write free verse and bring the rhythm of the orchestra to it. Rather than having a strict rhyming pattern such as a couplet or quatrain, I used the rhythm of a symphony. I also used words that sounded similar such as ‘graceful’ and ‘crescendo’ and alliteration with ‘harps hum’ to help give the poem form. In Writing Poems by Sansom, he mentions that ‘Free verse… relies on other devices such as alliteration and assonance and the way words are laid out on the page; and though it doesn’t have a metre it often establishes patterns in rhythms through grammatical structures’ (1994,p.83).

In conclusion, I produced six poems that highlight the senses and remove one of the senses; practicing some of the tools of the trade to bring form to my poetry. Through these examples, I created an assignment that met the requirements of Part One.


Goldberg, N. (1986) Writing Down the Bones.Boston: Shambhala.

Oliver, M. (1994) A Poetry Handbook. New York: Harcourt.

Piercy, M. (2002) ‘Raisin Pumpernickel’ In: Astley, N. (ed.) Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times.Hexham: Bloodaxe Books Ltd. pp. 253-254.

Sansom, P. (1994) Writing Poems.Tarset, Bloodaxe Books Ltd.



Notes on Course Book Part 1

“Good writing depends on good observation”


See through all senses








“The more accurately you use your senses, the more you will find that you need to distinguish between the words at your disposal in order to record your observation.”


Needed for writing poetry



Maybe a space set aside (I find I can work anywhere, in front room with my husband, on train, at work)

Pens (I like to work on computer but do use pens on train)

Notebook to hand

Computer (but beware distractions of the Internet – that black hole that sucks you in)

Wastepaper basket (to get rid of those poems that don’t work!)



Dictionary with etymological component


Sources of myth

The Bible

Greek and Roman myths



Poems can’t be hurried. Sometimes you need to leave them a while and come back to them.





Part One – Poetry – Write up of A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver










Apparently, “poets are born and not made in school.” I might as well give up. Unless, of course, I was born a poet. There is the evidence as I enjoyed writing in school and have always had a yearning to write a novel; but that is no poetry. However, Oliver does go on to say that “whatever can’t be taught, there is a great deal that can, and must, be learned.” That makes me feel better.

All books I have read on how to write say you must read and Oliver is no different. She has a chapter on Reading Poems. She goes on to say that the choice can be overwhelming. She says to be careful not to only read the present poems but read the past too. That is many poems. I have bought five poetry books from different eras: current, Victorian, and further back. Oliver recommends imitating the poets that we enjoy in order to learn from them.

Poetry from the past was written in metric form and with full rhymes. Current poetry is written in free form. Its form comes from imagery, language, alliteration, and assonance.

Oliver tells us about the “Families of Sound.”

Vowels and consonants.

Consonants divided into semivowels and mutes.

Semivowels are consonants that can be imperfectly sounded without a vowels so that at the end of a syllable its sounds may be protracted as l, n, z, in al, an, az.

Semivowels are f, h, j, l, m, n, r, s, v, w, x, y, x, and c and g soft. But w. or y at the end of a syllable is a vowel. C, f, g, h, j, s, or x is only protracted as an aspirate, or on a strong breath.

Four of the semivowels – l, m, n, r, – are termed liquids because of the fluency of their sounds.

Four others – v, w, y, and z, are more vocal that the aspirates.

A mute is a consonant that cannot be sounded at all without a vowel and stops the breath at the end of a syllable – k, p, t, in ak, ap, at.

Mutes are: b, d, k, p, q, t, and c and g hard (k, g, c, hard sound the same). B, d, g, hard stop the voice less suddenly than the rest.

This all sounds really boring until you realize how it makes the poems sound.

Oliver gives the examples of Hush! Please be quiet! And Shut up! They all mean the same but sound different.

So a poem can sound angry just with the words we use.

More Devices of Sound

Alliteration – repetition of the initial sound of words in a line or verse “The bear’s tongue, pink as a baby’s.” It also includes the repetition of initial and internal sounds “blueberry”.

Assonance – repetition of vowel sounds within a line or verse. “and land so lightly”.

Onomatopoeia – word that sounds like what it means “buzz” “belched”.

The Line

Where the line turns is and should be meaningful.

