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Sunday, November 29, 2015


GW English News: POEM OF THE DAY: MARY OLIVER’S “WILD GEESE”: Wild Geese You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles throug...


Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese” begins with a reminder to the reader, or a revelation to some, that we do not have to be good.  Whatever guilt, shame, whatever confessions we hold inside, can be let go. We do not always have to repent, either. Why? Because we, too, are animals like the wild geese. Instead of suffering, or spending our lives trying to find forgiveness, we only have to do what we love to do. This is a relief to the reader, and after reading the first few lines we are softened, ready for whatever comes next.

Then Oliver writes, “Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine…” Everybody has his or her own despair, everybody needs to be told we do not have to be good, everybody would have a reason to repent. Talking about our troubles can help us heal from them, and hearing other people’s pain can create a primal connection between two people, loyal and deep like the bond between birds.

“Meanwhile the world goes on.” The repetition of the word ‘meanwhile’ soothes and is, in the poem, cyclical like rainfall in natural. This is also how Oliver’s natural imagery comes through: the reader can see the movement of the rain across America, across the world even – like humans and wild geese, the rain also travels. The geese are travelling home again, but where is home? Are they flying ‘home’ south for the winter, or ‘home’ back north?

It is as if Oliver understands this question that her work asks, and so she writes, “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely…” Oliver has no specific direction that points toward home, but rather, notes that it does not matter where you call home. Oliver invites the reader to listen to what the world tells us, contrasting and comparing us with wild geese, who fly alone yet in an inclusive form, honking to keep in contact with each other in flight, connected in the “family of things.”

“Wild Geese” embodies everything that I value in a poem: captivating opening lines; carefully chosen and concise language; similes and repetition; natural imagery; enough room for the reader to understand Oliver’s point of view while still imposing their own; and ending lines that make the reader feel complete. Her work pulls the reader out of a moment in our pressured world, and puts us into another moment – one vastly more real, more understanding.


Robert Frost: Poems Summary and Analysis of "The Road Not Taken" (1916)
The narrator comes upon a fork in the road while walking through a yellow wood. He considers both paths and concludes that each one is equally well-traveled and appealing. After choosing one of the roads, the narrator tells himself that he will come back to this fork one day in order to try the other road. However, he realizes that it is unlikely that he will ever have the opportunity to come back to this specific point in time because his choice of path will simply lead to other forks in the road (and other decisions). The narrator ends on a nostalgic note, wondering how different things would have been had he chosen the other path.
This poem is made up of four stanzas of five lines, each with a rhyme scheme of ABAAB. Along with “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” this poem is one of Frost’s most beloved works and is frequently studied in high school literature classes. Since its publication, many readers have analyzed the poem as a nostalgic commentary on life choices. The narrator decided to seize the day and express himself as an individual by choosing the road that was “less traveled by.” As a result of this decision, the narrator claims, his life was fundamentally different that it would have been had he chosen the more well-traveled path.
This reading of the poem is extremely popular because every reader can empathize with the narrator’s decision: having to choose between two paths without having any knowledge of where each road will lead. Moreover, the narrator’s decision to choose the “less traveled” path demonstrates his courage. Rather than taking the safe path that others have traveled, the narrator prefers to make his own way in the world.
However, when we look closer at the text of the poem, it becomes clear that such an idealistic analysis is largely inaccurate. The narrator only distinguishes the paths from one another after he has already selected one and traveled many years through life. When he first comes upon the fork in the road, the paths are described as being fundamentally identical. In terms of beauty, both paths are equally “fair,” and the overall “…passing there / Had worn them really about the same.”
It is only as an old man that the narrator looks back on his life and decides to place such importance on this particular decision in his life. During the first three stanzas, the narrator shows no sense of remorse for his decision nor any acknowledgement that such a decision might be important to his life. Yet, as an old man, the narrator attempts to give a sense of order to his past and perhaps explain why certain things happened to him. Of course, the excuse that he took the road “less traveled by” is false, but the narrator still clings to this decision as a defining moment of his life, not only because of the path that he chose but because he had to make a choice in the first place.
 The Road not Taken by Robert Frost: Summary and Analysis
Here is a summary and analysis of ‘The Road not Taken’ by Robert Frost, the celebrated poem on making choices in life.
Robert Frost’s The Road not Taken is a beautiful poem about making choices in life. It discusses the very common situation of coming to the crossroads and not knowing which way to choose. Like all Frost poems it begins in delight and ends in wisdom.
One morning the poet came to a junction where two roads diverged in a yellow wood. He stood for a long time there, wondering which way to choose. He was sorry that he could not travel both roads. After considering the prospects of both roads, he took the second one because it was grassy and less travelled by. He kept the first road for another day. But he doubted if he should ever come back because one way leads to another way.
The poem ends quite dramatically when the poet hopes that later in his life he will be able to say with a sigh of relief that choosing the road less traveled by has made all the difference in his life. (Or, is it a sigh of dismay? The reader is left to guess for himself.)
Analysis of The Road not Taken: On the surface the poem is autobiographical, showing Frost’s bold choice to become a poet. He had tried his hands at many things and it was later in his life that he achieved success as a poet. But it is also philosophical, showing the great human dilemma in making a choice, especially when it is the road less traveled by. But many of the critics are of the opinion that Frost wrote the poem to make fun of a friend who would always procrastinate at the crossroads.

