Understanding a poem: some examples
The first step — getting hold of a poem as a whole — is the vital one. If you can do this, then there is no limit to what you can build on such a firm foundation. This chapter is about establishing this initial understanding of a poem. We look at the openings of eleven poems (in the first two examples, just the titles), and show how easy it is to establish a sense of what is going to matter in the poems as a whole. As you read the following pages, try to see the logic of the method. Indeed, the best way to approach this chapter is as a participation exercise: see for yourself what tension and what sense of a larger issue you can establish in each case from what are very small scraps of evidence.
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