Nobody questions the fact that 2 + 2 is 4. One may argue about the grammar of the way it is stated, but we all know that “this combination” equals “this sum.”
Pure science is not made up of theories; it is a body of facts we can count on. Even the grammar of English is made up of rules embedded in cement. However, literature, writing and poetry are more ephemeral, more open to interpretation. Writers love to play with language because they can make it say whatever they want it to say.
Consider an assignment for a fifth grade class in Calvert School curriculum:
by Patricia Hubbell
The house frames hang like spider webs
Dangling in the sun,
While up and down the wooden strands
The spider workers run.
They balance on the two-by-fours,
They creep across the beams,
While down below, the heap of wood,
A spider-stockpile, gleams.
The spider-workers spin the web
And tack it tight with nails.
They ready it against the night.
When all work ends.
In her poem “Construction,” Patricia Hubbell uses similes, metaphors, and imagery to show the similarities between workers building a house and spiders spinning a web.
Hubbell uses a simile and a metaphor to make the comparisons between the efforts of the workers and spiders. In this poem, the “house frames hang like spider webs.” She also describes “spider-workers” who “spin the web.” The imagery supports these comparisons as well. The house frames are “dangling in the sun.” The description of the workers makes them sound like spiders when the poet writes, “They creep across the beams.” All these descriptions help the reader picture the workers and spiders at the same time.
The figures of speech and imagery point to the message that a construction site is very similar to a spider web. The workers and spiders work the same way and both build houses.
Analyzing a Poem
Find a poem you like that contains figures of speech and vivid imagery.
Follow the guidelines in this lesson to write an essay analyzing the poem’s descriptive language.
_ the author and title of the poem
_ the types of descriptive language used
_ the writer’s message
_ examples of descriptive language
_ explanation of how the descriptive language points to the writer’s message
_ restatement of the descriptive language used and the writer’s message
Notice in the example analysis that the final sentence of the poem was ignored. The writer did not speculate about what the “night” might be or why/how both spiders and men might work hard to prepare for it. You may be reminded of the ant in the book of Proverbs, but of course you may also think of another application.
___Analyze a poem and write an essay
Objective: to write an essay in which you analyze a poem’s descriptive language
Introduction: Poetry uses descriptive language and imagery to create a picture in the mind of the reader and to elicit an emotion. Today, you will analyze descriptive language in a poem of your choosing.
Discuss the poem you have chosen with your teacher. Then gather any notes you have from your poetry discussions, and follow the outline given above as you write. Be sure to include specific examples to support your ideas, and put them in quotation marks.
Application: Choose one of the poems you have read, and write an essay analyzing the poem’s descriptive (figurative) language. Don’t forget to read your rough draft, revise it, and proofread it, before you include it in your writing portfolio.
Keep this URL in mind as you search for other ways to analyze poetry. Robert Frost is always a good choice.
Try one of these poems:
Robert Frost. 1874–1963 The Runaway (From The Amherst Monthly, June 1918.)
ONCE when the snow of the year was beginning to fall,
We stopped by a mountain pasture to say, “Whose colt?”
A little Morgan had one forefoot on the wall,
The other curled at his breast. He dipped his head
And snorted to us. And then we saw him bolt.
We heard the miniature thunder where he fled,
And we saw him, or thought we saw him, dim and gray,
Like a shadow across instead of behind the flakes.
The little fellow’s afraid of the falling snow.
He never saw it before. It isn’t play
With the little fellow at all. He’s running away.
He wouldn’t believe when his mother told him, ‘Sakes,
It’s only weather.’ He thought she didn’t know!
So this is something he has to bear alone
And now he comes again with a clatter of stone,
He mounts the wall again with whited eyes
Dilated nostrils, and tail held straight up straight.
He shudders his coat as if to throw off flies.
“Whoever it is that leaves him out so late,
When all other creatures have gone to stall and bin,
Ought to be told to come and take him in.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost
Nature’s first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.