11051For this discussion, please read the following poems:
“Batter my heart, three-personed God,” “London,” “My Papa’s Waltz,” “The Word Plum,” and “I, Too.”
Respond to one of the following sets of questions. Refer to specific passages from the stories in your response.
In his poem “Batter my heart, three-personed God,” what sort of relationship with God does the speaker ask for? To what sorts of things does he compare that relationship? What might explain the speaker’s use of such surprising, even violent comparisons?
The general tone of angry social criticism is probably pretty obvious in William Blake’s “London.” Pick out two or three specific lines or details and try to explain what they mean and how they work to help create the poem’s tone and overall effect.
Scan “London” for words and phrases that recur or that could be moved around within a sentence, and explain the effect of the repetition or placement. For instance, how would the effect of the second stanza change if all the phrases that begin “in every” were moved after the clause, “The mind-forg’d manacles I hear” (line 8)? How would the effect change if “In every” occurred only once at the beginning of the stanza? Try reading these lines aloud as they are and with particular changes to help detect subtle effects.
In “My Papa’s Waltz,” identify and analyze words that help us to understand the speaker’s relationship to his father. What connotations and denotations seem significant? What categories might describe the different kinds of language the speaker uses (e.g., childlike language, formal language)?
In “My Papa’s Waltz,” what tensions and discrepancies do you notice in the language, tone, and other aspects of the poem, and how are those tensions resolved in the poem? For instance, what tensions and similarities do you notice in the words “waltz” and “romped”? How does the simile “like death” interact with the speaker’s description of boisterous activity?
Analyze the words Helen Chasin uses in “The Word Plum.” What do you notice about the words and ideas in different stanzas and how would the stanza change if you replaced certain words with synonyms? How do the sounds of the words contribute to the effects?
What words emerge as especially significant in “I, Too” and what do these words contribute to the poem? Why do you think the speaker opens with “I, too, sing America” and ends with “I, too, am America”? What is the effect of the inclusion of “And” in line 6? What is the effect of the shortness of lines and the simplicity of the language in the poem?
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