How to “Unfold” a Poem - Professor Norland home



How to “Unfold” a Poem - Professor Norland home
A description is like a square: when you read
it, you understand how big it is and where
the edges are. A poem is like a cube: it’s
meaning is fuller and richer and deeper and
speaks to you on more than just a surface
level. You understand a description; you
experience a poem.
“A poem is
something to swim
in, not just a place to
get your feet wet.”
--Buckle Down on Reading
p. 71
“Poems pack a lot of
meaning into a few
words. Your problem
as a reader is how to
unpack them.”
--Reader’s Handbook p. 389
Unfolding Bud
by Naoshi Koriyama
One is amazed
By a water-lily bud
With each passing day,
Taking on a richer color
And new dimensions.
One is not amazed,
At a first glance,
By a poem,
Which is as tight-closed
As a tiny bud.
Yet one is surprised
To see the poem
Gradually unfolding,
Revealing its rich inner self,
As one reads it
And over again.
1 Reading:
Read the poem
straight through
to get a feel for it.
Try not to worry
everything. Does
it rhyme? What is
the topic?
2nd Reading:
Read for meaning.
Be on the lookout
for clues that will
help you
understand the
action or the point
of the poem. Look
up any words you
don’t understand.
How to “Unfold” a Poem
3rd Reading:
Now read the
poem again for
mood (the feeling
within the poem)
and tone (the
poet’s attitude
toward the subject
or toward the
reader). What
images or
figurative language
can you find in the
poem? How do
they contribute to
the meaning? As
you read, how
does the poem
make you feel?
4th Reading:
Finally, put all the
pieces together
and read the
poem once more
for enjoyment.
Can you relate to
the poem’s
Follow the directions below to “unfold” this poem. You will read it four times!
Child on Top of a Greenhouse
by Theodore Roethke
The wind billowing out the seat of my britches,
My feet crackling splinters of glass and dried putty,
The half-grown chrysanthemums staring up like accusers,
Up through the streaked glass, flashing with sunlight,
A few white clouds all rushing eastward,
A line of elms plunging and tossing like horses,
And everyone, everyone pointing up and shouting!
1st READ: What is this?
How many sentences (not lines) are in this poem?
This poem is:
a story (beginning, middle, and end)
a description of a feeling or an idea, like love or trust or freedom
a description of a thing, like a mountain or a flower or a person
a “snapshot” of a moment in time
Read the last word of every line. Does it rhyme?
2nd READ: What is going on?
Summarize the action in a sentence.
3rd READ: What is the mood? What is the author’s tone? Check for figurative language.
Look for imagery. Underline any you find and label what kind it is in the margins
(sight, sound, touch, taste, smell)
Is there onomatopoeia? Circle the words if you find any.
Label any personification that you can find.
Label any metaphors or similes.
What is the weather like?
How is the boy feeling?
How are the people watching him feeling?
Have you ever been in a similar situation (either like the boy or like the
watching people)?
4th READ: Do you get what the poet wants you to feel/understand?
Theodore Roethke grew up on a farm that had an old greenhouse. Why do you
think he wrote this poem?

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