Length and Rhythm – each line divided into feet – each foot into stresses. An iambic foot is one light stress followed by one heavy stress “upon”. Five iambic feet in one line is an iambic pentameter line

Page 37 – list of metrical line names and metrical feet names and symbols.

“Put one world on a line by itself in a poem of otherwise longish lines and it becomes a critical word” 43

“Lines of good poetry are apt to be a little irregular.” 44

She talks a lot about the different metres and how they are used.

Most poems start with iambic meter. The mood is relaxed. If you begin with a heavy stress (spondee, trochee, or dactyl) it signals that something dramatic is at hand. 52

Ending lines with rhyme gives pleasure. That can either be true rhyme (spears/tears) or off rhyme if they almost rhyme (down/noon). Feminie Rhyme uses words of more than one syllable that end with a light stress (buckle/knuckle). Femine and off rhyme blur end rhyme where true rhyme (masculine) are forthright.

Repetition of lines is s source of enjoyment.

Turning the line – using a sentence or full meaning works so that the reader is invited to pause and weigh the information. If enjambment occurs (the meaning is cut over two or more lines) the reader hurries up to read the rest and so is pulled along. This can make that part of the poem faster.

Forms – Stanza (verse)

On page 59 Oliver gives examples of rhyming patters – couplet aa bb cc dd etc.

Any change from an established pattern indicates that the poet wants the reader to feel something different at that point. 61

Syllablic verse – a good example of that is on 65 The Fish – shows how different sized lines (by syllables) can add rhythm and pull the reader along.

Free Verse

Free verse is not quite so free. It still has some sort of pleasant form, or if it changes that form, it points to the reason in the words and sound – the change highlights that something of import is happening.

The initial premise is made up of everything the old metrical premise is composed of – sound, line length, and rhythm patters, but in this case they are not strict, they are not metrical. Refrain and repetition are still effective. Alliteration and assonance are used. 68

Free verse poems are more friendly and less “teacherly” than the metrical form poems. Less formal. Probably came about because of a more classless society.

Enjambment can be serious, disruptive, almost painful. In the Red Wheelbarrow it is not 75

The Red Wheelbarrow – Williams


so much depends



a red wheel



glazed with rain



beside the white



Diction, Tone, Voice

Diction – word choice

Tone – choice of subject imagery design of the poem

Voice – Agent who is speaking through the poem 76


Diction – sound, accuracy and connotation of word (connotation – idea or feeling invoked by a word)

Atmosphere created by word choice

Modern poetry mostly written in language that belies a friendly and natural intimacy

Modern poems – words placed in order you would use yourself – accessible

This tone of intimacy did not just happen but it is created by the poet.

Past poems – voice took role of professor

Modern poems – voice takes role of friend and intimacy


Negative Capability– where you step back ad the poem takes over. Phrase originates with Keats

Poem by Type –

  • Lyric Poem

Fairly brief up to about 60 lines

Usually concentrated on one subject

No more than a single voice

Simple and natural musicality

Might feel in a vortex


  • Narrative Poem

Longer than Lyric

Discursive – digressing from subject to subject – rambling

More comfortable than Lyric

Examples – Whittier’s Snowbound

Walter de la Mare’s The Listener

Robert Penn Warren’s The Ballard of Billie Potts


  • Longer Poem

No longer epic poems are written now but long poems are

They have central idea, digressions, and different voices

Example – TS Elliot’s The Wastelands


  • Epic Poem

No longer written

Requed dignified theme, organic unit and orderly progress of action

Examples – Beowulf and Iliad


  • Prose Poem

Very recent form

Looks like short block of type on page

Paragraph or two – no more than a page

Perhaps characters – perhaps not

Seems to have at center a situation rather than a narrative

Nothing much happens

A problem is making language work without musicality of the line

Syntax (arrangement of words and phrases) is often exquisite

Examples – Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud first

Then maybe, James Wright and Robert Bly


Inappropriate Language

Language of poems is romantic – patches of woods are bowers – fields are emerald carpets – avoid these clunkers

Do not use clichés

Inversion – changing natural order of the words – mostly does not work – sounds @out of whatck@ – Bad inversion occurs in metrical verse in order to make syllables fits. – it calls attention to itself – good inversion is difficult to achieve

