Friday, February 24, 2012

The Poem as Character Sketch

Silk City (by M.A. Reilly, 2011)
We often think about fiction when thinking about the exploration of character. In this post I am suggesting a few narrative poems that contain strong character sketches. I wonder if the brevity and intensity of each poem might help learners recognize and name characteristics of character, as well as help them to also name direct and indirect methods authors use to establish a character.

"Pauline Barrett" by Edgar Lee Masters
Pauline Barrett

Almost the shell of a woman after the surgeon’s knife!
And almost a year to creep back into strength,
Till the dawn of our wedding decennial
Found me my seeming self again.
We walked the forest together,
By a path of soundless moss and turf.
But I could not look in your eyes,
And you could not look in my eyes,
For such sorrow was ours—the beginning of gray in your hair,
And I but a shell of myself.
And what did we talk of?—sky and water,
Anything, ‘most, to hide our thoughts.
And then your gift of wild roses,
Set on the table to grace our dinner.
Poor heart, how bravely you struggled
To imagine and live a remembered rapture!
Then my spirit drooped as the night came on,
And you left me alone in my room for a while,
As you did when I was a bride, poor heart.
And I looked in the mirror and something said:
"One should be all dead when one is half-dead—
Nor ever mock life, nor ever cheat love."
And I did it looking there in the mirror—
Dear, have you ever understood?

Edgar Lee Masters

"Revenge"  - Taha Muhammad Ali

"Phenomenal Woman" - Maya Angelou
"The Floral Apron" - Marilyn Chin (Video of the poet reading)
"Tornado Child" - Kwame Dawes (Video of the poet reading)

"Supermarket in California" - Allen Ginsburg

"The Weary Blues" - Langston Hughes

"You Go Girl" and "A Letter to My Mother" - Taslima Nasreen

"One Boy Told Me"  -  Naomi Shihab Nye

"Portrait of a Woman" - William Carlos Williams (Audio recording of the poet reading)


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