Part 1 - Preface


This project is a chronicle of my exploration of the close reading of poetry. My interpretation of the definition and practice of a close reading changed as I worked on the project. Each time I read a new source--another poet’s ideas on what makes a poem a poem, of what the purpose of poetry is, of the best practices in studying and thinking about poetry--my knowledge was expanded and my definition was altered. Therefore, what I wrote in the beginning was amended by the end. For instance, the definition of the parts of a poem: in the beginning I guessed it would be substance, function and texture and I explained what I meant by those things. As I read more and thought more, I changed and added components. I made a hierarchy of components. I even made an algebraic expression of the components until I came up with a definition that encompassed all of the ideas I had read, analyzed and synthesized. This definition now included the interior of a poem, consisting of texture, structure and form and the exterior of a poem, consisting of substance, function and energy.

The sources I consulted for this project explained their interpretations of a close reading and extolled the virtues of the practice of close readings; therefore, I did not try to recreate the same thing in this paper. Instead, I aimed to record my journey as a poet looking at poetry under a microscope, so to speak, for the first time and sharing what I found. I wanted to create a project that showed a personal odyssey into the process of intensely reading poetry and what I gained from this as a student, a reader and as a writer.

During this journey, I kept notebooks. I put many different things in these notebooks, like personal reactions to what I’d read. Or poems I would write after being inspired by some new understanding I had of what a poem could do or have in it or be like; things I hadn’t considered before and wanted to put into practice. I also took typical notes from what I’d read in the text.
It was also helpful for me to keep a series of note cards. I started halfway through the project after I had determined the elements of a poem. I would read something that struck me and be able to quickly attribute the quote to the one of the elements. I could then reorganize them and interchangeably see what all sources said about one element of a poem or see what one source said about all the elements of a poem. I kept a list of these cards at the end of the paper because I knew I would not use all of the quotes I liked within the paper, but I wanted to include them somehow.

I used the tradition method of writing to process what I was learning, but I did other things, too. I made illustrations, or charts, or even -- as mentioned -- equations. I also kept a blog about what I was learning. I did not post to it religiously. However, I used it as a way to keep track of anything I knew I would want to access in the future, after my notebooks, the critical essays and books, my note cards and this paper were filed away. It will also function as a way to keep the project going after it is officially complete. Because I know that I will continue to think of new interpretations of the elements of poetry and read or hear additional significant quotes worth remembering and considering. After reading so many sources, I know that I could devote a lifetime to this study of a close reading of poetry and still learn more.