IATEFL Conference Manchester 2015 ‘How Poetry Can Aid Students’ Comprehension’ Rosemary Westwell

April 9, 2015

IATEFL Conference 2015 Manchester
Workshop 45 minutes with audience participation for experienced or inexperienced audience BE BEA
‘How Poetry Can Aid Students’ Comprehension’
One of the major problems students have with comprehending written English is the lack of understanding of non-literal language.

This workshop will explore poetic devices, styles and structure and show how an understanding of these can help students’ comprehension

poetic devices: worksheet 1 with answers
poetic styles: worksheet 2 with answers
poetry structures: worksheet 3 with answers
TEXTS: devices, styles and structure in examples of prose
How to use an understanding of poetic devices, styles and structure to aid comprehension at different levels
textbook: ‘A Close look at Unseen Poetry’ by Rosemary Westwell ISBN9781500468453 available from http://www.amazon.com
contact: Dr Rosemary Westwell rjwestwell@hotmail.com 
Work sheet 1 Poetic Devices Fill the gaps by choosing from: alliteration, assonance, simile, contrast, euphemism, hyperbole, imagery, metaphor, onomatopoeia, personification
________: words that begin with the same letter, e.g. Two toads were totally tired.
________: contains the same vowel sounds, e.g. the half-heard word stirred
cohesion : joining aspects of the poem so that the whole poem is ‘one’ expression or idea, often by constant or regular references to particular sounds, assonances, or alliterations in different parts of the poem.
collocation: implied collocation : ‘the tall building’, ‘the high building’, ‘the tall man’ are phrases which contain words that are often associated together i.e. they are common collocations – but ‘the high man’ is seldom used, ‘high’ is not usually associated or collocated with ‘man’ (depending on context). We may think of common collocations with a word or words in the poem that are not present but may be implied by the context.
comparison, ________, e.g. The thief was as cunning as a fox.
Connotations and implied connotations i.e. associated meanings e.g .the word ‘fly’ may remind us of the phrase ‘fly high’ or ‘do well’, or fly away : – run away, or escape. ________: e.g. He was as clumsy as a drunken tramp. She was as dainty as a cat.
________hints at a harsh truth, e.g. saying ‘He passed away.’ instead of ‘He died.’
enjambment continuing a line into the next one without a break sometimes in order to give more weight or importance to the idea(s) expressed
figurative language has a hidden meaning, e.g. he has a finger in every pie meaning he is involved in many different activities
grammar: use of specific grammatical structures for emphasis e.g. in the line ‘The free bird leaps’, the poet uses ‘the’ instead of ‘a’, meaning that ‘the free bird’ mentioned in the poem is not one bird, but represents all types of free birds.
_______ exaggerates, e.g. I drank gallons of lemonade.
________uses words that appeal to the senses: sight sound, touch, smell or taste, e.g. the rosy clouds
literal use of words e.g. He put his finger into the pie to taste it.
litotes, under-statement e.g. He passed with 100 per cent, so he knows a little of his subject.
________e.g. The man was a fox.
________, words sound like the sounds they represent e.g. squelching footsteps
paradox, something true which appears to be a contradiction, e.g. The truer the statement, the more it is disbelieved.
________, like human beings, e.g. The flowers danced.

Work sheet 1 Poetic Devices ‘Answers’
Alliteration: words that begin with the same letter, e.g. Two toads were totally tired.
Assonance: contains the same vowel sounds, e.g. the half-heard word stirred
cohesion : joining aspects of the poem so that the whole poem is ‘one’ expression or idea, often by constant or regular references to particular sounds, assonances, or alliterations in different parts of the poem.
collocation: implied collocation : ‘the tall building’, ‘the high building’, ‘the tall man’ are phrases which contain words that are often associated together i.e. they are common collocations – but ‘the high man’ is seldom used, ‘high’ is not usually associated or collocated with ‘man’ (depending on context). We may think of common collocations with a word or words in the poem that are not present but may be implied by the context.
comparison, simile, e.g. The thief was as cunning as a fox.
Connotations and implied connotations i.e. associated meanings e.g .the word ‘fly’ may remind us of the phrase ‘fly high’ or ‘do well’, or fly away : – run away, or escape. Alternatively, depending on the situation or ‘context’, we may be reminded of a wish to be a ‘fly on the wall’ to hear or see something that we would not expect to be able to.
Contrast: e.g. He was as clumsy as a drunken tramp. She was as dainty as a cat.
euphemism hints at a harsh truth, e.g. saying ‘He passed away.’ instead of ‘He died.’
enjambment continuing a line into the next one without a break sometimes in order to give more weight or importance to the idea(s) expressed
figurative language has a hidden meaning, e.g. he has a finger in every pie meaning he is involved in many different activities
grammar: use of specific grammatical structures for emphasis e.g. in the line ‘The free bird leaps’, the poet uses ‘the’ instead of ‘a’, meaning that ‘the free bird’ mentioned in the poem is not one bird, but represents all types of free birds.
hyperbole exaggerates, e.g. I drank gallons of lemonade.
imagery uses words that appeal to the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell or taste, e.g. the rosy clouds
literal use of words e.g. He put his finger into the pie to taste it.
litotes, under-statement e.g. He passed with 100 per cent, so he knows a little of his subject.
metaphor e.g. The man was a fox.
onomatopoeia, words sound like the sounds they represent e.g. squelching footsteps
paradox, something true which appears to be a contradiction, e.g. The truer the statement, the more it is disbelieved.
personification, like human beings, e.g. The flowers danced.
Worksheet 2 Poetic styles choose from: lyric, Romantic, comical, narrative, allegorical, monologue, low burlesque, classical, elegy, ode, pastoral

