Summer 2022 Catalog

LANGUAGE ARTS Literature

The Secret Code of Poetry And the Art of Understanding It RoseMary C. Johnson, Ph.D. The Secret Code of Poetry is a unique, Catholic poetry course which combines poetry appreciation with an in-depth study of “how a poem works.” Hands-on activities and memorization assignments increase the student’s appreciation for the beauty of poetry, while clear explanations and step-by-step analysis assignments de-mystify poetic techniques such as enjambment, alliteration, meter, irony, and more. Each lesson ends with activities that engage the student’s attention and allow him to put into

Q: How does The Secret Code of Poetry approach poetry from a Catholic worldview?

A: The Secret Code of Poetry is

Catholic in the way it defines and approaches poetry: that poetry is not simply art for art’s sake, but is an attempt to express aspects of the truth about God, human nature, and the rest of creation. The understanding of the poet as a sub-creator who “makes” poetry in imitation of God the Creator underlies the entire course. This makes it possible to make value judgments about poems, instead of being relativistic. At the same time, understanding poetry as a way of expressing truth makes it possible to appreciate even works by poets who are mistaken in their religious/moral beliefs. The author explains: “Let us praise God for His generosity in giving us the ability to imitate Him by being ‘makers’ ( poietes ) according to the True and the Beautiful! Because we are perpetually surrounded by Truth and Beauty in Creation and in our fellow human beings, any poet who is open to understanding and communicating reality can capture at least a degree of truth and beauty in his poetry. And even if the poem contains an ‘admixture of error’ (as Aquinas would say) the beauty of what is true in the poem can still act as an ‘arrow’ to ‘guide the mind’ to the fullness of truth.”

practice the concepts he has learned. These activities range from “Practice!” and “Analyze This!” assignments, to poetry memorization and recitation, to compiling a personal poetry anthology, to writing an original poem. Together, the text and workbook form a complete, one-year literature course for students in 7th–9th grades. Through the study of poetry, your student will learn to: • decipher difficult grammar and word-choice to grasp the essence of what is said • look beyond the literal level of a text • pay attention to details • study the structure of a work and the relationship between its whole and its parts • discern what is most important in complicated ideas • understand irony • think through ideas meaningful ideas. To make things a little easier for themselves, poets sometimes bend the rules of grammar. Ellipsis and hyper baton are examples of times when poets don’t follow the rules.

Ellipsis Imagine you are a poet and you have thought of words which are perfect to express your ideas, but which will break the metrical pattern you have chosen. This is probably the situation in which Christina Rossetti found herself when she wrote “The Rose.” The poem opens with the following lines:

The Student Text contains 27 lessons and a 30-page anthology of over 100 favorite poems by poets such as Dickinson, Frost, Hopkins, Wordsworth, and Shakespeare. Non-consumable. Softcover. 184 pgs. 8½"×11" SCP-S $26.95 The Student Workbook includes practice exercises, tests, tips for writing poetry, and a detailed answer key . 100 pgs. 8½"×11" SCP-W $14.95 Single-Subject Lesson Plan available— see pg. 70!

˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ The lily has a smooth stalk, ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ Will never hurt your hand; ˘ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ But the rose upon her briar ˘ ´ ˘ ´ ˘ ´ Is lady of the land.

Did you notice the metaphor in Rossetti’s poem? What is “the rose upon her briar” being compared to?

You may wonder how we know lines 1 and 3 are based on the same meter, since they are not actually identical. Couldn’t line 1 be following one meter, with seven syllables, and line 3 be following another meter, with eight syllables? Although this is theoretically possible, four-line stanzas almost always alternate lines of two different meters, or stick to a single meter for all four lines. Ellipsis: when a writer leaves out a word that can be understood from the context

As you can see in the lines above, Rossetti is following a pattern in which the second and fourth lines have six syllables in the following meter: da-DUM da-DUM da-DUM. The first and third lines follow a pattern of seven syllables in the pattern da DUM-da DUM-da DUM-da, except that line 3 begins with an extra unstressed syllable. This is the only irregularity in the meter. Do you notice how unusual the second line sounds? In order to maintain the meter she has chosen, Rossetti leaves out a word in line 2. This is an example of ellipsis , which occurs when a writer leaves out a word that can be understood from the context. In Rossetti’s poem, the second line needs another word, such as “and,” “which,” or “it.”

And will never hurt your hand Which will never hurt your hand It will never hurt your hand

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Through the study of poetry, give your student the tools he needs to analyze great literature … in high school and beyond.

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