Introduction to Poetry
All you ever wanted to know about poetry—and then some.
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
This is a poem.
And this is one,
Okay, so maybe we're not the most profound poets on the block, but that doesn't mean we can't teach you a thing or two about the trade. This course will introduce you to everything poetry: from the fancy terms (enjambment! iamb! villanelle!) to the stuff you think you know but really don't (lines! rhymes! rhythm!). And along the way, you may even become a poet yourself. Yeah, we said it.
Unit 1. Poetry: A Scoop
This unit will help you get your feet wet in poetry, giving you a handy dandy guide to How to Read a Poem and bringing you face to face with a few fun poetic forms.
Unit 2. Setting and Poetic Devices
Every poem has a setting, whether or not it's obvious. This unit will help you find the setting and figure out why it matters.
Unit 3. It's All in the Music
What's a course on poetry without talk of poetic devices? This unit will tackle metaphor, simile, imagery, rhyme, and sound. You know, just the basics.
Unit 4. Sonnet? We Hardly Know It
An entire unit on sonnets? You betcha.
Unit 5. Poetic Forms and Traditions
Sonnets aren't the only important poetic form. This unit will help you distinguish between lyric, epic, and narrative poetry, while introducing you to everything from the haiku to the ghazal (gesundheit!). And of course, we'll top things off with some fancy free verse.
Unit 6. Only the Good Notes: Music as Poetry
Bruce Springsteen and Billie Holiday—and a bunch of other goodies—comin' at ya in this unit on music as poetry.
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 2: Sound in Action
In today's lesson, we're going to let you loose on a poem. You're going to use your newly-trained musical ear to take it apart, study its musical anatomy, and draw up a fab report.
Because we don't do lab reports in Poetry Class, but we are fabulous.
We'll hone our close reading skills by identifying musical devices in action, and examining how this poem's music helps make meaning.
The poem in question? Seamus Heaney's "Digging." You may have heard of it, in another English class, at some hi-fi cocktail party. Or, we don't know, a handful of lessons ago when you wrote an extended analysis on the importance of speaker versus setting within it.
What we're saying is this. You got this poem down, but you won't have dug down to its darkest depths until you've studied its music.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 3.2: Once More, With Pealing
Now that you're experts on the musical devices of poetry, you might as well put that expertise to use. Click on over (again) to Seamus Heaney's "Digging" and give it a read. While we asked you to focus on the poem's speaker-setting relationship the last time you read this, this time you should pay special attention to the sound and rhythm of the poem, and not just its content. Be sure to read it aloud to yourself a time or two, and slowly. Then listen to the man, the legend, Heaney himself read the poem. No need to write anything down just yet. Just listen to the poem and try to get a feel for its music and sounds. Go with the flow. Feel the beat. Along with other clichés.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 3.2a: The Song of Seamus
Listen to Heaney's reading a second time. This time, keep your ears open for the musical devices you've just learned about:
- internal rhyme
- slant rhyme
In a document, jot down any musical devices or moments that you hear in the poem. Don't worry about catching them all.
Using these notes as a jumping-off point, go through the poem line by line, digging up all the musical devices you can find with that finely tuned ear of yours. Copy-paste the text of the poem into your document from Step One and then mark the musical devices you hear by coloring the text according to the following key:
- alliteration = red
- assonance = blue
- consonance = pink
- slant rhyme = green
- perfect rhyme = orange
You'll notice we left out internal rhyme, because alliteration, assonance, and consonance all fall under that category. (Another FYI: a perfect rhyme is exactly what it sounds like: a rhyme that rhymes perfectly. The words true and blue, for example, are a perfect rhyme.)
If Shmoop were going through this poem, we would start off by highlighting the words thumb and gun in the first two lines in green, because that's a big ol' slant rhyme right there. In the next stanza, we would highlight the words "gravelly ground" in red as an example of alliteration.
Get the idea? Great. When you're done, upload your document below, complete with your list of musical devices, as well as your color-coded poem.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 3.2b: She Ain't Nothin But a Soul Digger
- Course Length: 18 weeks
- Grade Levels: 9, 10
- Course Type: Elective
- High School
Just what the heck is a Shmoop Online Course?
Common Core Standards
The following Common Core Standards are covered in this course:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1