Summary and Response:
Chapter 12 titled “How Do I Read Poetry” teaches the student or the reader that the proper way of interpreting a poem is by first understanding the literal meaning of the phrases and words used in a particular poem. After that, it is time to look beyond what is obvious and read between the lines.
There are two subheadings under chapter 12 and they discuss the two steps that must be done in order to interpret a poem. The first step includes understanding the literal meaning by reading it aloud. As mentioned in the chapter, “reading aloud will force you to decide how to interpret the words and phrases.” In this step, you will also need to look up anything that sounds unfamiliar to you or something that only has a vague meaning in your memory. If you don’t understand the literal words completely, then it will be impossible for you to understand the meaning behind those literal words.
The second step in interpreting the hidden meaning behind the literal words. In poetry, even the simplest of words can have very deep analysis. It is therefore, important for a reader to make appropriate associations to the phrase or word inside that poem. The chapter had included an example from Emily Dickenson’s poem “Rowing in Eden” to show that a literal word – in this case the word ‘rowing’- can mean a variety of things. So the next logical step is to gathering all those possible associations and narrowing it down depending on the rest of the poem. In the case of “Rowing in Eden,” the chapter explained that when that phrase is connected with the rest of the poem, it implies the meaning of “paddling through sexual innocence in a far from chaste anticipation of reaching the port of ecstasy.”
Chapter 13, on the other hand, talks about persona and tone. Specifically, it teaches the reader how to differentiate the poet from a persona he or she may adopt in the poem and it educates the reader on the different tones that a poem may use and how to identify them.
The first part of chapter 13 talks about persona. In this part, the chapter explains persona as speaking through “the voice of a character they have created.” But the larger part of the chapter focuses on the tone of the poem. The chapter first described tone in a poem as similar to the tone of voice when speaking. The chapter also discussed verbal irony, which is when you mean the opposite of what you say (or in this case, write). The chapter ended in giving the readers different words to remember that could help in describing tone. Some examples are ‘elegiac’ and ‘ambivalent.’
All in all, the two chapters effectively taught the basics of reading the poem in a deeper context. The points presented in both chapters are helpful and effective especially when analyzing poems.