The Poetry Foundation

November 22, 2010

If the goal of [the Poetry Foundation website] is immersion in the genre for students and lovers of poetry, the opportunities that this website affords to that end are plentiful.  The children’s poetry section, which aims to expose children to poetry from a younger age, endorses fun ideas like lunchbox poems and encourages reading aloud to and with one’s children. Even tools like the Learning Lab and Poetry Tours are moving toward the idea that people who are learning about poetry should be engaging with the material upon multiple levels. However, the Poetry Foundation does not go far enough. Until these resources are fleshed out, this website will simply be a limited poetry archive and article source for people who already have a relatively full understanding of the genre. The basic materials for an interactive, poetry-teaching website are there. The tools that exist are getting students to engage with the work’s meaning and rhyme, using their basic comprehension skills. The tools that will help students develop the skills needed for a complete understanding of the genre are not yet in place, and the importance of poetry—why we love it, and the breadth of what it has to offer us—has yet to emerge on this website.

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November 3, 2010

While perusing the internet in the name of homework this week, I came across this awesome sight. It’s a literary journal, but one of it’s most interesting facets are its interviews. You can find Nobel prize winners, Pulitzer prize winners, artists, politicians, and of course writers.

A list of names you might find interesting to listen up on:

Alice Walker
Ted Kooser
Judith Butler
Noam Chomsky
Mia Farrow
John Ashbery
Ursula K. Le Guin

And so many more!

Hope ya’ll enjoy it.

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Ask Dr. Scansion

September 6, 2010

Q:  Dear Dr. Scansion,

I am new to formal analysis of poetry and am anxiously wondering: what terms do I really need to know? Can you help me navigate this new period in my education?



A: Dear “Sylvia,”

The terms of formal analysis and prosody are numerous, and some people may be comfortable taking on a more complex set, but for the most part you should have a vocabulary that includes the following:

1) basic accentual patterns: iamb, trochee, spondee, pyrrhic, anapest, and dactyl (Note: some people think that the pyrrhic doesn’t exist in English.  You will need to resist peer pressure and decide what seems true to you.  For my part, I believe.)

2) common metrical feet: trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, hexameter

3) common stanza names: couplet, triplet, quatrain, sestet, octave

4) useful ways to characterize sound patterns: rhyme, half- or slant-rhyme, assonance, consonance, dissonance, alliteration

5) terms that describe line/sentence formations: end-stopped, caesura, enjambment

You may want to be comfortable with a handful of other terms, for example:  sonnet, sestina, blank verse, free verse.

Sylvia, there are resources for people like you.  This site has a wealth of information about prosody and form, or you can turn to sites like the glossary on  for better for verse, which is less exhaustive but has clear definitions.  In either case, don’t forget that reliable friends and grown-ups you trust can be helpful in working through these tough times.  Eventually you may even come to see formal and prosodic analysis as an important part of how you think.

All best wishes,

Dr. Scansion

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Poem of the Day Podcast

August 26, 2010

Learn Out Loud is a really brilliant resource. Once you sign up (don’t worry, it’s free), you have access to this vast archive of audio and visual media. The feature that will probably be the most useful to us is the Poem of the Day Podcast. Many contemporary poets have been featured over the last few weeks, Adrienne Rich, Mary Oliver, & Carl Sandburg among them. You have the option to stream the audio online or download it as an MP3 to your iTunes. I am not certain if all of the poems are read by the poets themselves, but the ones I have listened to are; I imagine that the Lord Byron poems were probably not read by him, though. Below is a link to an Elizabeth Bishop poem:

Download Lullaby for the Cat, Elizabeth Bishop

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