Notes: Stanza and Poem

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CONTENTS Introduction: How to use these Notes The poems: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Sujata Bhatt, A Different History Gerard Manley Hopkins, Pied Beauty Allen Curnow, Continuum Edwin Muir, Horses Judith Wright, Hunting Snake Ted Hughes, Pike Christina Rossetti, A Birthday Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Woodspurge Kevin Halligan, The Cockroach Margaret Atwood, The City Planners Boey Kim Cheng, The Planners Norman MacCaig, Summer Farm Elizabeth Brewster, Where I Come From 1

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William Wordsworth, Sonnet: Composed Upon Westminster Bridge

INTRODUCTION: How to use these Notes There are three key principles on which the format of these support materials is based: 1. The first is the fundamental assumption that no such materials can replace the teacher. It is the teacher’s task to introduce the poem to the students and help them to form their own personal responses to what they read. Examiners can easily differentiate between students who have genuinely responded to literature for themselves and those who have merely parroted dictated or packaged notes. Teachers, establishing their dialogues in the classroom, need to encourage and trust students to arrive at their own points of view, insisting only that these shall based firmly on what is being studied. This of course immediately rules out any thought of notes of ‘prepared’ answers to be memorised. 2. The notes take for granted that each poem is unique and must be treated in a unique fashion. Examiners sometimes find that students seem to have been trained to follow strict agendas when dealing with poems, such as dealing first with imagery, then sentence structure, then prosody and so on, whatever the poem and whatever the question. Approaches such as this are almost always simplistic and superficial. By contrast, we wish to encourage students to identify what is special about a poem, what impact it makes on them, and work outwards from that perception. They shouldn’t think of ‘content’ and ‘style’ as discrete areas to be ticked off a list; but instead should be encouraged to think of them together. So in these Notes students are constantly being enjoined to look simultaneously not only at what is said, but how it is said. 3. Each poem is considered to have a universal appeal, and the Notes try only to introduce extraneous knowledge insofar as it might help students to appreciate the poem. Biographical references are mentioned but deliberately downplayed to prevent this interfering with the direct communication between the poet and the twenty-first century reader in whatever part of the world s/he happens to be. With this in mind, the notes on each poem – which are addressed to the teacher – are divided into four sections: Background aims at putting the poem briefly into some sort of context. This can be embroidered as much or as little as the teacher sees fit. It is most important, however, that it should be dealt with quite quickly. Precious time should rather be spent on the poem itself. Teachers should remember that knowledge of historical/biographical context is not a formal Assessment Objective in this syllabus; students are not expected to show knowledge of it in the exam (not least as there is always the risk of their wasting valuable time in regurgitating second-hand details – for which they will gain no credit). Teacher notes to assist a first reading aims at clarifying some areas of potential difficulty/obscurity and add to (rather than simply repeat) the glosses accompanying the poem in the anthology. Student exercises to assist a closer reading of the poem as a whole is the most important section. It gives some suggestions to teachers for ways to get students to work individually or in pairs/groups on aspects of the poem which they can then discuss together. In the spirit of the syllabus, its aim is always to encourage students to deepen their own response to what they read. So, much of this section is in the form of questions. These might be used in...
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