e.g. Is it a lyric poem that reveals what the poet is thinking and feeling?
Is it _______poetry that contains personal, emotional language especially about the beauty of the world around us or about love?
Is it an example of Metaphysical poetry? Does it dwell on the magnificence of the universe, infinity and/or man’s undefeatable spirit?
Is it a mystic poem that reaches beyond our normal consciousness?
Is it an intellectual poem that displays the poet’s skill with words and the shape of the poem?
Is it________? Does it try to make you laugh?
Is it a ________poem that tells a story?
Is it an instructive poem that has a lesson for us to learn?
Is it a moralizing poem that exhorts its readers to be good and shun evil?
Is it a fanciful poem that stretches our imagination to the limit?
Is it a symbolic or ‘________’ poem that is about something real that represents something much deeper e.g. a dove that symbolises peace?
Is it a ________in which a particular character is speaking?
Does the poem sound like a letter? Is it an epistle poem?
Is it a burlesque that treats a serious subject humorously?
Is it high burlesque that takes something unimportant and makes it out to be very important?
Is it ___________that takes something important and makes it out to be unimportant?
Is it a Carpe diem poem that is about living for today?
Is it a ________poem that relates to the ideals of beauty?
Is it doggerel or unliterary humorous verse?
Is it an ________that expresses grief over the death of someone?
Is it an epic or a long serious poem that tells the story of a heroic figure?
Is it an epigram that is very short, ironic and witty?
Is it an epitaph that is a commemorative inscription on a tomb?
Is it an epithalamium (epithalamion) that praises a bride and groom at a wedding?
Is it an Idyll (Idyl) that depicts a peaceful country scene or is a long poem telling a story about heroes of long ago?
Is it a ‘lay’ poem or a long mediaeval sung poem that tells a story?
Is it an ________that is a long lyric poem?
Is it a ________poem about peaceful and romantic country life?
Is it a pindaric ode that is a ceremonious poem that is balanced with question and answer-type lines?


Worksheet 2 ‘Answers’

Is it a lyric poem that reveals what the poet is thinking and feeling?
Is it Romantic poetry that contains personal, emotional language especially about the beauty of the world around us or about love?
Is it an example of Metaphysical poetry? Does it dwell on the magnificence of the universe, infinity and/or man’s undefeatable spirit?
Is it a mystic poem that reaches beyond our normal consciousness?
Is it an intellectual poem that displays the poet’s skill with words and the shape of the poem?
Is it comical? Does it try to make you laugh?
Is it a narrative poem that tells a story?
Is it an instructive poem that has a lesson for us to learn?
Is it a moralizing poem that exhorts its readers to be good and shun evil?
Is it a fanciful poem that stretches our imagination to the limit?
Is it a symbolic or ‘allegorical’ poem that is about something real that represents something much deeper e.g. a dove that symbolises peace?
Is it a monologue in which a particular character is speaking?
Does the poem sound like a letter? Is it an epistle poem?
Is it a burlesque that treats a serious subject humorously?
Is it high burlesque that takes something unimportant and makes it out to be very important?
Is it low burlesque that takes something important and makes it out to be unimportant?
Is it a Carpe diem poem that is about living for today?
Is it a classical poem that relates to the ideals of beauty?
Is it doggerel or unliterary humorous verse?
Is it an elegy that expresses grief over the death of someone?
Is it an epic or a long serious poem that tells the story of a heroic figure?
Is it an epigram that is very short, ironic and witty?
Is it an epitaph that is a commemorative inscription on a tomb?
Is it an epithalamium (epithalamion) that praises a bride and groom at a wedding?
Is it an Idyll (Idyl) that depicts a peaceful country scene or is a long poem telling a story about heroes of long ago?
Is it a ‘lay’ poem or a long mediaeval sung poem that tells a story?
Is it an ode that is a long lyric poem?
Is it a pastoral poem about peaceful and romantic country life?
Is it a pindaric ode that is a ceremonious poem that is balanced with question and answer-type lines?


Worksheet 3 Poetry Structure

Fill the gaps: choose from: rhymes, sonnet, a couplet , free verse, Haiku, Name poetry, an ABC, metre, a rondeau, sound poetry, Tanka, ‘Visual’, an acrostic, rhythm, a limerick,

e.g. Is it a poem that rhymes e.g. the last words of the lines have the same vowel?
Is it ________poem that has lines that begin with letters of the alphabet?
Is it ________ poem in which the first letter of each line spells a word?
Is it ________or a poem of 2 lines that may or may not rhyme?
Is it ________ (vers libre) that has no fixed metrical pattern?
Is it ________ that has three lines with 5+7+5 short syllables that do not rhyme?
Is it ________ is a short humorous poem consisting of five anapaestic (two short followed by one long syllable) lines?
Is it ________ that uses the letters of a key word for the first letter of each line?
Is it ________or a lyrical poem of 10 or 13 lines with a repeated refrain?
Is it a ________ or a lyric poem that consists of 14 lines with a special rhyming scheme?
Is it ________or poetry without words?
Is it a ________or a Japanese poem of five lines of 5+7+5+7+7 syllables?
Is it ________or ‘Concrete’ poetry in which the meaning comes from the way the words are arranged on the page?
Does it have a regular ________e.g. ‘If music be the food of love play on’?
Is the ________the most common ‘iambic pentameter’ i.e. the same as in the sentence ‘If music be the food of love play on’?*


Worksheet 3 Poetry Structure ANSWERS choose from: rhymes, sonnet, a couplet , free verse, Haiku, Name poetry, an ABC, metre, a rondeau, sound poetry, Tanka, ‘Visual’, an acrostic, rhythm, a limerick,

