READING A POEM

HOW DOES A POEM SPEAK TO YOU? 

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Forgetting Someone

Yehuda Amichai

Forgetting someone is like forgetting to turn off the light
in the backyard so it stays lit all the next day

But then it is the light that makes you remember.

1. Read the poem out loud — what do you notice about the words in the poem?

 

II. Look at each line in the poem: Why does the poet end with light, day, and remember? Why does he choose to break the lines at each sentence?

 

III. Ask questions about the poem: 

  • Why do you repeat "forgetting" twice?  

  • Does this change how you feel about the word "remember" at the end of the poem? 

  • How is a backyard light like somebody else? 

  • Why is this poem so short? 

Can a Poem Mean Anything? 

The short answer is no. A poem is its own language: it does have specific themes, sounds, and feelings. 

But, you may not get a clear meaning when you first read the poem.

Your own way of reading  and connecting the poem to your experience is important to the meaning of the poem. 

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Nine Hundred Miles

An American Folk Song


Well I'm walkin' down the track, I got tears in my eyes
Tryin' to read a letter from my home

 If that train runs me right, I'll be home tomorrow night
'Cause I'm nine hundred miles from my home,
And I hate to hear that lonesome whistle blow.

Well the train I ride on is a hundred coaches long
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.

If that train runs me right, I'll be home tomorrow night
'Cause I'm nine hundred miles from my home,
And I hate to hear that lonesome whistle blow.

I will pawn you my watch, I will pawn you my chain
Pawn you my gold diamond ring.

If that train runs me right, I'll be home tomorrow night
'Cause I'm nine hundred miles from my home,
And I hate to hear that lonesome whistle blow.

Well if you say so, I will railroad no more
Sidetrack my train and come home.

If that train runs me right, I'll be home tomorrow night
'Cause I'm nine hundred miles from my home,
And I hate to hear that lonesome whistle blow.

1. Read the poem out loud — what do you notice about the repetition (repeating words and sounds) in the song?

 

II. Look at each line in the poem: Why does the singer repeat "I'm nine hundred miles from home"? What is he trading for home? Why does he end each stanza (verse) with "And I hate to hear that lonesome whistle blow?"

 

III. Ask questions about the song: 

  • Who is the person singing this song?   

  • Where is this person? What is their situation? 

  • How does this person feel about their situation?

  • Why is the whistle blowing "lonesome"? 

  • Do you relate with to this person's attitudes ? If so, how? 

Image by Benjamin Behre

Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask and answer the questions like we did above.

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Pay attention to the line breaks and word choice.

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Click on the title, read the poem once and then out loud. Where is the poem? Who is the poem for?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: What is going to hurt? Where is the hurt?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Pay attention to the line breaks. What does missed time mean to you? 

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. What do you think about the punctuation in the poem? How can the use of ! be clever?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: Why is the colorless mist almost like a thought? 

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Why is "Group Home" repeated so much in the poem? 

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. What did the speaker want to speak of yesterday? 

Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: Why does the poet move through so much time in the poem? 

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How does the speaker learn these lessons?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How is the word "clean" used in the poem? 

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How can a poem be a letter? 

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How do the line breaks affect your reading of the poem?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Where are the secret cities?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: What remains important if nothing can happen twice.

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: What is left in the end if we are rarely beautiful? 

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How do you picture this poem?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How is this poem a song?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: What is left in the end if we are rarely beautiful? 

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How does the poet show sameness and difference all at once?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How does the poem ask you to celebrate?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: What does it mean to be each other's harvest? 

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How does the poem show unity?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How does the poem describe a certain place?

Green Motor Scooter

Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How does the speaker express the feeling of being "alone"?  

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: What are the fragments in this poem?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: What is the lesson in this poem?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: Why does the author repeat wind, water, stone.   

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How does this poem incorporate so many elements?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How does the list add to your considerations?

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How do the difference between light and dark influence the poem?  

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: Why is this poem titled hanging fire?

Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How is this poem written and why does it take its shape? 

Woman Posing

Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: What are some of the promises in this poem and what are some promises that you live by?  

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Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How does the author relate "butter" to her family members?

Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: How is this poem triumphant? 

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This is a very special collection of poetry made possible by the efforts of SNCC in 1965. Read poems from other students. How did they feel about the time they were living in? 

Click on the title, read it once in your head and then out loud. Ask: What does this author express through her poetic style?