Traditional Elements in a Modernist Poem

There are several things in this poem that are usually seen in traditional, not modernist, poetry. First of all, you probably noticed that the poem rhymes. In fact, it follows a traditional rhyme pattern. What do I mean by that? Well, you'll notice that in each stanza there are five lines. The first, third and fourth lines rhyme with each other, and the second and fifth lines rhyme with each other. This type of rhyme pattern is usually summed up as 'ABAAB.' The 'A's represent the lines that rhyme with each other; likewise, the two lines that are labeled 'B' rhyme with each other.
Besides rhyme, the poem has a traditional meter, or rhythm. Each line has a specific number of syllables, and certain syllables are stressed when they are read. Meter is something that Frost liked to use a lot, even when he didn't use rhyme.
This poem follows a traditional, not a modernist rhyme pattern.
A third, and very important, element in this poem that is not normally seen in modernist poetry is its use of natural imagery. The poem is about someone alone in the woods, and all the descriptions are of nature. Though most modernist poets did not spend a lot of time describing nature, Frost lived in a rural setting, and most of his poems focused on nature.

Contradiction and Interpretation in the Poem

So with all those elements of traditional poetry, what makes this poem modern? Well, for one thing, the language is very basic. But the most important modernist elements of this poem have to do with the poem's meaning: there are a lot of things that aren't clear in the poem, and the mood of the poem is not necessarily uplifting. First, let's look at the way Frost makes the poem unclear. In the second stanza, he describes one of the paths as 'grassy and wanted wear.' In other words, fewer people had gone down that path than the other path.
But almost immediately, he contradicts himself: the next lines say that the two paths were worn 'really about the same.' And at the beginning of the next stanza, he says that both paths 'equally lay/In leaves no step had trodden black.' So not only were both paths free of the footsteps of people, they were both covered in leaves, despite the fact that he had just described one of them as grassy. And the story changes again in the famous last words of the poem:
'The Road Not Taken' by Robert Frost is a well-known poem about the journey of life. This lesson will cover a brief summary of the poem, analyze its major theme, and test your knowledge with a quick quiz.

Poem Summary

Have you ever found yourself caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to make a difficult decision? Maybe you've had to choose between two equally desirable things, like following a career path to become an astronaut or a doctor. You may have considered the different paths of study or activity each choice would lead you down. We've all been faced with challenging decisions in our lives, and sometimes the difficulty of making those decisions arises from the fear of not knowing if what we choose is right, or what will happen as a result of our choice.
Well, the famous American poet, Robert Frost, once wrote a poem that describes this feeling exactly. 'The Road Not Taken', first published in 1916, is perhaps Frost's most famous poem. The final lines in particular, 'Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference', are often quoted and referred to as inspirational words that challenge us to overcome obstacles in life.
The poem describes someone standing at a fork, or turning point, in a road in the woods, trying to decide which path he's going to take. He looks down one road as far as he can see, and after thinking for another minute, decides to take the other one because it looks like nobody's been that way yet, and he's curious about where it leads.
He thinks maybe he might come back another day and try out the other path but has a feeling that the road he's chosen will lead him to new places and discoveries, and he probably won't be back. He thinks wistfully about that road, the road not taken, and where he might have wound up if he'd gone that way instead. Part of him regrets his decision, but he also realizes that the things he's seen and the places he's gone because of the direction he chose has made him who he is.

The Poem's Theme

'The Road Not Taken' is more than a poem about someone trying to decide which road he's going to take on a stroll through the woods. It's actually a poem about the journey of life. The two roads diverged in a yellow wood symbolize a person's life. The narrator's choice about which road to take represents the different decisions we sometimes have to make and how those decisions will affect the future. Think of the expression, 'down the road', that we often use to describe something that might happen months or even years from now, and you'll see how Frost is making the connection between life and traveling.
Frost captures the uncertainty about making decisions and our natural desire to know what will happen as a result of the decisions we make in the first stanza of the poem:
'Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth'
Here, Frost uses the bend in the road as a metaphor for what the narrator wishes he could see but ultimately can't make out in the undergrowth. The narrator eventually decides to take the other road because it really doesn't matter; whichever path he chooses, he has no way of knowing where he's going to end up.
The only difference between the two roads is that the one the narrator chooses in the second stanza is 'grassy and wanted wear'; in other words, it doesn't look like anyone's taken it before or in a long time. At this point in the poem, Frost tries to encourage readers to overcome the fear of the unknown: someone has to be the first person to try a new thing. Just think about what has happened when men and women have boldly gone where no men and women have gone before.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