Is it a poem that rhymes e.g. the last words of the lines have the same vowel?
Is it an ABC poem that has lines that begin with letters of the alphabet?
Is it an acrostic poem in which the first letter of each line spells a word?
Is it a couplet or a poem of 2 lines that may or may not rhyme?
Is it free verse (vers libre) that has no fixed metrical pattern?
Is it a Haiku that has three lines with 5+7+5 short syllables that do not rhyme?
Is it a limerick is a short humorous poem consisting of five anapaestic (two short followed by one long syllable) lines?
Is it Name poetry that uses the letters of a key word for the first letter of each line?
Is it a rondeau or a lyrical poem of 10 or 13 lines with a repeated refrain?
Is it a sonnet or a lyric poem that consists of 14 lines with a special rhyming scheme?
Is it sound poetry or poetry without words?
Is it a Tanka or a Japanese poem of five lines of 5+7+5+7+7 syllables?
Is it ‘Visual’ or ‘Concrete’ poetry in which the meaning comes from the way the words are arranged on the page?
Does it have a regular rhythm e.g. ‘If music be the food of love play on’?
Is the metre the most common ‘iambic pentameter’ i.e. the same as in the sentence ‘If music be the food of love play on’?*

(Explanation: ‘Penta’ means ‘five’ as in the word ‘pentagon’. e.g. the opening line of ‘Twelfth Night’ by William Shakespeare: ‘If músic bé the fóod of lóve play ón.’ has a repeated stress pattern (or ‘metre’) that consists of a weak syllable first followed by a strong syllable e.g. u / weak/strong as in e.g. ‘the food’ i.e. The pattern of Shakespeare’s line is u/u/u/u/u/ or ‘dee dum, dee dum, dee dum, dee dum, dee dum’. Five repetitions of the pattern is said to be five ‘feet’. )


We return to the example of prose and explore how and understanding of poetic devices can improve and develop students’ comprehension.
TEXTS
A. What poetic devices have been used in these texts?
B. What styles can you recognize?
C. What exercises can you use with beginners to explore these devices?
D. What exercises can you use with intermediate students to explore these devices?
E. What exercises can you use with adults to explore these styles?
F. What exercises can you use with beginners to explore these styles?
G. What exercises can you use with intermediate students to explore these styles?
H. What exercises can you use with beginners to explore these structures
I. What exercises can you use with intermediate students to explore these structures?
J. What exercises can you use with adults to explore these structures?
K. Discuss how this helps your students’ comprehension

1) Ruth Rendell (2007) Not in the Flesh Arrow Books p.9-10

It was a gentle sunny day, what weather forecasters were starting to call ‘quiet’ weather, the temperature high for September, all the leaves still on the trees and most of them still green. Summer flowers in pots and urns and windows still bloomed on and on, more luxuriantly than in August. Frosts were due, frosts would normally have come by now but none had. If this was global warming, and Wexford thought it must be, it disguised its awful face under a mask of mild innocence. The sky had become the ‘milky blue’ of midsummer covered with tiny white puffs of cloud.’
assonance ‘still on the trees… green’, ‘tiny white’
alliteration ‘mask of mild …’
personification ‘a gentle ..day’
‘it [the weather] disguised it’s awful face’
extended connotation: ‘global warming’ – bringing to mind a mammoth problem that concerns the whole world, rather than Wexford’s small area.
‘milky blue’, ‘milk’ and ‘blue’ are not usually collocated, but ‘milky’ brings to mind ‘milk’ which nourishes us from the time we are first born – thus giving the word ‘blue’ a sense of positive enrichment
onomatopoeia ‘puffs’ – although in this context, it suggests the shape rather than the actions of the clouds.
contrast: ‘temperature high… Frosts’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘a gentle sunny day’; ‘leaves still on the trees and most of them still green. Summer flowers in pots and urns and windows still bloomed’ etc.

2) Val McDermaid (2003The Distant Echo Harper Collins p. 9)

‘His fall was broken by something soft. Alex struggled to sit up, pushing against whatever it was he had landed on. Spluttering snow, he wiped his eyes with his tingling fingers, breathing hard through his nose in a bid to clear it of the freezing melt. He glanced around to see what had cushioned his landing just as the heads of his three companions appeared on the hillside to gloat over his farcical calamity.’

alliteration ‘something soft’; ‘struggled to sit’, spluttering snow;
assonance ‘wiped his eyes’ ‘tingling fingers’
onomatopoeia ‘spluttering’ snow
alliteration ‘farcical calamity’
contrast ‘broken … soft’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘Spluttering snow’; ‘wiped his eyes with his tingling fingers, breathing hard through his nose’ etc.
imagery appealing to sound: ‘Spluttering snow’
imagery appealing to touch: ‘pushing against whatever it was he had landed on’
imagery appealing to taste: ‘‘Spluttering snow’’

3) Barbara Taylor Bradford (2001) The Triumph of Katie Byrne HarperCollins p.14

‘Listening attentively, Carly was transported by Katie’s voice, as she always was. There was a lovely resonance to it full of nuances and feeling. … They all knew how serious [Katie] was about acting. [She] was dedicated, disciplined and very determined to succeed. Somehow, Katie knew how to act the parts she had chosen without having had too many lessons, while Denise and she sort of stumbled along as best they could. Fortunately they were improving, thanks to Katie’s relentless coaching and encouragement.’
alliteration ‘dedicated, disciplined and very determined’; ‘sort of stumbled’
figurative language: ‘transported’ not carried away in a vehicle, but ‘carried away’ in thought
imagery appealing to sound: ‘lovely resonance to it full of nuances and feeling’

