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Online Writing Resources

My Own Published Writing:
Soon: chapter on Luis Valdez and Zoot Suit in Teaching Latino/ a Literature (pub. Routledge)
Two articles about Margaret Atwood's books:
Lady Oracle: The Politics of the Body
Tourists and Terrorists
and
Hidden Artist and the Art of Hiding - on Moby-Dick

Analyzing a sonnet

Analyzing a Sonnet
[With examples from Sonnet 73 in brackets]
Shakespeare writes:

1. Read your sonnet out loud and LISTEN (please do this for the class, too).
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2. Paraphrase each quatrain (each 4 lines) and the couplet (last 2 lines) and tell what the main message of the sonnet is. Does the couplet CHANGE the meaning a little – sort of swerve off from the 3 quatrains? [“I am really old and dying, but you should love me even more since soon I’m not going to be around.”]
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3. Explain what is interesting (or not) about the rhymes. Some people read just the rhyming words straight down the right-hand side of the page as if they were almost a poem themselves. If you did this, what would be the main ideas of your sonnet? Do you have any rhymes that don’t quite work? – If so, then the poet is calling attention to the 2nd word.
[All the rhymes are regular rhymes. The rhyming words emphasize death -- cold, west, expire -- until the couplet where emphasis is on good sex: strong and long.]
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4. Meter (all that iambic pentameter stuff). Wherever the poet varies from regular short/ long beats, then pay special attention to how that effect is connected to what is being said – it will give you hints, especially in 129. Also, look for stops (caesuras) in the middle of lines because these emphasize words, too.
[In first two stanzas, the first three lines are pretty regular iambic pentameter, but then the fourth line stops the iambic pace and slows it down as if to emphasize the sadness and loss of death/ winter/ old age. Interestingly by the last line of the third stanza, the speaker is bouncing back into iambic even while talking about old age. In the couplet, the first line’s first three words can’t be read as iambic pentameter – which makes you slow down and pay special attention to them, but again by the last line of the couplet it’s all back to happy iambic pentameter.]
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5. Alliteration – remember that sonnets were sort of songs, so look for the “music” of similar sounds making the sonnet sweetJ. See how the alliteration reinforces the ideas of the sonnet.
[Oddly, in the last lines of the first two stanzas, where the iambic pentameter falters, the alliteration is sweetest: lots of “s” sounds, first to emphasize what is lost and second to emphasize sleep. I wonder why? Maybe death IS sweet for somebody who is very old? Or maybe he is already thinking of the “little death” = after sex?]
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6. Metaphors and similes [= like or as]. If you have extended similes, they are called conceits – many of you will have those. See how they reinforce the ideas.
[This sonnet’s three separate conceits all contribute to the main idea of the dying of the speaker: the death of the year, the death of the day, and the death of a fire. Strangely, in the couplet, there are no more metaphors or similes. I wonder why? ]
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7. Images – like the image of the tree losing its leaves. How do the pictures which you build in your head reinforce the main idea of the poem?
[Inside of each stanza, there are images which connect to the death of the speaker. For example, the church choirs alluded to would be where the funeral service would take place. The second stanza has “Death’s second self” and the third has the “death-bed.” So the images INCLUDE the idea of death. ]

 Updated Monday, December 31, 2007 at 8:31:21 AM by Marilyn Patton - pattonmarilyn@fhda.edu
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