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Unit 4 - Whitman's Poetry

Page history last edited by Russell 10 years, 5 months ago


Mon, Mar 1


DUE TODAY: Before end of class, must tell the teacher about the two levels of the extended metaphor poem

HOMEWORK TONIGHT: Write the metaphor poem in the shape you have chosen

FOCUS TODAY: Moving from pre-writing to drafting


Mr. Rice will display his work-in-progress sample poem

The class will:

  • Say what's "working" so far - what's good
  • Ask questions about the poem for clarity
  • Give suggestions
  • Provide ideas for next steps


All students will touch base w/ Mr. Rice today to explain the metaphor in the poem. Be ready to:

  • Explain the "real world" aspect of your poem and the "metaphorical world" aspect


Thu, Feb 25


DUE TODAY: Late cataloguing poems

HOMEWORK TONIGHT: Work on the extended metaphor poem (as described in today's lesson)

FOCUS TODAY: Poetry pre-writing, extended metaphor 


Why is "O Captain" so cool? Consider some of this viewing on YouTube:

"An Introduction to Walt Whitman" is a great intro to his concept of how all people are united.

An animated reading of "O Captain, My Captain"

A  student recitation of "O Captain, My Captain"

Robin Williams introduces poetry to students in "Dead Poets Society" 

The closing scene of "Dead Poets Society"


We begin work on the Extended Metaphor Poem  


Tues, Feb 23


DUE  TODAY:  Final draft of cataloguing poem


FOCUS  TODAY:  Writing poetry analysis


We will begin with a poetry quiz then move to the computer lab.

I  will lead the class in an analysis of Whitman's "O  Captain, My Captain!"


A  sample analysis of "O Captain, My Captain!" as typed by a student based on the lesson


Fri, Feb 19


DUE  TODAY: Questions on "O Captain My Captain"  and "When Lilacs Last ..."

HOMEWORK:  Make final edits to the cataloguing poem - bring the FINAL  DRAFT  next class

FOCUS  TODAY:  Extended metaphor and tone/mood


FIRST:  Edits to the cataloguing poems - 20 minutes to complete

  • Eliminate all articles - the, a, an
  • Remove all -ing extensions on verbs
  • Try taking out all pronouns - I  my your their his her they our us etc. 
  • Experiment with word order so each line varies - avoid repetition of phrases unless it's on purpse for effect


SAVE  your most recent version in the same document as drafts one and two


SECOND: Answer these questions about Whitman and "O Captain My Captain!"  using online sources DUE  BY  END  OF  CLASS - you may work with other people!


  1. How does the speaker of the poem feel about the captain? What parts "tell"  you this?
  2. "O Captain, My Captain!" has two levels of meaning - can you uncover them?  One is the literal meaning, and the other is the "true"  meaning of the poem.
  3. Copy one or two lines from the poem, and then explain what mood or emotion the two lines create
  4. What is the extended metaphor in the poem? Look up "extended metaphor definition"  online.
  5. What is Whitman's aim by writing this poem?
  6. How does this poem relate to the poem "When Lilacs Last in the Door'Yard Bloom'd"? 
  7. When you look at the shape of the poem's stanzas, does the shape relate in any way to the subject? How?


Wed, Feb 17



  • Drafts of cataloguing poem (if not shown to Mr. Rice last week) 
  • Revisions to cataloguing poem with justification for each edit

HOMEWORK TONIGHT: What lines in "O Captain, My Captain!" help reveal the speaker's attitude toward his subject? How does the speaker in "O Captain, My Captain!" feel about the subject? 



We are in the computer lab, room 104 today. We will be writing, revising, and reading poetry.

To use words purposefully takes skill, and that skill is usually found in how you use ADJECTIVES - words that describe.

  1. Open up MSWord and type your current cataloguing poem into a document
  2. Copy (CTRL-C) your poem, and paste it beneath the original (CTRL-V)
  3. Leave the original edition untouched! Only work with one of the copies.
  4. Find every NOUN in your poem and underline each one
  5. Now find every ADJECTIVE  and make each one italics
  6. Look at your poem and give EACH  NOUN  an adjective. (sky >> clear sky)
  7. Open another tab in your Internet session and navigate to THESAURUS.COM
  8. Using thesaurus.com, explore possible SYNONYMS  for each adjective in your poem
  9. Make some purposeful substitutions to your adjectives based on how words SOUND


Make modifications to your cataloguing poem:

  • At least two word-replacements
  • At least one added simile to enhance imagery
  • Make at least one more change to the new version of the poem - an addition, subtraction, or edit


In the MSWord document, review all of the edits you have made between the original and your new version.


