homework for week 8

WEEK 8—19 Oct  Death Poems

“Poetry began in the matriarchal age, and derives its magic from the moon, not from the sun. No poet can hope to understand the nature of poetry unless he has had a vision of the Naked King crucified to the lopped oak, and watched the dancers, red-eyed from the acrid smoke of the sacrificial fires, stamping out the measure of the dance, their bodies bent uncouthly forward, with a monotonous chant of “Kill! kill! kill!” and “Blood! blood! blood!”

Robert Graves, The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth

Cultivate your vision of moon-magic, the dead and resurrected god, ecstatic dancers, blood, and death.

Please read the following poems for next week: e.e. cummings, “Buffalo Bill’s,” Robinson Jeffers, “Vulture,” Christina Rossetti, “Song,” James Tate, “Depression,” Billy Collins, “Grave,” D.H. Lawrence, “Bavarian Gentians,” Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Spring and Fall,” Robert Frost, “To Earthward,” Thom Gunn, “In Time of Plague,” W.H. Auden, “[Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone],” Seamus Heaney, “Mid-Term Break,” Jane Kenyon, “Let Evening Come,” Ben Jonson, “On My First Son,” W.H. Auden, “In Memory of W.B. Yeats,” and Emily Dickinson, “I Died for Beauty—but was scarce.”

Please give each poem its due, but choose at least one (preferably more) to read closely, revisit through the week, meditate upon. Pay attention to its formal elements as well as what it says about death. How do these poems reflect upon life and comment upon the relationship between life and death, the dead and the living? What is the mood and how is it communicated through sound and imagery? Do these poems offer something new to your own thoughts and experiences? What in these readings do you admire, marvel at, puzzle out? Be prepared to discuss your reactions in class.

Discover and post a death poem. Read and respond to your peers’ work.


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