How does their typographical presentation affect the way you read and hear them?

Learning Goal: I’m working on a literature discussion question and need an explanation and answer to help me learn.Read “The Red Wheelbarrow” and “This Is Just to Say” and answer the following questions:1. How do these poems look? How does their typographical presentation affect the way you read and hear them?2. In “The Red Wheelbarrow,” what information is left out of the poem? Are you left wondering about the speaker, the setting, and the context?3. How would you describe the tone of “The Red Wheelbarrow”?4. Who is the speaker in “This Is Just to Say”? Who is the intended reader? Is it the recipient of the note or some larger reading community?5. In “This Is Just to Say,” line 9 asks the addressee to “Forgive me.” Is this poem meant to be an apology? If so, how sincere is the speaker’s regret?6. What clues does “This Is Just to Say” provide about the relationship between the speaker and the addressee? How would you describe their relationship?7. When Williams originally published the poem anthologized here as “The Red Wheelbarrow” in his 1923 collection Spring and All, it appeared without a title, under the roman numerals xxii. Over the course of many reprintings, the poem seems to have acquired the title “The Red Wheelbarrow.” Some literary critics, however, see this title as going against Williams’s intentions. What difference does it make whether the poem is titled “The Red Wheelbarrow” or marked only with a number? How does reading the poem with or without a title affect your understanding of its meaning?8. “The Red Wheelbarrow” does not have a regular meter, but each stanza consists of one line made up of three words followed by a line consisting of a single two-syllable word. What is the effect of this pattern?9. Why do you think Williams chose to split the compound words wheelbarrow and rainwater with line breaks? How does the printed division of these words change your understanding of them by making you focus on their parts?10. The only example of figurative language in “The Red Wheelbarrow” is the word glazed, in line 5. What does this word mean? What does it mean to describe a wheelbarrow as “glazed” with rain?11. The speaker of “The Red Wheelbarrow” tells us immediately that “so much depends upon” the wheelbarrow, but he never actually specifies what exactly that “so much” is. What do you think the speaker means? What is it that “depends” on the wheelbarrow?12. Does the title “This Is Just to Say” function, in some ways, as the poem’s first line? Why or why not? What does the word just mean in this context?13. In his interview with John W. Gerber in 1950, Williams claimed that “This Is Just to Say” is “metrically absolutely regular.” In fact, the poem has no regular metrical patterns—there is no discernible order to the stresses and syllable counts in each line. Do you see any other kinds of structures or patterns in the poem?14. There is no punctuation in “This Is Just to Say,” but the word “Forgive,” which opens the third stanza, is capitalized. What is the effect of this capitalization? Why might Williams have wanted to mark some kind of separation between this final stanza and the previous two stanzas?16. The speaker of “This Is Just to Say” concludes by describing the taste of the plums he has just eaten: “so sweet / and so cold.” Do you think these lines are intended to replace the experience of eating the plums for the person who was saving them for breakfast? How might this description work as a kind of repayment? What point about the nature and responsibilities of representation might Williams be making here?17. “This Is Just to Say” has inspired many imitations and parodies. Read Kenneth Koch’s marvelous “Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams” available from the Poetry Foundation, and listen to the parodies by contributors to the public radio show This American Life available here.You might also use the Internet to locate and read other parodies and imitations of this poem. Do these responses to Williams’s poem change the way you understand it? Do they affect the way you think about the speaker and his actions? If you’re inspired, write your own parody or imitation of the poem.18. Some readers have found symbolic significance in the plums in “This Is Just to Say” and the wheelbarrow in “The Red Wheelbarrow” (arguing, for example, that the plums represent the innocence of Eden and the speaker’s consumption of them represents his “fall” or that the wheelbarrow represents the importance of rural labor). Other readers have insisted that to make these objects into symbols—that is, to see them as standing for anything other than themselves—is to miss the point of the poems.Taking this debate into account, re-read the poems and make some notes on how you understand the objects represented in them. Do you think the objects are meant to function as symbols? If so, of what? Or do you think Williams is making a different kind of point? If so, what? 19. As the transcript from Williams’s 1950 interview with John W. Gerber makes clear, readers have sometimes reacted to pieces like “This Is Just to Say” by questioning their status as poetry. As Gerber put it, “[‘This Is Just to Say’] goes against so many preconceived ideas of the poem … because it’s the kind of thing that almost anybody might say.”Write a short response in which you discuss your opinion on whether “This Is Just to Say” and “The Red Wheelbarrow,” in this sense, “qualify” as poems? Consider how you define and recognize poetry and what standards you apply.
Requirements: Short Answers

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