1. Writing in Your Notebook

See this page with pop-up Japanese translation ( 翻訳 )

Here is some advice for making entries in your notebook. For each poem that you study, you can:

1. Copy the poem into your notebook and make notes on the structure of the poem: stanzas, rhyme scheme, sound effects, repetition of words, etc.
2. List words that you don’t know and translate them into Japanese.
3. Choose some important words and list their connotations, e.g. “home” (l. 3) suggests family, love, safety.
4. Use some of the information from the lectures or your own research about biography and context to help explain the poem.

Usually, I will ask you to write a one or more complete paragraphs about the poem. Follow the guidelines and examples below:

1. You can divide your writing into parts: (a) Describe the structure of the poem: lines, stanzas, lines in each stanza, rhyme pattern, meter, traditional form, etc. (b) You should also discuss the meaning or message of the poem.
2. Each paragraph should have 5 or more sentences. Your explanation of the poem’s meaning will probably be longer than the description, as below. To explain the meaning, focus on something that you think is important or on a specific question from your homework. You should also consider how sound and structure develop the message of the poem.
4. You should support you opinion about the poem by giving examples, quoting words and phrases with line numbers: In line 11, there is alliteration of the letter w: “wish that we were in his place.”
5. Date each entry in your notebook. Double-space the lines of your paragraph.

Here is an example notebook entry about “Richard Cory”

Homework for Week 3: May 15th, 2014

“Richard Cory,” by Edwin Arlington Robinson, is about a wealthy gentleman who suddenly kills himself. It is a 16 line poem. The poem has four stanzas. Each stanza has four lines. The rhyme pattern is abab, and there are four stressed syllables in each line. There is a half-rhyme in lines 5 and 7 (“arrayed” and “said”). The unnamed speaker of the poem is one of the townspeople, and he describes Richard Cory using “we”: “Whenever Richard Cory went down town, / We people on the pavement looked at him:” (ll. 1-2)

The people of the town envy Richard Cory. They think of him as a perfect gentleman. In line 3, the speaker says, “He was a gentleman from sole to crown.” This an example of synechdoche (part for whole) that shows how completely he is a gentleman. He is also “clean favoured” (l. 4) and “always human” when he talks (l. 6). Finally, he is “admirably schooled in every grace” (l. 10), meaning that he is very polite and has good manners. He is also wealthy: “richer than a king,” according to the speaker (l. 10). The speaker also says that Richard Cory “glittered when he walked,” which suggests expensive diamonds or gold. But these also seem to be examples of hyperbole because the townspeople are different than Cory, and maybe they don’t understand him. He is rich, polite and powerful, and they envy him: “we thought him everything / To make us wish that we were in his place” (ll. 11-12). The townspeople are not rich; they have to work hard (l. 13) and they don’t have enough money to eat meat. They curse the bread they must eat everyday (l. 14). So they are probably shocked when they learn that he has killed himself. I think that Richard Cory was unhappy. He may have been lonely or he may have had some private worries. But the people of the town don’t know this, and they think he has a perfect life. The poem suggests that money and power cannot make you happy.

You can also include biographical and contextual information in your paragraph. Such points could be used at the beginning of your paragraph or near the end of the paragraph where you give your interpretation of the poem.

Biographical information:

Edwin Arlington Robinson grew up in a small town in Maine, and many of his poems focus on small town life. In addition, there was much unhappiness in Robinson’s life and in his family. Many of the characters in his poems are lonely, unhappy and seek escape from their lives. For example, in “Richard Cory” … .

Contextual information:

At the turn of the century, many Americans expressed their unhappiness with modern urban life. It was lonely, sometimes boring and sometimes stressful. America was also a culture of competition and money-making. As a result, many Americans questioned the idea that success and happiness could be found by becoming rich. Poems such as Robinson’s “Miniver Cheevy” and “Richard Cory” express these feelings of dissatisfaction with the American dream.