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Lesson Plan

Poetry and Connotations

Lesson Objective

  1. For students to understand the significance of connotations by employing a rich, connotative word in a poem of their own making.
  2. For students to be able to incorporate the different connotations of words in a close reading of a poem.

Definitions

Denotation: dictionary meaning or meanings of the word

Connotation: alternative meanings of the word that have been determined by its history of use, the contexts in which it is used, and established associations with the word.

Employing words with various denotations and connotations allows poets to:

  1. Omit needless words
  2. Build implicit ideas through multiple connotations
  3. Be purposefully ambiguous in order to awaken the imagination of the reader

Example 1

Let's look at an example of an Imagist poem by Ezra Pound:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in a crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Looking at the word apparition, its denotation is "anything that appears suddenly or in an extraordinary way." Its connotation, however, gives it another meaning. A ghost evokes associations with death, dying, purgatory, and the spiritual world that are often associated with the fall.

The "petals on a wet, black bough" establish an image of fall which gives an appropriate context to the speaker's thoughts on ghosts and death. Therefore, as the speaker walks in the metro, peoples' faces remind him of petals on a wet, black bough, but the connotation of the word "apparition" suggests that the speaker makes a connection between the faces, the petals, and thoughts of death, dying, and ghosts.

Example 2

Desert Places

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it--it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it be less--
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars--on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

-Robert Frost

Although the speaker describes the snow as "benighted," it could easily be an adjective to describe the speaker since the outer landscape of the empty, snowy field is a visual manifestation of his loneliness. The connotations of "benighted" are ignorance, mystery, doubt, and unenlightened. The last connotation clearly applies to the speaker for he feels that there is no hope for him in a world in which he is shrouded in his own misery, doubt, and loneliness and the external world is shrouded in snow, darkness, and emptiness. Since the night is coming "fast" the word also suggests the rapid descent of the snowy field into darkness, as the speaker descends into his own misery.

Connotations Worksheet

Read this poem for imagery and connotations.

Desert Places

Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast
In a field I looked into going past,
And the ground almost covered smooth in snow,
But a few weeds and stubble showing last.

The woods around it have it--it is theirs.
All animals are smothered in their lairs.
I am too absent-spirited to count;
The loneliness includes me unawares.

And lonely as it is that loneliness
Will be more lonely ere it be less--
A blanker whiteness of benighted snow
With no expression, nothing to express.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars--on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

-Robert Frost

Connotations

Directions: Assess how the connotations connect to other words and phrases of the poem and how they influence your reading of the poem as a whole.

1. "night":



2. "smothered":



3. "benighted":



4. "desert":



5. "blanker whiteness":



Imagery

Directions: Assess how the images connect to other words and phrases of the poem and how they influence your reading of the poem as a whole.

1. "Snow falling and night falling fast, oh, fast"



2. "a few weeds and stubble showing last"



3. "animals are smothered in their lairs"



The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

-Wallace Stevens

Connotations

Directions: Assess how the connotations connect to other words and phrases of the poem and how they influence your reading of the poem as a whole.

1. "mind of winter"



2. "crusted"



3. "glitter"



4. "January sun"



Imagery

Directions: Assess how the images connect to other words and phrases of the poem and how they influence your reading of the poem as a whole.

1. "the frost and the boughs / Of the pine-trees crusted with snow"



2. "junipers shagged with ice, / The spruces rough in the distant glitter"



3. "sound of a few leaves"



Writing

  1. Compare and contrast the similar themes of "Desert Places" and "The Snow Man," analyzing similar connotations and images in both poems.
  2. In either the Drag and Drop mode or the Freestyle mode on PicLits.com, write a poem that has at least two rich, connotative words.
  3. Write a brief paragraph on how the multiple emotional or historical uses of your word choice or choices influence the meaning of your poem.