Informational language – the language you would use to write a paragraph on how to operate a can opener – don’t do it


Appropriate Language

Syntax – correct grammer and forceful graceful syntax

A phrase with no verb does not work

Advert and adjectives worth 5 cents

Verbs worth – 50 cents


Variety versus habits – effective writing varies its ingredients – use loads of different words

Beginning writer should write poems simply, freshly and clearly


Imagery [figurative language]

Language of poetry is language of particulars

Detailed and sensory language incorporating images

“My love is like a red rose” = imagery

“My loves is sweet, wild wonderful” are all abstract and not specific

In a poem there is a figure/image.

Patience could be represented as a statue as patient as stone

Specific devices are metaphor, simile, allusion, personification


Particulars and Texture


Fruit – informational – no image

Apple or peach – abstract and only a word mean any or all apples

The last apple on the tree or The one small peach as pink as dawn = developing texture

Example – The Fish by Elizabeth Bishop


Particulars –

Whitman, in one line, establishes the reader in place-where-the-poem-is “over the sharp-peak’d farmhouse, with its scallop’d scum and slender shoots from the gutters”

Stanley Kuntz in the Round – the poet leaning closer into the flowers so that he sees more than how the light flowed over the honey bees “down blue-spiked veronica light flowed in rivulets over the humps of the honey bees”

The poet must scrutinize the world intensely.

Figurative language –

Love like a burning city in the breast – Millay Fatal Interview

The clouds were low and hairy in the skies like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes – Frost, One by the Pacific

Simile –

“Like” or”as”

Metaphor –

Implicit comparison – does not use like or as

Little boys lie still awake, wondering, wondering, Delicate little boxes of dust – Wright, The undermining

Personification –

Gives physical characteristic or quality of animation to something inanimate

I bowed my head and heard the sea far of / washing its hands – James Wright

Allusion –

Reference to something that belongs to a world beyond the specific sphere of the poem, e.g., using Van Gogh’s paintings of sunflowers to describe any old sunflower

Universal language –

We all live in the saem world country and city and feel same emotions. Some language is used by everyone to describe:

Ocean as mother

Sun as health

“Dark satanic mills”

“My love is like a red, red, rose”

The power of poetry comes from both mental inquiry and figurative language

Too much imagery can be jolting and cause poem to lose its meaning. Make sure imagery is appropriate – if not sure, don’t use it.


All poems need revision

Leave poem few days – so you come back to it fresh

Write poem for stranger who will be born in some distant country hundreds of years from now – everything necessary must be on page – it needs to carry all that it must to sustain life and not a lot of extra weight.

Too many metaphors can slow down the forward flow

Cutting is important

Oliver revises 40/50 drafts – others take longer

Some poems are unfixable


Flaubert to Van Gough – Talent is long patience, and originality an effort of will and of intense observation”

What Oliver says about that “…Look at what he does say: Patience is necessary and an effort of will and intense observation. What a hopeful statement! For who needs to be shy of any of these? No one!

That makes me hopeful.

Part 1 – Ex 3 – Let the sounds in

Turned off the TV down stairs

Husband quietly settled

Shut window in bedroom




Clock ticketing (removed clock to spare bedroom)

Dove cooing

Caw caw – is that a crow





The wind whooshing – wooing


Head noises

Seems in both ears

Like a whistle

And the sea

Like white noise


Car noise

Very faint

(my head noise is louder)

Mind chatter


My breath

Whistle in my nose


Door closing


Put fingers in my ears

Low humming or drone like an explosion far away or

Cars going through a tunnel


I like the peace and quiet

It is calming

Makes me feel relaxed and mellow but

My head oise gets louder then and I have to

Control my brain chatter

Do deaf people chatter in their heads like we do or

Do they have picture chatter? Is it as distracting as mine?


Meditating I have found that I cannot be completely quiet. I can not sit without letting my body and mind distract me from the pain of separation. The illusion that I am separated from God from others whoever they are


I feel the pain in my body – I identify with the pain in my back and neck

I cannot just feel the pain and push through to the feeling of together.


I feel the pain. I want distraction. I move. I think. I chatter.