4) Richard Hammond (2008) As you Do Phoenix p.11

‘We were sent to a ski resort and this was my first ever trip to such a place. I grew up in Birmingham and we didn’t go skiing. Skiing to us back then was like going on aeroplanes, something only for James Bond. We went camping once a year in the Forest of Dean. And there was no skiing there. As it turns out, skiing trips are pretty bloody annoying anyway. It’s mostly about queuing, skiing. You queue to get your breakfast in the stupid wooden hotel, you queue to get on the minibus or find a taxi to take you to the stupid skiing place at the bottom of the stupid hill. You queue to buy a pass, which you lose later in the day and then you get down to the serious queuing, at the point where you get on the lift at the bottom of the mountain to take you to the top. This technically, is not queuing, it’s something more akin to fighting, so I preferred this bit. You hang around in a big crowd on a sort of train platform. Except there are no tracks, just a big wire overhead. Eventually, the cable car device lumbers into view and disgorges a load of really annoying people with stupid smiles under their stupid hats on to the other side of the platform.’
implied connotation: ‘James Bond’, bringing to mind the dare-devil courageous spy in Ian Fleming’s novels.
cohesion: repetition of the word ‘skiing’, ‘bloody’, ‘queue’, ‘stupid’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘the cable car device lumbers into view and disgorges a load of really annoying people’
simile: ‘like going on aeroplanes’

5) P.D. James (2003) The Murder Room p.3

‘There had been no smoking at the meeting but the room had seemed musty with spent breath and now he took pleasure in breathing fresh air, however briefly. It was a blustery day but unseasonably mild. The bunched clouds were tumbling across a sky of translucent blue and he could have imagined that this was spring except for the autumnal sea-tang of the river – surely half imagined- and the keenness of the buffeting wind as he came out of the station.’
assonance: ‘translucent blue’; ‘spent breath’
personification: ‘sea-tang’ ‘keenness’
implied collocation: ‘spent breath’ – the usual collocation is ‘stale breath’ – this collocation brings to mind: used up, old, breath thrown/given away like money when spending
contrast: ‘spent breath and now he took pleasure in breathing fresh air’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘a blustery day but unseasonably mild. The bunched clouds were tumbling across a sky of translucent blue’ etc.
imagery appealing to smell:’ the room had seemed musty with spent breath’
imagery appealing to taste: ‘autumnal sea-tang of the river’
6) Flanagan, Richard (2013) The Narrow Road to the Deep North Vintage Books

‘Why at the beginning of things is there always light? Dorrigo Evans’ earliest memories were of sun flooding a church hall in which he sat with his mother and grandmother. A wooden church hall. Blinding light, and him toddling back and forth, in and out of its transcendent welcome, into the arms of women. Women who loved him. Like entering the sea and returning to the beach. Over and over.’
assonance: ‘Blinding light’; ‘transcendent welcome’
simile:…Women who loved him. Like entering the sea and returning to the beach’
implied collocations: sun ‘flooding’ – water usually floods; transcendent welcome – ‘transcendent’ is usually associated with going beyond the ordinary like the genius of Mozart suggesting a further device of hyperbole – the expected collocation here might be ‘enthusiastic welcome’ or ’very warm welcome’
cohesion: many references to light – in the first sentence ‘light’, then ‘sun’ and ‘blinding light’ associated with brightness and the warmth of the love of the women.
imagery appealing to sight: ‘sun flooding a church hall’ etc.
imagery appealing to touch: ‘transcendent welcome, into the arms of women. Women who loved him. Like entering the sea’

7) du Maurier, Daphne (1938) ‘Rebecca’ Penguin chapter 1 page 6

‘There was Manderely, our Manderley, secretive and silent as it had always been, the grey stone shining in the moonlight of my dream, the mullioned windows reflecting the green lawns and the terrace. Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls, nor the site itself, a jewel in the hollow of a hand. ‘
alliteration: ‘secretive and silent’; ‘the hollow of a hand’
personification: [the house] being ‘secretive and silent’; ‘Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls’
metaphor: [the house is] ‘a jewel in the hollow of a hand’
extended collocation: ‘jewel’ – the usual collocation is ‘precious jewel’ this house is special, i.e. ‘precious’ and important to the narrator, just as jewels are precious and important treasures for most people.
cohesion: references to light and shade.: ‘the grey stone shining …in the moonlight …the mullioned windows reflecting…a jewel (jewels are often described as ‘sparkling’ in the light,) ‘the hollow of a hand‘ (a hollow brings to mind the darkness of the bottom of the hollow’
contrast ‘grey… shining’; ‘wreck … perfect’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘grey stone shining in the moonlight’ etc.

