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Friday, November 8, 2013

365 Poems: Close reading

Day 312

Photo: © Fortuny Museum, Venice
George Barbier (1882-1932) La Fontaine de coquillages, da 
Gazette du Bon Ton
, marzo 1914
UPDATE: I should have added this initially, but when you're close reading a poem you've written, you have to treat it as you would any other piece. Time is your friend -- if you can let the piece sit even 24 hours before you try to close read it, that will help immensely. A couple days is even better. Of course, in our tight ModPo time restraints, that is hard -- to give it a couple of days between drafts, and then another day or so before you close read it.

Due to popular demand (one person) (which is enough!), here's an example of my former poetry instructor doing a close reading of a poem draft for class. The assignment was to write an apostrophe poem. In a stupendous piece of serendipity, I think I've more than completed the 'write a bad poem' part of Bernadette Mayer's writing experiments.

Ah, Ennui! (Original assignment draft)

Ah, Ennui! Darling, you're here, finally!
We've missed you. Come in,
Sit down -- make yourself at home.
Surely a drink? Something white?
Or red? Here's one for each hand!
Just kidding. You know me --
Always laughing! But darling, you're pale--
Are you well? Excellent --
Yes, yes, I'm fine -- quite tip top,
Actually. Better than before it hap--
Well, you remember, don't you.
Of anyone, you remember.
But we shan't speak of it. I'm quite
Bored with the topic. Aren't you?
Let's chat about -- Ennui? Really,
Darling, that's quite over. Say did you --
Be still, now, darling--just hush.
You're grown quite tiresome,
Your conversation, well -- lethal.
Surely friends don't speak so?
Indeed, enough. I'll see you out.
Hurry, before I change my -- No,
Don't apologize. You can't help
Who you are -- although I can.

Comments (close reading) by instructor Michael Montlack. (Notice the way he writes his way through the poem, explaining it to ... himself.)

The you in the of anyone line should be italics or bolded.
Really love the idea of addressing ennui.

The voice is dramatic and animated. There's a character there.
I like this but do get a little lost.
The speaker is welcoming ennui. Entertains ennui.
Then refers to something that hap--something that they shouldn't speak of.
Something that would bore ennui. That bores the speaker.
But ennui doesn't want to let it go.
So is that what is boring? A discussion of something that is boring and always comes up?
The poem addresses ennui and then ennui is addressing a boring topic. Ok.
Then the speaker tells ennui to change subject or leave.
Then speaker ushers ennui out.
Hurry before I change my ... that line confused me.
Speaker can't change ennui but can change self.
I get most of it but the "it' in stanza two did stop me some. I guess it doesn't matter what "it" was. But the emphasis with "before it hap" and "you remember" and "shant speak of it." I thought the it might be something that led to the speaker's boredom. And the hurry before I change my ... seemed off. The speaker already decided to see ennui out. So why a threat there? Seems like it should be earlier before speaker has kicked ennui out.
Reads like a dramatic monologue.
Great draft and use of apostrophe.

What happened after it happened (2nd draft; also took into consideration some student input)

Ah, Ennui! Darling, you're here.
It's been so long. Come in,
Sit down -- You know where.
Surely a drink? Something white?
Or red? Here's one for each hand!
Just kidding. You know me --
Always laughing! But darling, you're pale--
Have you been well? No? --
Yes, yes, I'm fine now -- quite tip top,
Better than before it hap --
Well, you remember, don't you.
Of anyone, you remember.
But we shan't speak of it. I'm quite
Bored with the topic.
Surely you are -- Ennui! Really,
Darling, that's quite over. Say did you --
Be still, now, darling -- just hush.
You're grown quite tiresome,
Your conversation, well -- it's lethal.
I sense that our relationship --
Perhaps it's finally over.
Indeed, enough. I'll see you out --
Ah, Ennui, same old you;
But not me.

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