Sunday, 15 July 2007

STRIVE or STRIDE (Help with reading and writing unseen poems in exams)

The acronym S T R I V E is a useful aid to the analysis of poetry. It is particularly useful in an exam situation where you need to kick-start your response to an unseen poem fairly rapidly.

What does the poem appear to be about? Is it obvious or ambiguous? Is it narrative in nature, telling a story; or is it more abstract and concerned with feelings and emotions? Is there a clear link between its subject and its title?

Does the poem convey a feeling of celebration, sadness, rage, joy, regret, love, hate, irony, satire, pathos? Does the tone of the poem appear to give an insight into the poet's state of mind at the time the poem was written?

Rhythm and Rhyme:
Is there a clear rhythm to the poem? Is there a discernible rhyme scheme? Does it rhyme at all? If so, how and where? Are all the lines of roughly the same length? Are short lines intermixed with long lines? What effect does this have as the poem is being read? Does it help to emphasise the poem's meaning?

What visions and pictures fill your head when you read the poem? Are they beautiful, gentle, savage, awe inspiring, confused, picturesque, horrific...?

Vocabulary (lexis):
What words, phrases and register does the poet use to add impact and power to the poem? Can you identify the use of metaphor, simile, personification, or any other imaginative devices?

What sound effects does the poet use and why? Scan the poem for the use of, for example, onomatopoeia, assonance, alliteration, cacophony...

STRIVE does not have to be applied mechanically to a poem. Apply the letters in any order you like. Many of the categories will almost certainly overlap anyway. Treat it as an aid, not a rigid set of rules. You can also adapt it to STRIDE, with the 'D' standing for the appropriate term, 'Diction', rather than 'Vocabulary'.

Remember!!! Poetry is an extremely condensed and concentrated form of text in which form and meaning are closely interwoven. Everything in a poem - every word, comma, space and sound - has been carefully selected with this in mind. The relevance within the poem of everything you decide to comment upon should be thought through just as carefully.

Stanza The correct word for a verse in poetry.
End-rhyme A rhyme occurring at the end of a line of poetry.
Eye-rhyme Looks as though it should rhyme but does not ... Home / Come.
Pathos Evocation of intense deep feeling.
Irony The literal meaning is not the intended meaning.
Satire Irony employed in a moralistic way.
Simile Likening one thing to another to illuminate meaning using as or like.
Metaphor Imaginatively representing one thing in terms of something else.
The ship ploughed through the waves.... Peter was a rock.
Assonance Repetition of similar vowel sounds .... How now brown cow.
Alliteration Repetition (most commonly) of the initial consonant .... Peter Piper ...
Cacophony The use of clashing and jarring words for effect.
Hyperbole Exaggeration.
Oxymoron The combination of opposites for effect .... A thunderous silence.
Ambiguity Inability to establish definitive meaning from information provided.
Allusion A subtle or blatant reference to something else.
Euphemism Substituting a gentle phrase for a blunt one ... Passed away/died.
Allegory A work with more than one level of meaning.
Elision Omitting or slurring part of a word for rhythmic effect ... O'er/Over.
Cliche Trite, over used ideas and rhymes ... Breeze/Trees.
Onomatopoeia Words which imitate that which they represent ... Zip/Buzz/Plop.

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About Me

I teach Film, Media and English Lit.