This could be a poem called I chatter about separation from God


Love it xoxox


Part 1 – Ex 2 – Examine an object


It was a bit of a shock to begin with having it placed in my hand

Felt like a penis

But a flaccid one

Smooth silky



When I threw it on the table it went “thrump” but did not break

Smells like earth; mild earth

It is cold and clammy

What does flesh smell like – it doesn’t really smell of anything – it smells of the perfume and soap and cream – it smells of sweat when you are in the sun – so the sausage does not smell of flesh.

Long and tubular with nodules on the end

When you squeeze it – clammy nodule bits squeeze out of the end – seepage

Licking the outside it does not really taste of anything except a bit sweaty – I was too scared to taste the insides that oozed out

Skin over meat

Stretchy skin


Part 1 – Ex 1 – Reliance on Sight

Destination flower picking

Darkness disturbs sleep of the blind (heading from an ABC News article) good title for a poem

As soon as I close my eyes, anxiety appears. Also feel sleepy – do blind people feel more sleepy than us (see answer below)?

Crept slowly forward as fear I would fall or bump into something

Felt the smoothness of the glass as I struggled to open the back door

Even though my eyes are covered I see an increase in light. Many blind people can see light.

The cold and wind brushed my face and ears

My hair whipped my face – scents of shampoo – like the flick of a dogs tail

The concrete felt strong beneath my feet

I inched more carefully as I felt I was nearing the steps to the lawn

My heart beat a little faster my breathing shallower

I felt like I was waiting for an explosion

I reached out to touch the fence that I thought was to my side. It was not there. I side stepped a few times and found it. I felt less scared as I edged towards the steps

The grass and earth were more buoyant than the stone

I stood to rest for a moment. I could hear the cars on the road. The boiler humming as a bath filled with water. Birds tweeted. I could smell cooking and smoke from a wood fire.

I picked the flower and tore off my blindfold. The light and visuals flooded back into my brain in an exultant rush of joy. How lovely is sight


According to –

The majority of blind people have some light perception and circadian rhythms that are synchronized to a 24-hour day-night cycle as in the sighted. For a totally blind individual with Non-24, their visual disorder or lack of eyes prevents the light-dark cycle from synchronizing their internal body clock to the 24-hour day-night cycle.Often, the sleep disturbance is less clear, with more subtle changes in the timing of sleep, or may even look normal, even though the circadian clock is still not synchronized with the 24-hour cycle. Only an assessment of a strong biochemical circadian rhythm, such as the melatonin or cortisol rhythm, can confirm whether a non-24-hour rhythm is absent or present.

Part 1 – Write up of Poems Read

Poems I read for Part 1

These are not all the poems I read just the ones that resonated because I read a lot of poems. All are from Staying Alive

Andrew Greig

Orkney/This Life

Simple poem in free verse

Easy to understand

He is describing Orkney

But also his relationship with his wife as they lean into each other like tidal islands – connected and then inaccessible – I am guessing Orkney has tidal islands so he is showing his life alongside the island life.

He describes the sound of the ferry’s engines as

‘this life this life this life’

I can hear that

He’s describing home to

‘This is where I want to live

Close to where the heart gives out’

The form includes repetition ‘It is’ and ‘it is the way’ and ‘the way’

It is in sentences that enjamb over a few lines

It also includes the imagery of the islands as the relationship – and other images that show the island


James Merrill

My Father’s Irish Setters

A poem about his father’s later years

He had dogs but his third wife made him keep them outside

His son had always seen them in the house until then

Later in life the father divorces

And the dogs are no longer there

Sounds sad

Imagery of the dogs includes

‘wining to take us walking’

‘Caked with dirt’

‘A joyous barking’

‘A russet-and-rapid-as-flame’

‘Whimpering lickings’

I’m not exactly sure what the last verse means – this is interesting as it is obviously a well loved poem but David Morley says pomes should be clear

The feeling I get from the last verse is the father is old and sad that he let his ex-wife dictate about the dogs as he loved having them around and misses them


Vernon Scannell


This poem shows how you can write about something simple

Write about a single object and make an interesting amusing poem

The form includes rhymes at end of lines – not regular


And random rhymes within lines

Dough show grow

Starred scars

Plain Veined Stained

Transport brought

The last two lines sound like an ancient poem – 16thor 17thcentury

‘You more than please, thought pleasure you have brought me

And there are often times when you transport me’

Sounds Shakespearean


Gwen Harwood 

Naked Vision

About collecting a fresh corneal graft

An amusing poem

Describes the park they sit in

I question why she sat with the eye and did not just deliver it!

