• Length: 4-6 pp., 1-inch margins, 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced. Do NOT rightjustify the text; right-justified text may look good from afar, but due to the irregular spacing between words it is very annoying to read.
• No cover page is necessary; just do this at the top of page 1:
• Be sure to provide a Works Cited page, if only for your primary text. Here is how our anthology would appear on a MLA-style Works Cited page. I’ll pick a poem at random to demonstrate.
Bishop, Elizabeth. “One Art.” The Norton Anthology of Poetry, edited by Margaret W. Ferguson, et al., 6th ed., Norton, 2018, p. 1595.
(If you have more than one item, you would change “Work Cited” to “Works Cited.”)
• In order to complete this assignment, you must write an analytic essay that includes a thesis statement. An analysis is an essay form that investigates how something works. An analysis investigates structure and the relation between parts and the whole. An analytical thesis tells your reader what your main interpretive point will be and is typically included on the first page (usually in the first paragraph). Your subsequent paragraphs will guide your reader through the
text (or texts) as you present the supporting points that make your interpretation a reasonable, persuasive one. Quote from the texts, but do not quote any more or less than is needed—do not overquote or underquote.
• You must have a title (and don’t use mine!).
• Be sure to use examples from the text, but don’t overwhelm the reader with quotations; i.e., make every quote count. Parenthetical citation is the preferred method (see MLA Handbook for more on how to properly cite and present quoted material). Indent when you quote more than three lines.
• The topic suggestions are meant to give you a general orientation; if you want to focus on one particular part of a topic, that’s fine.
1. Poems of Houston. We started this course with two poems about Houston: “To Speak of Rivers” by Robin Davidson and an untitled poem that for convenience’s sake we will call “Poem for Houston after Hurricane Harvey” by Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton. How do these two poems approach the city of Houston? Are there similarities and differences in how these two poets go about representing the particular qualities that makes Houston what it is? How do these two poems relate the past to the present? In some way, both of these poems have a measure of optimism; how do they justify that optimism?
2. Speaking of Rivers. The 2016 poem “To Speak of Rivers” by Robin Davidson explicitly references Langston Hughes and alludes to his well-known poem from 1926, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” How do these two texts relate to each other? Why do you suppose Davidson selected this poem as her way of writing about the city of Houston? How much are the poems thematically related—in other words, how deeply was Davidson interacting with Hughes’s poem when she wrote hers? Why do you think Davidson picked a poem about rivers, when our city has bayous (that can be raging rivers when the rain comes) but not a river as such?
3. Writers and Fathers. Take a look at two poems: “Persimmons” by Li-Young Lee, and “Digging” by Seamus Heaney. How do these two texts compare and contrast with each other? How do the speakers in each poem relate to their fathers? What does the father represent to the speakers in the two poems, and how do the speakers find a way to continue or carry on the work
that they see has been done by their fathers? How is the image of the persimmon used in Lee’s poem to condense his relationship to his past and his father, and is the image of the pen doing a similar thing in Heaney’s poem?
4. Writers and Mothers (and Motherhood). Consider the poems “Morning Song,” by Sylvia Plath, “Pomegranate” by Eavan Boland, and “Release” by Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton. How do these poems represent the experiences of being a mother? Do they share similar themes in how they approach the challenges, pains, lessons, and anxieties of motherhood? Do they differ in significant ways, and if so, how? What do these poems say about what it means to be a mother?
5. Fish. We have two poems in our reading with the same title (although the title seems to refer to a
singular fish in Bishop’s poem, and to plural fish in Moore’s). Both Elizabeth Bishop and Marianne Moore wrote poems called “The Fish.” How do their approaches align and how do they differ? How is the fish treated in each poem as a physical, empirical reality, and as a kind of symbol? Does the tone or language of each seem similar?
6. Pain and Poetry. How does personal pain relate to creativity? Compare and contrast the following poems: “Sympathy” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes, and “Yet Do I Marvel” by Countee Cullen. How do these poems represent the experience of suffering and the conversion of that suffering into poetry (or song)? As these poets wrote in the African American tradition, how does their experience of race influence their approach to writing and creating?
7. Wrecked. Consider the Adrienne Rich poem “Diving into the Wreck.” How does this poem go about representing the journey into the other “world” of underwater? Does Rich turn this undersea experience into a metaphor, and if so, a metaphor for what? Is the outward journey in the external world mirrored by a voyage in her own personal world, in her memories and experiences? What is the meaning of the final lines, where the speaker refers to “a book of myths / in which / our names do not appear” (92-94)?
8. The Key to Key West. Do a close reading of the Wallace Stevens poem, “The Idea of Order at Key West.” The explicit subject of the poem is clear—it is about a speaker and a friend listening to a woman singing by the sea. But how does Stevens’s poem use this subject to explore a larger theme? How does the poetic technique in this poem create an overall effect? What are the significant images, words, and ideas in this poem? What is it about the setting of the sea or seashore that this poem implicitly or explicitly relies on? Why is the setting important?
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