The End and The Beginning Poem
This week, let’s look at a few poems by Nobel-Prize-winning poet Wislawa Szymborska from Poems New and Collected. If you are new to poetry, it wouldn’t hurt to first familiarize yourself with the basics of the genre via Introduction to Poetry. Also in preparation, be sure to consider my brief lectures on Close Reading and Creative Reading , and challenge yourselves to Annotate in the effort to unpack these poems in all their complexity.
- “Discovery” Download “Discovery”
- “Under One Small Star” Download “Under One Small Star”
- “The End and The Beginning” Download “The End and The Beginning”
- “A Large Number” Download “A Large Number”
- “Nothing Twice” Download “Nothing Twice”
- “Tortures” Download “Tortures”
STEP 1: From the aforementioned poems, select 2—which most resonate with you—to examine in detail. For each, write a response of at least 6 sentences, in which you attempt to make sense of the poem. What does it say? What does it mean? Speak to an intriguing theme it examines, or perhaps its final significance, symbolism, lesson, or moral. In doing so, show your work.*
*In other words, be sure to clarify your logic and quote liberally from the poem at hand, demonstrating how your specific words are in reaction to the specific words of the poem. Otherwise, readers like myself will question how you came to your conclusions. Remember, textual analysis is a form of critical analysis whereby you come to a reasoned and evidence-based understanding of the text through having analyzed the particulars, in this case word by word, line by line, stanza by stanza.
Also, don’t make the mistake of skimming the poem for a single, memorable line and then interpreting that line as if the whole text is encapsulated there. Not true. Consider single lines in context–in their relation to other lines. Assess how such lines inform and reinforce one another, revealing their collective, big-picture implications.
Lastly, pay close attention to word choice–every word counts, especially in poetry–and don’t forget to think figuratively, not just literally. Speaking of which, review the content I posted last week on Figurative Language, beginning with Metaphor.
STEP 2: Come up with your own question for discussion–regarding one of the poems–and answer it in at least 5 sentences. Be sure the question is an open-ended discussion question rather than a fact-based question. In other words, it should encourage conversation and needn’t have an answer; instead, it should value exploration over verifiability.
STEP 3: Comment constructively on the responses of at least 2 peers in at least 5 sentences each, going beyond mere acknowledgement and/or flattery, furthering an exploratory and analytical discussion that complicates–rather than simplifies–the subject matter at hand.
Note: Apply MLA in-text citation for poetry
Ground Rules :
- When challenging your peers’ interpretations or offering alternative views, try to refer to evidence from the text to support your ideas.
- Be respectful. Don’t put down the ideas of another student.
- Ask questions if you do not understand what someone has said.
- Remember this is a discussion first and foremost (characterized by inquiry, participation, and communal spirit), as opposed to debate (characterized by persuasion, prepared rebuttals, clear sides).
- Help one another understand the ideas, issues, values, and rhetorical features reflected in these texts. Through a process of listening, making-meaning, and finding common ground, work toward shared understanding rather than trying to prove a particular argument. A Socratic seminar, like this one, is not used for the purpose of debate, persuasion, or personal reflection, as the focus is on developing shared meaning of a text.
- Have a robust discussion. In such a seminar, the participants–namely, you–carry the burden of responsibility for the quality of the discussion. Good discussions occur when participants study the text closely in advance, listen actively, share their ideas and questions in response to the ideas and questions of others, and search for evidence in the text to support their ideas.
Submission Guidelines : Be sure to number the questions you responded to, single-space your answers, and proofread your work carefully for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
To post Steps 1-2, click “Reply” at the bottom of the screen. You may either (a) copy & paste your pre-written response in the text entry box that appears, or (b) click “Attach” (bottom-left) and upload your pre-written response. Then, click “Post Reply.” Keep in mind that you must post before you can see other replies.
To post Step 3 (your peer response/ discussion contribution), find at least 2 reading responses that pique your interest and click on “Reply” at the bottom of each post.
Rubric & Grading: To view the grading rubric, see below–or click the toggle button on the top-right-side of the screen (above the light blue bar) and select “Show Rubric.”
Otherwise, consider that the following criteria will be used for assessment…
- preparation (does the student’s work reflect a close reading of the text?)
- engagement (did the student thoughtfully engage with their peers?)
- respect (no interruptions or put-downs)
- meaning-making (students understand the text more deeply at the end of the seminar)
- use of evidence (student comments always refer back to specifics from the text).
Keep in mind that I will be assessing each of you by these means. So, failure to prepare and engage, be thoughtful and respectful, or support your ideas with evidence, will result in a reduction in your grade.