michaelgriffith (michaelgriffith) wrote,

Literature and Life at Mission Australia Surry Hills- Week 3


Dawn over Kuring-gai Chase- North of Sydney

5 new students last night! That was fabulous and we had some really great discussions on what poetic language can do through its use of sound patterning, its use of connotations (rather than denotations) and its use of imagery (visual, tactile, kinetic etc)… And we had a wonderful exploration of some of the amazing blogs that are being posted by all students: some still working within the firewall, others (wings  ready for flight)launching out into the big wide Blogosphere: Joeye &Ash. Remember if you do go public (by setting up your ownWordPress.com site) you need to be extra careful with your English expression. Use the tools on the side bar to help you get it right before posting and get your learning partners to help you with your grammar before posting. Also be sure to post your new URL into the Blogging space within LEO- so that we can find you and give you helpful comments.

The first topic we covered was the way poetic language is loaded with connotative meaning. We looked again at Judith Wright’s poem “The Wattle Tree” and discussed the opening line of her poem “The tree knows four truths”. What a line! Implicitly the tree is compared to some conscious being. This is an arresting idea that captivates the reader. Then there is so much language in this poem that captures the animated life of this tree, ending in that amazing final line that sees the tree as a “great word of gold”, as if the tree itself has become the thing that the poet aspires to in her own poetry: the creation of a word that is filled with the resonance, meaning, power of “gold”, with all the connotations that go with this word: completion, perfection, connection to the creative power of the sun etc etc


We discussed for some time the difference between the words connotation and denotation. A denotation is something one usually finds in a dictionary. It is “a direct specific meaning as distinct from an implied or associated idea” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). A connotation are the suggested meanings apart from or beyond the thing itself. So for example of you look up “gold” in the dictionary it says “a soft metal that is valuable and that is used especially in jewellery”. However, when Judith Wright uses the word “gold” in the last line of her poem she means much, much more than this and may not want the denotative meaning at all!. For example she is pointing to “gold” as the end of a process of searching for the word that will connect her to the living source of life that is expressed through the wattle tree and that might also be expressed through her poem. She is also pointing to the end process of a kind of spiritual alchemy that transforms all the base, coarse stuff of matter into a wonderful mirror of the sun itself… and so on.


We then went from Judith Wright to Shakespeare and spent a little time on exploring the plot of As You Like It (See:Nesbit As You Like It) which in some ways is also a work of alchemy, in that drama is used by Shakespeare to transform a world which is full of wars (brothers fighting brothers) into a reconciliation where lovers marry and brothers are reconciled. For Shakespeare drama as an art form was his way of trying to cure the world of its ills. This group is going – along with on-campus students- to Bell Shakespeare’s As You Like It next week! We concluded our session by looking at another sonnet, this one by the American poet Galway Kinnell, his poem“Blackberry Eating” which- like Judith Wright (“The Wattle Tree”) and Richard Tipping (“Mangoes”)- takes something from nature (fruit/ tree) and turns it into an occasion for celebrating and exploring what poetry is and what poetry does: poetry transforms the way we see the world, and also transforms us -as writer or reader- as we read and digest the amazing impressions that nature produces:

IMG_9753In the process of studying this poem we spent time exploring all the ways in which sound patterning in poetry can help the poet’s subject come alive, literally jumping off the page, or in this case, squelching juice across our laps!

IMG_9755Here are the audio lectures from week 3. Enjoy:

Audio PlayerAudio Player

Tags: galway kinnell, judith wright, shakespeare

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.