Sonnet of Love
A smell that brings me back to olden days. Like tranquil breeze you softly calm my soul, Your tender warmth begets my finest praise, Without your presence I am left unwhole.
I gaze upon your flowing locks and sigh,
To leave them untouched is a heinous crime. Cut gently of the perfect breadth, porks thigh, The glistening flesh is certainly sublime.
A plethora of tastes fill up my mouth,
The broth a flawless team of salt and spice.
I loudly slurp to show that I am couth,
Then wash it down with water chilled with ice. Oh lovely ramen thou art so divine,
Of your composite I will daily dine.
In the poem “Plants”, Olive Senior takes on the persona of a speaker that seems to know a greater truth and reveals the nefarious deeds of plants that happen right under our noses. However, this is simply a literary vessel to underscore the complexity of plants that most don’t realise.
Senior’s choice of diction within the first sentence sets the tone of the poem. The uncommon connection between the words plants and deceiving hooks the reader in. Normally a plant might have descriptors such as green, large, or beautiful. However, in this instance the author chooses to personify plants, giving it a human-like characteristic, something which will become a theme within this poem. Furthermore, with these initial three words, Senior embeds the idea that there is more to plants than we the reader knows.
Throughout the poem, Senior utilises a series of literary devices to overly emphasize and dramatize the existence of plants. Firstly, the structure creates these mini cliffhangers into epic reveals. This is achieved primarily through the use of enjambment. For example, “we must infer/a sinister” cuts off at infer. The reader likely questions what is next to come. What must we infer? Then the narrator hits us with his answer. Similar structuring is found in almost every line. This repeated use nears the point of ridiculousness, perhaps to say that the narrator’s words on not to be taken completely seriously.
The narrator uses a vast assortment of dramatic warfare diction to impart to the reader what is otherwise simply plant biology in a fantastical manner. By painting these wild images, she effectively grabs the reader’s attention and directs it toward the underlying facts. His description of a mangrove tree is a prime example. She writes, “armies of mangrove/on the march”. Mangrove trees are uniquely known for the way they display their roots above water. As such, though she is personifying the plant, it is a befitting descriptor. The narrator continues this technique to talk about seedlings, burrs, and flowers, things readers likely take for granted, and unveils compelling information about them.
Ultimately, what I believe the narrator aimed to do through his dramatization of plant life, was to plants (no pun intended) an appreciation for the intricacies of plant life we typically look over. Olive Senior creates absurd depictions of plants to activate the imagination of the reader. Through this the reader gleams some of the truths of plants in her narrative and perhaps comes value the flowers on their windowsill as more than just a pretty thing.
Are stories “all one story” or rewarmed versions of one another?
Stories typically involve tropes of some sort. For example, a hero must go find an object to save their community. This could be Lord of the Rings, or some Arthurian legend about the holy grail. It is hard for authors to avoid this, they may end up slipping them in unconsciously. Additionally, it becomes hard to write an “original” story when the tropes are so effective in building a compelling narrative. That is not to say all stories are replicas of each other. There are many more aspects to stories: characters, their development, the dialogue, environment, moral, etc. I would argue that tropes are more of something to serve as a source of familiarity to the readers. Familiarity becomes important as it can better evoke emotions from the reader. Stories become more relatable and it is easier to feel sympathy for the characters.
Two poems “A Barred Owl” and “The History Teacher”, written by Richard Wilbur and Billy Collins respectively, both speak on the power of words and twisting the truth, both of who offer differing stances. Wilbur points to the positives of concealing the truth. On the other hand, Collin’s poem proposes the harm that concealing the truth may cause. Throughout each poem, the respective authors utilise differing literary devices that make their message all the more compelling.
Wilbur’s poetic structure is two stanzas of six lines each. In partitioning his poem in this way, he separates two differing parts of his narrative. The first stanza involves the parents explanation, and more importantly, the concealing of the truth aspect. We understand this is true based off common knowledge. The “Who cooks for you?” explanation is simply not true. The second stanza now introduces the true nature of the owl, and to that extent, the reason concealing the truth might be beneficial. This concept is explicitly introduced in the first two lines of the second stanza. “Words, which can make our terros bravely clear, Can also thus domesticate a fear.” Ultimately, by splitting these two stanzas, Wilbur establishes not only a conceptual difference, but also build suspense even with this separation.
While Collins’ message is vastly different from Wilbur, he too intentionally chooses his structure to make his poem get his message across successfully. Collin’s stanzas have a repeated structure of the historic event and then the teacher’s explanation. For example, “And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age,/ named after the long driveways of the time”. This use of enjambment serves to build suspense and add comedic timing. The first part is the set up and the second the punchline. In doing this, Collins demonstrates the ridiculousness of the teacher’s actions thus furthering his warning of overly concealing the truth.
Throughout “A Barred Owl”, Wilbur uses an AA BB rhyme scheme, as well as specific diction, to make the narrative and his message more compelling. For example, the last two lines rhyme on the words “claw” and “raw”. Given the goal of the second stanza was to point out how concealing the truth protects the child, the rhyme serves to emphasize this carefully chosen grotesque diction. These devices working in conjunction build a frightening image of the owl, something to rightfully protect the child from. This device also serves another purpose. The simple rhyme scheme is reminiscent of a children’s book, something used to calm down a child. This may cause the readers to subconsciously gain a deeper understanding of the poem’s message.
On the other hand, Collins’ poem follows no rhyme scheme and is instead free verse. This sets the tone of the poem to be much more lighthearted in contrast to Wilbur’s poem and leads the reader to take the teacher less seriously and, by extension, the idea of concealing the truth.
Wilbur’s poetic structure, rhyme scheme, and carefully chosen diction, all amalgamate into this short yet effective poem underlying the importance of concealing the truth from children. Conversely, Collin’s lack of structure and rhyme scheme aims to convey the harm in veiling the truth. Though these two poems vary greatly in their style, each is effective in conveying their opposing messages.
This project was done on the Nobel prize-winning poet: Octavio Paz
Presentation used for teaching my peers:
Supporting documents (poem analysis) / Lesson Plan: link
|1 min||About Octavio Paz|
|3 min||Read and annotate together|
|3 min||My analysis|
|3 min||Calling cards|