Content. The content of the poem is often the answer to the question "What is the poem about?" It is the subject matter that the poem circulates around, not the theme of the poem (the meaning or idea or emotional impact) that is delivered after the poem has been read.

Poems that venture into uncharted territory with respect to content are generally more surprising, fresher. The choice of the content can be very important. The right subject matter can serve as the lightning rod for all the emotional freight the poem is carrying. However, subject matter that is not as strongly charged may not be able to deliver the same kind of impact.

Technique. The technique refers to the poetic devices a poet uses to engender a particular effect within the reader.These can be very technical, such as with monitoring the accents and stresses of words as with the formal study of prosody. Other techniques have more to do with how you can make your presentation more convincing with regard to your specific aim. Can you make it seem more real (i.e. provide greater verisimilitude)? These techniques lend credibility to the authority of the writer's occasion of offering the poem (in other words, they kind of show that the author knows what he/she is doing].

Tone. Tone is one of the most difficult things to define about any piece of writing. Tone has much to do with the attitude the reader perceives the writer to have. It could be the attitude toward the subject, the audience or even his times or the world in general. Tone is difficult for a writer to triangulate in on because there is such a wide range of perspectives. Another way to measure tone is through the emotional valence that comes through the poem. It is the mood that is evoked.

Often times a poem will shift in tone as it moves down the page. This can make for an emotionally confusing experience for a reader if the emotional valences aren't ones that are commonly held together. Or it can lead to a complexity and richness in the speaker and lend to more authenticity for its more human expression [Note: most of us are a vat of bubbling emotions.] Too much tonal variation can lead a reader/listener to the impression that the writer isn't particularly reliable and may have just gotten off the funny farm. [A list of tones]

Content Technique Tone
Absurd Premise Absurd Premise Humorous
Ancestry Bill Knott Sonnet Earnest
Birds Catalog Sarcastic/Ironic
Childhood Memory Fugue (Recursiveness) Invective [Anger]
Community Life Newspaper Elegy [Sorrow]
Disembodied Voice Prayer Poem Ineffable [Mystery]
Elegy Rhyme Love Poem [Impassioned]
Familiar Narrative Nocturne
Flowers Sounding Poem The Ecstatic
Historical Personage Surrealism  
Love Poem Alliteration and Assonance  
Object Poem Plain Speech  
Remembering the Old Poets Philosophical Poem  
Work Prose Poem  
Philosophical Poem    
Translation Vocalese  


Addressing the News Dictionary Game
Freewrite Homophonic Translation
Imitation Night Mind
Old Photo Penny Saver
Postcards Random Sentence Generator
Response to Old Poets Tiny Tim
Writing Between the Lines  

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Poetry Out Loud

Poetry Assignment:

Your poem of 18 lines or longer will include the following:

A short write-up that analyzes your intent as the writer of the poem (roughly 3 paragraphs that relate to each of the three points below)

An assessment of Content:

1. What subject matter does your poem primarily deal with and why is this particular subject matter appropriate for the aim of the poem or the particular theme that you are trying to deliver

An assessment of Technique:

1. What technique did you employ and how is its use effective in establishing tone or theme? Were there any other considerations for why you used this particular technique?

Assessment of Tone:

1. What is the tone of this piece? Why is the tone you have chosen appropriate for the aim of the poem and the theme that you are trying to deliver.

Poetry Recitation

Rubric for poetry recitations