Seamus Heaney Poetry Seminar 2014


PRESENTATION Prep Part A:  Prose Meaning

In Part A, your job is to understand and then explicate the poem for us, primarily at the inarguable level.  This helps us to grasp the "prose meaning" on which to base our arguable interpretation and analysis, which we will explore in Part B. 


1.  Read, listen, handwrite, respond.  If at all possible, do this BEFORE conducting research on the text.

Get comfy.  Read the poem aloud, to yourself or to a friendly audience.  (Some pets can be fine appreciators of literature...)  Listen to the soundzzz of the words.  Feel them, emotionally and physically.  See if you can find audio or video of Heaney reading it.  Copy the poem out by hand, in your best writing.  As or after you write, note your initial responses. Feel free to draw or doodle or scribble as you go. For example:  Who, what, where, when?  Where do words, lines, stanzas provoke a definite emotional response? Where does the imagery tingle your senses? Where is the meaning clear, fuzzy, hyper-logical or outright bizarre? Which parts go together? Which stand in contrast? What questions does the text raise?  What information is missing that you would most like to have, and why? What expression do you imagine on the speaker's face? Does it change? What music is playing in the back-ground?  Does the music change?  How satisfying is the ending? What is your experience of the poem?


2.  Develop handout for Part A / Prose Meaning

See details on teacher demo for "Alphabets."  Type handout in same order as the example, but prepare as follows.  **PLEASE do #A first!! (suggested sources in italics)

**A. Line by Line Notes (text, dictionaries, Heaney references)

B. Speaker, Subject, Audience, Form and Structure (text, inference, poetry book)

C. Prose meaning (text, inference, Heaney references IF NEEDED)

D. Background on the writing, historical / cultural context (Heaney references)

E. Discussion questions

You are limited to ONE side of 8 1/2 x 11" paper.


3.  Create slide show

Assemble a sequence of at least 10 key images to represent the text of the poem.


4.  Prepare oral reading

Practice an oral reading of the poem, emphasizing sound, structure, meaning and feeling, to go with the slide show. (Choral readings, with partner/s of choice, are not only permitted but encouraged!)


5.  Prepare remarks

A. What is this poem about?  What responses did you have to it?  How do you see it connecting to discussion questions?

B. What is most and least arguable in it? Which aspects seem literal and which could be figurative?  Where are the interpretive openings?

C.  Which authorial choices / literary features seem most significant in this poem?


6.  Present

A.  BEFORE 8:15 a.m. on presentation day, CHECK ALL TECH.  Do not make your audience wait for downloading or troubleshooting;  "the show must go on."

B.  Engage audience in discussion questions (apart from the poem). (3 - 5 min.)

C.  Simultaneously present video/slide show AND oral reading. (1 - 3 min.) 

D.  Remarks:  Using a formal register, express your enthusiasm (or rage, bewilderment, etc.) for this poem.  Sell it to us, while sharing your remarks from #5 above.

Note:  DO NOT "go over" your handout;  your audience will have read it!  Be interested, puzzled, enthused, enraged, or inspired, but DO NOT PLOD. Peer discontent may ensue.