8) Ustinov, Peter (1977) Dear Me, Penguin chapter 1 page 21

‘I remember my grandmother quite well as one of the simplest and most sentimental of souls, and with the readiest of tears. The story of the Crucifixion was enough to set her off, as though it were not so much a monumental tragedy as a personal misfortune. When it came to the two robbers, the sobbing began. It was her habit to capture me and place me on her knee for the evening recital, pressing me to her ample bosom, and I still remember my striped flannel pyjama-tops dampened by tears which soon grew chill against the skin.’
alliteration: ‘simplest and most sentimental of souls’
assonance: ‘chill against the skin’
personification: ‘readiest of tears’
extended collocations: ‘monumental tragedy’ – the usual collocation is a terrible/awful/great tragedy – ‘monumental’ not only suggests the foundation of the beliefs associated with the Crucifixion that in many cultures throughout the world by also uses hyperbole by exaggerating the ‘greatness’ of the tragedy.
‘capture’ me – also uses hyperbole – his grandmother did not just ‘take him in her arms’ – the usual phrase used in this situation, ‘capture’ suggests imprisonment, Peter went to his grandmother unwillingly which, although true, the underlying meanings implied in the whole of the text suggests that he also loved his grandmother. ‘capture’ can also be associated with the way in which an artist can capture particular meanings/ effects intended in the portrait or piece of music, thus suggesting Peter was fascinated by this experience in spite of his discomfort.
cohesion: references to the story of the Crucifixion and good/evil ‘soul …tears. The story of the Crucifixion …tragedy …the two robbers, the sobbing …capture me …striped flannel pyjama-tops [reminding us of the clothes warn by victims of the holocaust] dampened by tears … chill’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘place me on her knee for the evening recital, pressing me to her ample bosom,’ etc.
imagery appealing to sound: ‘the sobbing began’
imagery appealing to touch: ‘pressing me to her ample bosom,’

9) James, P. D. (2003) The Murder Room Faber and Faber chapter 3 p.38

‘Emma loved Cambridge at the start of the academic year. Her mental picture of summer was of shimmering stones seen through a haze of heat, of shadowed lawns, flowers casting their scent against sun-burnished walls, of punts being driven with practised energy through sparkling water or rocking gently under laden boughs, of distant dance music and calling voices.’
alliteration: ‘haze of heat’
personification: ‘flowers casting’
extended collocation: ‘laden boughs’ – a usual collocation of ‘boughs’ is ‘heavy’ which suggests the bough is large and thick – more is added to our impression of this bough by extending it to include a large amount of summer foliage – making it heavy or ‘loaded’ i.e. laden.
cohesion: constant mention of associations with summer: ‘summer … shimmering stones …a haze of heat, … shadowed lawns, flowers … scent … sun-burnished walls, punts …sparkling water … rocking gently … laden boughs,’
contrast: ‘practised energy … rocking gently’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘shimmering stones seen through a haze of heat, of shadowed lawns, flowers … sun-burnished walls’ etc.
imagery appealing to sound: ‘distant dance music and calling voices’
imagery appealing to smell: ‘flowers casting their scent’

10) Martel, Yann (2013) Life of Pi Canon books Ltd chapter 45 p.162 – 163

‘Sometime that afternoon I saw the first specimen of what would become a dear, reliable friend of mine. There was a bumping and scraping sound against the hull of the lifeboat. A few seconds later, so close to the boat I could have leaned down and grabbed it, a large sea turtle appeared, a hawksbill, flippers lazily turning, head sticking out of the water. It was striking-looking in an ugly sort of way, with a rugged yellowish-brown shell about three feet long and spotted with patches of algae, and a dark green face with a sharp beak, no lips, two solid holes for nostrils and black eyes that stared at me intently. The expression was haughty and severe like that of an ill-tempered old man who has complaining on his mind.’
onomatopoeia: ‘a bumping and scraping sound’
personification: [the turtle] ‘was striking-looking in an ugly sort of way; [the turtle had] ‘a dark green face with a sharp beak, no lips, two solid holes for nostrils and black eyes that stared at me intently. The expression was haughty and severe’
simile: ‘like that of an ill-tempered old man who has complaining on his mind’
extended connotation: ‘first specimen’ – although specimens are usually associated with ‘first’, ‘second’ etc., in this context, the author is suggesting that he is not so much ‘involved’ with the subject of his interest as an outside observer, like a scientist, but is personally involved in a number of different species that he meets, this being the first. The inference of a scientific observation helps us believe that his descriptions are deeper and more meaningful than might otherwise have been the case. .
cohesion: mentioning the turtle as if it were a newly acquired (human) friend
‘a dear, reliable friend of mine…so close… striking-looking…ugly sort of way, rugged a dark green face with a sharp beak, no lips, two solid holes for nostrils and black eyes that stared at me intently. The expression was haughty and severe like that of an ill-tempered old man who has complaining on his mind.’
imagery appealing to sight: ‘a large sea turtle appeared, a hawksbill, flippers lazily turning, head sticking out of the water. It was striking-looking’ etc.
imagery appealing to sound: ‘There was a bumping and scraping’
imagery appealing to touch: ‘I could have leaned down and grabbed it,’

How to use this knowledge to improve students’ comprehension
1. beginners: (words only)
take one noun from the text and ask the students to name other words that they associate with this word. Allow them to use their own language first then translate into English
e.g. day (night, daytime, morning, afternoon, evening …
associated adjectives: In groups, how many adjectives for ‘day’ can they name sunny day, happy day, dull day. …
use the poetic devices for team games:
alliteration, choose a word e.g. day – how many other words beginning with d can you name e.g. day, dog,
assonance, choose a word e.g. day – how many other words that contain the same sounding vowel can you name e.g. day, way, weigh
simile, choose a word e.g. day – how many similes can you make associated with the word e.g. The sunny day was like a smile.
contrast, choose a word each, the other team names an opposite e.g. day – night
(imagery) appealing to what you see: find two example words e.g. ‘sunny day’
(imagery) appealing to what you hear: (+onomatopoeia) e.g. bang, cluck, hoot, giggle
(imagery) appealing to what you touch: e.g. adjectives: smooth, rough, cold, hot
(imagery )appealing to what you smell: nouns: different smells: e.g. curry, scent,
imagery )appealing to what you taste: salty, bitter, sweet
Then look for the poetic devices in texts
2. intermediate: common phrases using the same exercises as above.
Use the poetic devices to learn new figurative meanings:
e.g. idioms e.g. ‘an arm and a leg’, ‘every could has a silver lining’, ‘feel a bit under the weather’
Use styles of poetry to discuss styles of writing e.g. lyrical – writing that reveals what the author is thinking or feeling. e.g. ‘Alex struggled to sit up, pushing against whatever it was he had landed on. Spluttering snow.’ He was: uncomfortable, unhappy, in despair; probably: angry, embarrassed, shocked …
3. Advanced:
Analyse a text’s examples of poetic devices, style, structure and associated effects and meanings
Write paragraphs employing specific poetic devices or write in one of the poetic styles listed.