  1. Below the newer version of the poem, make two-column table.  
  2. Label the left column "Edits/Changes"
  3. Label the right column "Reason for Change"  
  4. Fill the left column with a list of every edit or change you made
  5. To the right, explain why you made each change - you might explain how your change made that part of the poem better


PRINT a copy of the document with your old version, new version, AND your explanation of the changes


Use the Internet to find information about two poems, but limit your research to .ORG and .EDU results. You could type this in the Google search box: Whitman analysis "O Captain My Captain" site:.org

  • "O Captain, My Captain!"
  • "When Lilacs Last in the Door'Yard Bloom'd"


According to the Internet, what are these poems about?

Open a new document and summarize IN  YOUR  OWN  WORDS what the Internet sites seem to say about these two poems.


Focus on "O Captain" - HOMEWORK: 

  1. What lines in "O Captain, My Captain!" help reveal the speaker's attitude toward his subject? 
  2. What do the lines reveal?  How does the speaker in "O Captain, My Captain!" feel about the subject?



Fri, Feb 12 - Half Day


DUE TODAY: Draft of cataloguing poem

HOMEWORK TONIGHT: Complete a poem draft and be ready to have it checked by Mr. Rice next class. (If your poem draft was checked Friday, then you have no homework)

FOCUS TODAY: Cataloguing poem worksheet


Reviewing your poetry writing with a self-check sheet


Wed, Feb 10


DUE TODAY: By the end of class:

  • A poem that includes all five senses
  • Ideas for topic, cataloguing, and imagery for the "Cataloguing" poem (described below)


A draft of a poem that uses cataloguing to suggest parts coming together as a whole: At least two word-replacements, with reasons

  • cataloguing
  • imagery
  • at least one word that is carefully chosen for its sound quality 


Quick quiz on imagery, and other poetic devices

Poetry Quiz 3

Match the imagery types on the right with their more formal name on the left.

Formal name

Imagery type

  1. ___ Visual imagery
  2. ___ Gustatory imagery
  3. ___ Olfactory imagery
  4. ___ Auditory imagery
  5. ___ Tactile imagery
  6. ___ Organic imagery

A.  Describes the sensation of taste

B.  Describes the sensation of touch

C.  Describes the sensation of smell

D.  Describes the sensation of hearing

E.  Describes the sensation of sight

F.  Describes internal sensations


For each phrase or sentence below, identify formally the type of imagery being used:

  1. He ran like a blur, a haze of red and yellow across the track.
  2. The stale stench of expired cow flesh slapped my nose.
  3. The bell announcing the end of class burst into my brain like a trumpet blast from two inches away.
  4. The steering wheel this morning was cold as a metal toilet seat on the shady side of an iceberg.



Two items due by end of period:

  • A poem that includes all five senses (from our work last class on imagery - my example was a belch in the school cafeteria)
  • Ideas for topic, cataloguing, and imagery for the "Cataloguing" poem (described below) 



  1. What is the scene/event that takes place in the poem?
  2. Will your poem be end-stopped or use enjambment? (Consider whether you are providing concrete, separate observations or a continuing series that links items together. The first case would likely use end-stopped lines to emphasize the separation of observations, whereas the second would likely use some enjambment to illustrate how the separate parts link together.)
  3. Where can I add a simile? With regard to imagery - it is often enhanced when the author uses a simile to compare what is observed to something else. "After the punch in the mouth, the blood made me feel as though I was licking a copper pipe."
  4. Make the title of your poem the place or event (e.g. "The Commons" or "Family Dinner")



  1. The poem must be about something where individual parts contribute to a whole
  2. The poem must use cataloguing to list the parts, though the cataloguing need not dominate the poem
  3. The poem must "hit" at least two of the senses by using imagery
  4. The word-choice in the poem must be purposeful. At least one word must be chosen for its sound quality
  5. The poem must be at least 12 lines long and include punctuation


