Semester 1 Reflection

When looking at my Unit 1 and Unit 2 portfolio, I see my greatest achievement has been. . . 

I think that my greatest achievement has been (at least what I am most proud of) is my work on the Great Poets Teaching Project. Not only did I greatly enjoy learning about Edgar Allan Poe, but I loved reading his work and analysing his poetry so that I could present it to me peers. I think that in that project I took great steps in my analysis skills as well as in my research skills, as there was so much information and I had to condense it to what I found important. As well as that, the project has inspired me to do more research on other writers that I admire to get a little bit more insight into their work.

When looking at my feedback on my work (as found in Schoology), I see I still struggle with and/or I am improving upon. . .

I see that I am struggling a little bit with time management this semester. Balancing school and my college applications has been difficult, and as a result I have submitted some work late. I want to be able to improve on that coming second semester, as well as finding more strategies to improve my time management, such as scheduling.

When looking at my process piece, SS Interpretation, (drafts 1 – ?) this was my approach to improving that work.

My approach to improving my work was to keep developing my argument (e.g. for the SS Interpretation Paper). I started with a basic frame of ideas and the relevant evidence, and with each draft I wanted to build on different aspects. For example, after I had got my main thesis and the topic sentences of each paragraph as well as the evidence, I wanted my second draft to be about diction in the sentences I write, as well as other aspects moving forward like sentence structure in grammar. I wanted to improve my work by having a strong foundation of concepts first, then building up into a well-rounded essay.

When looking at my Mastery data in Schoology for this course, I notice that. . . 

The majority of my grades are where I would like them to be. I am consistent in almost all of the learning targets, and have achieved mastery in all of them as well.

Having reviewed the semester’s reading, writing, speaking, listening, and critical thinking, as well as my collaboration, creativity, and resilience, a goal I have for Semester 2 is. . . 

I goal I have for Semester 2 is to cultivate my reading skills, especially with Unit 4. I think developing my reading skills will not only help with the FRQ questions we do in class, but to get better at reading literature as a whole. I think this, in turn, will help also with my literary analysis skills, therefore making the drafting process come easier to me when writing essays, as it will help me more quickly develop my ideas. I think that reading is such an important skill that can be transferred to anything you do in life, and I’m excited to do more of it next semester.

I took a risk when. . . 

I submitted the poem “The Shell”. It was difficult to write in Edgar Allan Poe’s style of writing (which was my intention) and to take on the themes that he usually likes to explore. For example, my poem was about someone who lost a loved one due to their own wrongdoing. I have minimal experience in this field, so it was interesting yet difficult to try and put myself in a different state of mind to write. As well as this, it was difficult following his poems’ rigid structure rather than writing in free verse, which is what I usually do and is within my comfort zone.

U1 Q1 Revision

The poems “A Barred Owl” and “The History Teacher”, written by Richard Wilbur and Billy Collins respectively, explore the dynamic of truth and the responsibility of adults to choose how they must deliver such truth, if at all. Though both poems initially have similar messages of ignorance serving as protection, they contradict each other in the question of whether being shielded from the true nature of the world is ultimately beneficial. The authors present their respective views by using rhetorical devices such as structure and figurative language.The poems “A Barred Owl” and “The History Teacher”, written by Richard Wilbur and Billy Collins respectively, explore the dynamic of truth and the responsibility of adults to choose how they must deliver such truth, if at all. Though both poems initially have similar messages of ignorance serving as protection, they contradict each other in the question of whether being shielded from the true nature of the world is ultimately beneficial. The authors present their respective views by using rhetorical devices such as structure and figurative language.