e.g. show the students a picture of a turtle and after they have attempted a description of their own, show them the paragraph from Martel, Yann Martel’s Life of Pi (2013) Canon books Ltd chapter 45 p.162 – 163
END

rjwestwell@hotmail.com

Why DID the co-pilot suddenly decide to crash the plane?

March 26, 2015

No one will ever know the whole truth but I may be able to shed light on it from an experience a friend of mine had a number of years ago.
People who know her, know that she’s far from suicidal and she says that if she ever thinks about it now, she’s sure she would never do it, she would never have the courage, for a start. Besides, she doesn’t believe in it, she thinks it is selfish and cowardly.
However, what if…
Years ago there was a moment when life seemed to stand still for her. She was fixed in a cloud of nothingness while she lay in bed, waiting for a wound to heal. Her mind seemed to coagulate into a mulch of shadows. Thoughts faded into an unfocused blanket, She daydreamed, if anything, but she felt she couldn’t be bothered. She really couldn’t be bothered watching TV, reading a book or doing anything, not even thinking. She felt happy, secure and unperturbed as she lay there, doing nothing.
When she did think, the thoughts were shallow, meaningless, lacking any passion or feeling. Everyday, three times a day, she says she took the required number of tablets, had a drink and a meal, answered nature’s call and lay back to enjoy her self-indulgent laziness.
One day, while she was not really thinking about anything specific she thought how life had no beginning or end, it was meaningless, nothing mattered, not her not her family not her friends. She swears she was not depressed or anything. It was as if she was in a vacuum. She thought she may as well finish the pills, after all they were there. There was no drum roll, no sudden desire to do something drastic, the thought just came to her quietly as if it just crept into her mind the same way a gentle breeze might touch her cheek. It was nothing important. It was just something she could do. Fortunately, before she did anything, she forced herself to ‘wake up’, reminded herself that it would have serious consequences if she took all of the pills and stopped herself in time, even though it still didn’t seem to matter.
so the co-pilot?
What if, for him too, he felt he was living in a constant dream. Nothing mattered. He had normal conversations with everyone, he went through the usual motions of his daily routine. He flew the plane as always and then, when the captain left the cockpit, still in a kind of daze he thought, life is meaningless, it just goes on and on, nothing ever happens, what if- what if he just flew it straight into the mountain. It wouldn’t matter, no one and nothing mattered, and then in that daze he simply made it happen, nothing, not even the loud calls and thumping on the door would distract him, It really didn’t matter…

Ronald Farren-Price Melbourne University

February 26, 2015

There are some people who are a cut above the rest of us and have the humility to be unaware of this fact. Ronald- Farren Price is one of those people and I was delighted to find an article about him in the February edition (2015) of the MCM (Melbourne Conservatorium of Music) News when he earned a University of Melbourne Award.
He was the inspiration for my career in music I had always I loved playing the piano but I had no intention of ending up using it as a basis for a career and of becoming a music teacher in schools. He was my examiner when I sat for a grade 8 piano exam when I was a schoolgirl in Hobart Tasmania. He saw through the moody teenager that I was and managed to overlook my huffing and puffing through the first pieces, making the odd mistake here and there, I finally relaxed for the final piece. By then I’d decided that I must have failed the exam, so what happened next didn’t matter so I relaxed and thoroughly enjoyed playing the final piece for my own pleasure. At the end of the exam, as a typical teenager, I didn’t even have the courtesy to say goodbye properly, I stormed out of the room and went for a long walk – not caring if anyone knew where I was. Later, when the results came in, I was amazed and delighted when he awarded me a distinction on the strength of the final piece and so provided the foundation for my future studies and career. It was he that I asked to have as a teacher when I went to Melbourne University.
He taught me a great deal and, most importantly, taught me how to relax when playing so I was able to get through the final piano recital in spite of my nerves.
I also have memories of spilling tea all over him when I forgot that there were two doors to the music room, babysitting for him once and he was especially sympathetic when my mother died before the written finals which had to be postponed. I also remember being miffed when he showed special interest in my friend who was playing second piano when I was supposed to be having my lesson on the last two movements of the Schumann Piano Concerto. My friend was sight reading the part, I guess, so I suppose I have to give him his due.
No doubt many other memories will be brought to mind as Ron’s name is mentioned – like him playing the Beethoven Sonatas in Melba Hall and the gentle crunch of lettuce as he ate his lunch during one of my lessons because his time was so limited. There were also the 8.30 in the morning lessons – very hard for me to focus at that time, but for Ron, it was no trouble.
I look forward to hearing more about this famous pianist who somehow manages to remain human in spite of his amazing talent and high profile career.