Not sure about form

The first verse is collecting the eye

The second is looking at the eye

The third is describing the park and its visitors

Odd little poem

Once again shows how you can write about one thing


Michael Longley (43)

A Prayer

A small poem 4 lines long

I like it because it shows a moment with images it also speaks out against an issue but not in a preachy fashion

It talks about a church as if the roof has been removed/destroyed and rain comes in and snow

It tells us the country is

Destroying churches but hopes the churches will be blessed with rain in its font and snow on its altar

It sounds like a prayer

‘May the rain’

‘May snow lie on’

The form includes repetition with ‘may’ and ‘pour’ and ‘altar’

Syllables are 11 12 13 per line


Les Murray

An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow

I don’t think the rainbow was ordinary because of the word absolutely which as absolve in it

It feels like a spiritual awakening in a poem

And shows how a spiritual awakening absolves us but is also ordinary

It talks of workers stopping traffic halting because a man is weeping in the streets

People reach out to him in awe

One man feels like he has vomited because he utters ‘ridiculous’

The poem is like a story

It reminds me of the poem Out of the Dust

It is easy to read and captured my attention

The form includes repetition

‘The word goes round’

The murmur goes round’

‘There’s a fellow weeping down there…’

He repeats ‘weep’ and ‘man’ many times

The verses are 5 lines long except for the first (6) and last (1)

Repetition again ‘does not cover it’ ‘does not declaim it’

‘some will say in years to come’

‘some will say they were shocked’

‘not words but brief’

Not messages but sorrow’


Charles Simic

The Old World

Easy to understand

He is writing about a time in Italy

He describes the landscape

The food and wine

But calls them delicious – abstract?

It isn’t red wine just wine

I guess we all know what olives and cheese taste like so not so abstract

He uses simile ‘like naked lovers’

He describes eh time of day

‘Coming night’

And then he goes back in time as if he can see it now

‘Eternity eavesdropping on time’

4 verses and 5 lines each

All the letters at beginning of lines are capitalised which causes me to pause

‘And so did the wine

With which I toasted the coming night’

It is conversational with little rhythm and rhyming


Stephen Dobyns

Where we Are

This is like a story

Describes a moment a bird

Flies into a room

Lots of details

‘Wipes the gravy from his plate’

‘fill their mouths with duck and roast pork’

‘black with white patch’

‘muscles and tendons beneath the fabric of her dress’

6 verses 5 lines

2 4 and 6 verse last line ends with full stop – other verses last line enjambs to next verse

There’s no romantic words of meaning – just a story about a moment in history

I cannot see any repetition except in the last verse

‘To think the table…’

‘To think the forest…’

‘To think our bubble…’

There are similes

‘As straight as a taut string’

‘The way a single rock can be surrounded by a river’


Maura Dooly


It seems to be about waiting for communication from a lover who is away and how precious it is and how easily the relationship could be lost if you don’t keep in touch but then you do get a letter or a postcard and it is as precious as a saint’s bones

I wonder if she is German because she talks about ‘the wall’ ‘except in pieces’

The Berlin wall?

She uses metaphors

‘cold black chute of history’

‘a pile of dirt some god has shaken down’

‘a fleet of strange cargo’

‘a heart’s small journey’

‘opening the dry white papers is kissing a bone’

She uses simile

‘It’s like never having seen the Wall’

‘They’re like the relics of a saint’

3 verses – 4 lines each


Mary Oliver 

The Journey

It’s almost like a list poem

The lines are short

Some only 2 words

It’s about an internal journey from thinking of others and taking bad advice to moving on and taking care of yourself first instead of trying to mend others

There are some half rhymes

‘knew’ ‘do’ ‘you’

‘advice’ ‘house’

‘tremble’ ‘felt the’

‘full’ ‘fallen’

‘new voice’ ‘recognise’

The last four lines are repetitive

First and third have 5 syllables

Second and fourth have 7 syllables

‘determined to’

‘the only’