Though both speakers in “A Barred Owl” and “The History Teacher” agree that ignorance serves as a form of protection, “The History Teacher” then proceeds to challenge the notion of whether this is ultimately good for the children by writing more literally than the great use of figurative language in “A Barred Owl”. In “A Barred Owl”, Wilbur writes that words can “domesticate a fear”, thus personifying fear as something that can be tamed. This figurative language evokes vivid imagery of the fear being something alive and ready to strike, thus serving as a parallel to the owl that the parents were initially trying to shield their child from. By portraying the fear as something dangerous, it convinces the readers that this fear in the child is something that must be suppressed before it can cause any harm. ***. Consequently, Wilbur is providing reasoning why hiding these dangers with words is so necessary because otherwise it will wreak havoc. On the other hand, the lack of figurative language in “The History Teacher” doesn’t evoke the same kind of emotions when Collins flat out writes that the teacher is “trying to protect his students’ innocence”. As a result, as he has not argued for the advantage of ignorance, he can later paint a vivid scene to draw readers to his true point: that shielding children from the truth is detrimental. Collins writes that after the teacher’s lessons where he tried to create euphemisms for real horrors like dropping “one tiny atom on Japan”, the teacher observes the children “torment[ing] the weak and the smart”. His explicit description allows the readers to see the truth the way that he wants them to see it— without metaphors and similes to try and obscure the meaning and try to put it up for debate. This is parallel in his writing style, where there is an evident lack of figurative language. He uses this to convince readers of his point, while Wilbur uses personification to evoke strong imagery and convince readers of his point.

Another way that the two poets make their respective points is through structure. Wilbur uses ten syllables per line as well as a regular rhyme scheme, thus drawing similarities between his poem and a children’s nursery rhyme. Nursery rhymes are typically sweet and innocent, avoiding all topics that are dark and unpleasant. By choosing to write his poem like a nursery rhyme, it is even more of a shock to the reader when he details the owl’s cruelty in the last stanza, describing it as bringing something up to its “dark branch” and eating it “raw”. The smooth rhythm and pace allows the readers to initially draw comfort from his writing, before being jolted by a disgusting image. This allows Wilbur to emphasise the cruelty of the owl’s actions that symbolise the evil of the real world and therefore convince readers of his point that it is important to mask horrors to children. Collins, however, writes “The History Teacher” in free verse, so he has more freedom to write the poem in any way he pleases. He chooses to write it like a story, giving the poem more of a colloquial tone. As a result, it is not masked by song-like whims and is far easier for the reader to understand. With more understanding, it is easier to convince readers of his point that ignorance is ultimately bad. By writing “A Barred Owl” like a nursery rhyme with a regular line length and rhyme scheme, Wilbur manages to present his point in favour of ignorance by creating a sense of comfort and predictability before revealing a shocking detail in the final line. Collins, on the other hand, writes in free verse so that he can use a more casual, story-like approach and be easily understood by the readers.

In conclusion, both Wilbur and Collins convey the same fundamental message: shielding children from the horrors of the world serves as protection. However, the poems disagree on the usefulness of this technique by contrasting structure and the use (or lack thereof) of figurative language.

Explication of Clifton

In the poem “Homage to my hips” Clifton make the choice to refer to her hips as “they”. By doing so, she establishes her hips as a separate entity. Thus, when detailing how “they don’t like to be held back” and how “they do what they want to do”, it seems as if they have a personality beyond her own. The effect of this is to emphasise the strength and significance of her hips, so much so that she refers to them as a whole different person. She further implies this by using the word “like”, indicating that they have preferences. Clifton expands on the concept that her hips are autonomous by toying with the idea of power. She mentions how her hips don’t like to be “held back”, nor have they ever been “enslaved”. The milder phrase “held back” sets the reader up for the much more powerful word “enslaved”, which literally conveys the same message but has a very different connotation. The word “enslaved” provokes vivid imagery of brutality and violence, which is further stressed by the historical context. The use of this word indicates that her hips have never been oppressed or subjugated and are instead “free”. The next two lines are fairly similar in structure and diction. The type of language in both is fairly simple, not a single word being more than one syllable. This contributes to an air of simplicity and curtness in her words, as if the notion that her hips can do what they want is mere fact and something that shouldn’t be challenged.

U1 Poetry Essential Question

How do poets and poetry invite us to see, feel, and experience the world?

In my experience, poetry is a way to bridge the gap between the reality in my head and the reality of my world. I have always found it a useful avenue to reveal a part of myself that I sometimes don’t feel comfortable disclosing, all the while feeling safe and secure as I do it. From what I have observed, this is true of almost all poets. In particular, Edgar Allan Poe used his poetry to say what was on his mind, from his haunting poem of depression and self-doubt titled “Alone” to a very personal insight on the greatest love story he had ever experienced, titled “Annabel Lee”. He, and so many other poets, manage to reveal a piece of themselves by taking on a persona as they write. This persona (or speaker) may share very similar aspects of their own lives, although perhaps living different literal stories. I say literal, because often times fictional events can better convey a very real emotion one was feeling at the time as compared to what actually happened. Poetry is the protective barrier between the poet’s life and revealing their darkest secrets to the world. They are especially aided in this process by use of a variety of poetic devices, such as figurative language and sentence structure. The further help the poet paint pictures and stories that may not be so real in the literal sense, but certainly are on an emotional level.