Questions about Tasmania

October 5, 2014

While friends are looking after my house in the UK, I will be visiting Tasmania next month. I have ‘a few questions’ I’d like to try and answer:
Did my uncle really get up to mischief with Errol Flynn in Hobart?
Which schools did Errol attend and was evicted from?
What stories are there about Spy Catcher Peter Walker who settled in Hobart?
What VIP did Dad meet in Devonport when Dad was still in his gardening clothes?
Can you still find Aboriginal flints on the farms on the south-east coast?
Is it still possible to have a blue-tongued lizard as a pet?
Are the Tasmania devils still in decline?
Has the Tasmanian tiger really been seen as reported?
Can you still catch flathead in abundance?
Are abalone, crayfish, oysters and scallops still abundant?
Why do so many places in Tasmania have English names?
Do the locals still think of England as ‘the home country’?
Is it still ‘in’ to be descended from a convict?
Is it better to be a pensioner/teenager/schoolchild/parent there?
Is dementia care better in Tasmania?
What does ‘Neighbour’s’ and ‘Home and Away’ mean to the locals?
Is the Aussie-outdoor easy-going better life fact or fiction?
Is water still turned off in the afternoons when there is a drought?
Do people still picnic with tea boiled in billy cans?
Do the Roaring 40s still create havoc every winter?
(And as research for my next book):
Are red-back spiders still prevalent?
Would a red-back hide in a table desktop?
Could such a desk be transported from Tasmania to the UK in the 80s, spider intact?
What does the bite of a red-back spider look like?
If you were bitten, would you be able to shake the spider off easily?
If you were bitten in the dark, would you know definitely what you had been bitten by?
Could you keep a red-back in a shoe box safely for a while?
What would happen exactly if you died from a red-back spider bite?
How long would you take to die if you had a heart complaint, could you die suddenly?
If you can answer any of these questions already, that would be wonderful!

Talking to people

September 22, 2014

Talking to people
At some stage in our lives, inevitably, we have to stand up and talk to a group of people. As you know, I volunteer to give talks on subjects like ‘Water Aid’, ‘John, Dementia and Me’, ‘Flirting with Spanish’ ‘A close look at unseen poetry’ and ‘The View from Downunder’. I do these talks, not because I think I’m the best thing since sliced bread, but because I’m scared my mind is going to degenerate as I get older. If you don’t use it, you lose it eh? So I figure that if I have to stand in front of some people and keep track of what I’m saying and what is happening for half an hour, the chance is that I haven’t ‘lost it’ – well not yet, anyway.
Recently I did a course – if you have a spare moment, you might like to look at a website called FutureLearn for here you can take FREE courses – some of which are very good. The one I did recently was called ‘Talk the talk’. It gave advice on how to give a presentation so that your audience stays in the room. We were supposed to download a demonstration of what we were going to say – I only managed the first bit of this – but you had the opportunity to have a huge number of people look at your presentation and give you advice. There were a number of suggestions that were given by the Open University, which gave the course and the ideas I found most useful (and probably pertinent) are found in this series of questions:
Why are you giving the talk: to inform, persuade, motivate or entertain? (I like to think all four)
Who will be listening? How much will they already know and what would benefit them? (I made a bad mistake once, when I prepared a light (hopefully) entertaining talk only to find a member of a university had come to find out as much as she could about the subject!)
Will you use Powerpoint or some other technology? ( I’ve always used Powerpoint when I can – people have pictures to look at instead of me, however, lately I’ve been to places that don’t have the technology and had have to do without. I found it was much easier to prepare for. Now I use Powerpoint, not as something to hide behind but to illustrate a few strong points if I can.)
What are you going to say, how are you going to shape your talk – what will it begin with what will be the bulk of what you say, how will you connect your points and how will you end the talk? What examples will you give to illustrate your points? (Here’s the rub – I’ve realized that my talks up to now had not been thought through…)
How are you going to keep calm before and during the talk? How are you going to make sure your talk is within the time limit given? (I try to think ‘slow down’ all the time – I tend to gabble and at the moment I keep checking my watch which is not a good thing, but it’s the only thing that seems to work as yet.)
How will you evaluate your talk? Can you get someone to say what they think of your talk afterwards? (I’ve now got a sheet that I give out, asking people to write down what they liked and what could be done to improve my talk. One brave lady told me I shouldn’t use so many sheets – so now I try to talk more directly to the audience.)
I hope you find this information as useful as I did and before you think I’m a bit of a ‘know-all’ and think I give perfect speeches – there’s always something that goes wrong. At one stage I bought a dress to wear and was determined to wear it, only to find that it really was too short for my old legs, so I had to hide behind a table so that the audience was not put off completely!
Good luck with your speeches!
Oh, and, of course, if you are brave enough and think you would like me to give a talk to your group sometime – just contact me!

poem to remember those who fought in World War 1

September 4, 2014

‘A little girl’s smile’

In the stench of the trench
with rats and scraps and ankle-deep mud,
he stood, tense,
bayonet ready for blood.

His wife’s eyes, wide and blue
shone on his daughter’s sad smile.
The whistle blew.

In a sea of serge he rose,
Scrambling over damning
mounds of lost souls.

The ghosts of folk at home
whirled and swirled as he choked
in the battle-torn smoke.

He heard the whisper of an angel .
He felt the smack of a black shroud
smothering him as he lay
dying in agonizing pain.
Will we remember him?
Perhaps for a while,
but what we will always recall
is that little girl’s sad, sad smile.

poem Lament for our post box

September 4, 2014

(background: in July 2013 the postbox in Common Road Witchford was taken. Other post boxes in other villages in the area also went missing. Other villages have had their postboxes replaced, but not the one in Common Road. We ask why? What have we done to deserve such discrimination? The Chief Executive Officer says that the said post box is with the engineers and she does not know when it will be put in place – a little worrying that she represents the energy and drive of our newly privatized mail service in England!)

Lament for our postbox

Oh how I miss our post box
on the corner of Common Road
It suddenly went – such a shock
We miss it loads and loads.