HOMEWORK TONIGHT: Draft of the cataloguing poem, as described above


Mon, Feb 8


DUE TODAY: If you finished the drawing and explanation last class, then nothing is due today

HOMEWORK TONIGHT: A poem that includes

  • cataloguing
  • imagery
  • at least one word that is carefully chosen for its sound quality

FOCUS TODAY: Imagery, Whitman's Civil War poetry, composition


Quick quiz

Notes on imagery


Imagery is the use of written language to appeal to any one of the five senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, taste


Below are examples of each type. As we review them, create your own poem on-the-fly. The title of your free-verse poem will be: “The Commons”


  • Sight (Visual) : His face suddenly turned pale, like a cream-colored bathtub, and a small sweat broke out on his head.
  • Sound (Auditory) : A gurgle escaped his lips from deep in the throat, and for a moment I thought he was attempting a word in German.
  • Smell (Olfactory) : Yet almost instantly a stale cloud enveloped me, choking me with the warm stench of pastrami on rye with a generous helping of mayo and mustard.
  • Touch (Tactile) : My hand shot forward instinctively, homing in on Jerry's brown-haired head, and I delivered the well-deserved dope-slap he had coming with a short, sharp shock.
  • Taste (Gustatory) : I then returned to my own p-b-and-j on homemade bread, the next bite so welcome with sweet, oozing jam.


There is also a “sixth sense” that refers to internal sensations (Organic) like nausea, nervousness, depression, etc.



Discovering imagery in "A March in the Ranks, Hard-prest"


HOMEWORK: In class, begin composing your own poem that will include at least these three items:

  1. Imagery
  2. Cataloguing
  3. Use of at least one word that is carefully chosen for its sound quality


Thu, Feb 4


DUE TODAY: Nothing in writing

HOMEWORK TONIGHT: The art/sketch for "I Hear America Singing" or "From Paumanok Starting"

FOCUS TODAY: Cataloging and Walt Whitman's style


Walt Whitman generally wrote on three separate topics:

  • The Civil War
  • The new, industrialized America (post-Civil War)
  • Nature (and our relationship to it)


He takes on the role of "the one voice" -- the speaker of his poems is not merely "one of us" but a person who is the collective conscious of America. The speaker can "see all" and "hear all."


Today's new technique is cataloging, which is described on the poetic devices handout


After reading "I Hear America Singing" and "From Paumanok Starting" we will explore:

What is listed in each

How the lists contribute to a whole America


The in-class assignment (and possible homework):

  • Draw/sketch one of the two poems. In the sketch:
    • Illustrate what is in the poem clearly - the visual should link clearly to one of the two poems
    • Include the idea of individualism
    • Include the idea of individualism contributing to a whole
  • On the back of the sketch sheet, explain your drawing. Be sure to show you have met the three requirements.


Tues, Feb 2


DUE TODAY: Nothing in writing


FOCUS TODAY: Free verse, deriving topic from a poem, assonance, euphony, end-stop vs. enjambment, repetition


Open note quiz on Mr. Rice

Added question to the quiz: Why is it appropriate that the Whitman poem “A Noiseless, Patient Spider” would be written in free verse? Max points: 5


Discovering topic and speaker in poems:

A Noiseless, Patient Spider

  1. What’s happening in the poem?
  2. What kind of person is the speaker? What is he doing?
  3. What similarities are there between the speaker and the spider observed in stanza one?

Beginning My Studies

  1. How does the title relate to the content of the poem?
  2. How does the speaker seem to feel about the time he began his studies?
  3. Since the speaker began his studies, how fast does he want life to progress?

Poetic devices:

  • Assonance
  • Euphony
  • End-stopped vs. enjambment
  • Repetition



Fri, Jan 29


DUE TODAY: Nothing

HOMEWORK TONIGHT: Study class notes for the "Mr. Rice" quiz

FOCUS TODAY: Note-taking and poetic terms


A Pwrpt slide show "mini-biography" of Mr. Rice will be shown. Note-taking in notebook - notes can be used on the QUIZ NEXT CLASS.


Please ask or email Mr. Rice if you want the text of the slide show.


Two handouts - see Mr. Rice for an exta copy or just go to the link: 


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