APQ3 Rewrite: Power

This is the rewrite of my Q3 piece on how the desire for power shapes a character. I chose the play Macbeth, because power is explored in so many different ways. I wanted to focus on Lady Macbeth because I think that she’s such an intricate character and her role is so instrumental to the play that she in fact should have been the main character. By writing this essay about her, I am nodding my head to her.

Power— whether it be a virtue or a vice— is undeniably woven into the fabric of our history. From romances to tragedies, comedies to dramas; it exists in every form. It is impossible to deny that power plays an instrumental role in humanity. The abuse of power is sin, and all sin is executed in the name of personal ambition. There is no piece of literary merit that exhibits this better than William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Within the span of a mere few pages, Shakespeare gives the readers an insight on his true view on society and the ruthlessness of human nature. He argues that with the oppressive struggle for power, comes the spiral into tyranny. However, the pleasure of power is only temporary, and the sins will eventually catch up and become its own ultimate downfall. This is best represented in the character of Lady Macbeth, whose own obsessive greed displays the very same narrative of cutthroat deceit and eventual self-destruction.


Lady Macbeth’s journey to wrangle power into her arms begins with the manipulation of her husband, setting her on the path of tyranny. She does so by encouraging him to kill King Duncan so that he can be crowned King of Scotland, hence making Lady Macbeth queen. She does this by belittling and insulting him, taking jabs at his masculinity and declaring him a coward. Although he eventually obliges, this action is indicative of Lady Macbeth’s first step towards self-destruction. Shakespeare is not only showing Lady Macbeth trying to exert power over an entire country, but over her husband as well. As she does so, she is starting to pick away at what was once a healthy relationship and transforming it into something far more toxic, placing Macbeth on the brink of his own turn to cruelty for personal gain This shows how the tyranny in her is not something that she can necessarily control. She can’t limit it to just the kingdom— no the evil of selfishness run so deep that it infects other aspects of her life, too. Shakespeare chooses to further emphasise this point by causing the evil to spread from just her actions and her husband to her own mind as well. As Lady Macbeth is the one who convinces Macbeth to kill Duncan, the blame is now mostly on her own shoulders. This taints her future in the play as it continues to drag behind her, not even leaving as we get closer and closer to her tragic end. Shakespeare holds up a mirror to human kind’s vile and most ruthless desires by showing the extent to which Lady Macbeth will go to obtain power and the subsequent spread of evil that follows and that will eventually come back to haunt her.


It’s not long after Macbeth kills King Duncan when Lady Macbeth’s descent from power to insanity begins. As Macbeth savagely continues his killing spree, targeting even his best friend Banquo and Macduff’s innocent family, his wife bears the weight of his actions. Lady Macbeth is thrown into a pit of inescapable guilt. She believes that it was her own cruel behaviour and desperate struggle for power that turned her husband from a man faithful to his morals and reluctant to kill into one who seemed to do so without a second thought (though, unbeknownst to her, he too starts seeing guilt in the form of an apparition of his once dear friend, Banquo). The guilt of her tyranny drives her to madness, essentially destroying the person she was before. She too starts seeing things, exclaiming “Out, damned spot!” when she cannot wash the figurative blood from her hands. Eventually, she can live with herself no longer, and commits suicide. Here, Shakespeare is further showing how an obsession of power is not just limited to the actions, but is so strong that is has the capability to bleed through to other aspects of one’s life. For Lady Macbeth, it was the destruction of the relationship with her husband when neither of them knew the trauma they were both experiencing. It was also the implosion of her own sanity and sense of self as her guilt stripped away all sense of control. This is reflective of the exact message Shakespeare is warning people of in his work: that the human drive for power ultimately leads to an all-consuming tyranny that self-corrects by destroying everything in its wake.


In conclusion, Lady Macbeth’s incessant desire for power ultimately becomes her downfall. By writing her character so, Shakespeare expands the significance of Macbeth beyond just a distant tale in a far off land into a reflection of the dangers of personal ambition in mankind’s experience of the world.