It stood, tall and inviting,
ready to receive our mail.
I am always one for writing
Letters were sent without fail.

Now in the wind and biting rain
I struggle for miles with my post.
I moan and groan with the pain
In my feet, my legs, my knees at the most.

Oh when will our post box come back?
Oh when will we see its smile?
Oh when will see its bright red stack?
It’s not been here for a while.

Perhaps one day, next month, next year
Our hopes will be fulfilled
A lovely red box will suddenly appear
And our worries will all be stilled.

Oh please can we have our post box back?
‘Cause things are not the same
Oh please can we have our post box back?
We need it here again.

poem My Harley Davison Ride

September 4, 2014

Note: this event was organized to bring the plight of carers of dementia patients to the fore. We need the powers to be to focus on paying good money to good hands-on nurses, then many of the other problems will go away.

As a child,
I climbed on the back of a makeshift bike
took a reckless ride with chap from school
Perched on a hill, shook with fright
Then,
With a shove and a push I was off with this fool
Feet flailing, voice wailing, my arms holding fast
We sped to the bottom, tipping and tumbling
stopping at last in a heap on the grass.
Oh what fun it was for the biker
‘But not for the rider!’, I cried.

As an adult,
A rash moment of folly
and I had agreed
to another jolly.
But this bike was different, a bike to impress
a Harley Davison none the less!
But what’s in a name?
My nerves knotted just the same.

The day came and I waited,
My nerves’d never abated.
Suddenly, the air came alive
The ground vibrated
The beautiful beast arrived,
Its driver smiled ‘Ready for a ride?’

It was like a speeding demon,
Although it was standing still,
Wide-eyed and glistening, silver and crimson
a quiet giant ready for the kill.

Heavy helmet jammed on my head
Cocooned in leathers, lead-lined feet
I climbed aboard with a feeling of dread
One turn of the key and off we sped.

This gentle giant purred and purred
My heart fluttered, and stirred
with the power of this vibrant bike
weaving waves that whistled and whirred
with dashing glimpses of field and dyke.

Wild wind rushed at my cheeks,
Breathing freshness I’d not felt for weeks.
Curled up cows and leafy trees
streamed my sight with visionary dreams.

We were one with the road at our feet
burrowing and bending every turn of the street
We were one with the clouds and the infinite sky
We were one with the sheep in the fields flitting by.

With a half-hearted halt we finally arrived
at the home where my husband now lies.
Nurses and patients came out to derive
great joy from this sudden surprise.

The Press all came, and took photos galore
Now I was willing to climb on for more
We finally left, waved a fond farewell
and sped away for another bright spell.

Faster and faster this mighty machine
Rumbled and mumbled with speed
A rubbery face and a gale beyond measure
We trailed about 90 what potent pleasure!

Now when I see a mass of black
Of bikers and bikes I’ll never look back
It’s the bike for me any chance I get
You own one? Have we met?

A free ‘Writing and Writers’ Conference for you – on the 18th October 2014

August 24, 2014

You may be interested in this rare opportunity for a free conference in the Library of Birmingham that will be taking place on Saturday 18th October. The full details are below:
Invitation:
Writing and Writers’ Conference
Saturday 18th October
The Library of Birmingham
Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2 ND United Kingdom
Tel: 0121 242 4242 (Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm) enquiries@libraryofbirmingham.com

Featuring:
• Chris Carling talking about her moving and highly topical memoir: ‘But Then Something Happened: A Story of Everyday Dementia’
• Rosemary Westwell ‘John, Dementia and Me’: exploring life problems in fiction and also talking about ‘Unseen Poetry’
• Jackie Reynolds and Michael Callan ‘‘Connecting Communities with Creative Writing’
• Sarah Gornall ‘Co-authoring and what it can mean.’
• Dr David Gatley ‘1936 a Year in Post Boxes’
• Elaine Ewart ‘My work as Fenland Poet Laureate including poetry writing, and performing ‘
• Noreen Wainwright ‘A homespun year’ by Noreen Wainwright and Margaret Priestly Thrifty ways to make and grow, bake and sew
• Stephanie J. Hale ‘What it takes to sell a million books, what it takes to make a million from your book idea and what works and what doesn’t when it comes to selling books in this exciting new digital age.’
• Hayley Humphrey ‘Nanowrimo: From writers’ block to 50,000 words, a novel written in a month.’
• Mary McGuire ‘Publish or self-publish? Which way do I go?’

ENTRY FREE refreshments served

Book early to avoid disappointment: contact: Malcolm Henson, North Staffordshire Press, Business Village, Staffordshire University, 72 Leek Rd., Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST4 2AR Tel: 01782 442831 enquiries@hensoneditorial.com website: http://www.northstaffordshirepress.com

‘A Close Look at Unseen Poetry’ – a book to help your prepare for your examination in English

August 24, 2014

If you are a teacher or student of English and are about to prepare for an examination in which you need to analyse a poem that you have never seen before, you may be interested in my book ‘A Close Look at Unseen Poetry’. It is now available on Amazon. I write this, not just to sell the book, but I hope that I can be of some help to people who are very busy and do not have the time to gather such information together before preparing for the exam.
I have tried to give lists, quizzes and descriptions that introduce poetry styles, structures, metres and special devices such as metaphor and personification. Then I have selected 26 well-known poets and or poems that are almost an essential part of our upbringing. – poems like Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ and Elizabeth Browning’s ‘How Do I Love Thee?’. I have analysed each poem, trying to get to the heart of the meanings the words convey, providing the starting point for you or your students to agree or disagree and develop your or their own powers of observation.
I hope it is of some help and I would be very interested in your comments.


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