                         by John McInnes
Me on a high wire,
Setting out surely,
Making each movement
Seem easy and safe.
You down below me,
Sensing my caution,
Hoping each movement
Is easy and safe.
 Me on a high wire,
 Costumed and spotlit,
Full concentration
 On each balanced move.
You down below me,
Tensing and motionless,
Full concentration
On each balanced move.
Me on a high wire,
Letting a foot slip
Only a fraction,
 Awakening  your fear.
 Me, the performer,
Taking my chances,
Exciting my talent
 To share  it with you.
You the observer,
Cheering me silently,
 Sharing success with me,
Eyeing  me on.
 Me on a high wire,
Taking the last step,
Stretching to finish
My  journey  for us.
You down below me,
Gasping, applauding me,
 Sending a thank you
For  what  I have done.
 Me bowing, thank you
For letting me share it—
The feel of the high wire,
The feel of performing—
 High performance!

1. What central idea does the poem illustrate?
 A. the dangers of the high wire act
B. the performer’s relationship to the audience
 C. how exciting watching a high wire act can be
 D. how the performer must concentrate to balance
 2. Which of the following adjectives best describes the performer?
 A. hopeful
B. grateful
C. nervous
D. confident
3. Why does the poet alternate the stanzas between “Me” and “You”?
A. to show that the audience is afraid
B. to link the performer to the observer
C. to demonstrate the performer’s bravery
D. to emphasize the distance between the performer and the audience
4. Which line in the poem most strongly suggests that the performer deliberately tries to play with the audience’s feelings?
A. “Sensing my caution”
B. “Letting a foot slip”
 C. “Taking the last step”
 D. “Stretching to finish”

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015


I have + (past participle)
This structure is used to talk about things that you have done in the past.
·         I’ve done it.
·         I’ve tried parasailing.
·         I have visited Australia.
·         She has acted in a film.
·         I’ve watched that film.
·         She’s written several books.
·         I’ve written twelve letters since morning.
·         I’ve been to this place before.
·         I’ve seen him before.
Talking about things you want to do
I wanna + (verb)
The structure wanna is the conversational equivalent of want to. The structure I wanna can be used to talk about things you want to do.
·         I wanna talk to you. (= I want to talk to you.)
·         I wanna find a job. (= I want to find a job.)
·         I wanna marry you. (= I want to marry you.)
·         I wanna try this food. (= I want to try this food.)
The structure ‘don’t wanna’ is used to talk about things that you don’t want to do.
·         I don’t wanna accept this job. (= I don’t want to accept this job.)
·         I don’t wanna marry you. (= I don’t want to marry you.)
·         I don’t wanna meet him. (= I don’t want to meet him.)
Talking about things you have to do
I gotta + (verb)
The word gotta is the conversational equivalent of got to. In conversation I gotta is often used instead of I have got to.
·         I gotta get up early tomorrow. (= I have got to get up early tomorrow.)
·         I gotta win her trust. (= I have got to win her trust.)
·         I gotta get my car repaired. (= I have got to get my car repaired.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015



Note that do and does are used in the present tense. Do is used with plural nouns and the pronouns I, we, they and youDoes is used with singular nouns and the pronouns he, she and it.
Did is used in the past tense with both singular and plural nouns and pronouns. Study the examples given below.
  • She writes short stories.
This statement is in the simple present tense and it doesn’t have an auxiliary verb. When we change this statement into a question, we use does as the first word. Note that we use does because the subject is a third person singular pronoun.
  • Does she write short stories? (NOT Does she writes short stories?)
  • Mike likes strawberries. (Statement)
  • Does Mike like strawberries? (NOT Does Mike likes strawberries?)
  • They live in the same house. (Statement)
  • Do they live in the same house? (Question)
Here we use do because the subject is a plural pronoun.
  • I like Beethoven. (Statement)
  • Do you like Beethoven? (Question)
  • I enjoyed the movie. (Statement)
This statement is in the simple past tense. When we change it into a question, we use did as the first word. Note that did is used with both singular and plural nouns and pronouns.
  • Did you enjoy the movie? (Question) (NOT Did you enjoyed the concert?) Did + enjoy = enjoyed
  • I met James yesterday. (Statement)
  • Did you meet James yesterday? (Question)
  • She watched a movie last night. (Statement)
  • Did she watch a movie last night? (NOT Did she watched a movie last night?)
  • Susie called Jack in the morning. (Statement)
  • Did Susie call Jack in the morning? (Question) (NOT Did Susie called Jack in the morning?)

Sunday, November 22, 2015



Night - Synopsis and commentary

Synopsis of Night

In stanza one, the speaker looks at the setting sun and sees the evening star. Like the birds now quiet in their nest, s/he, too, must go to bed. S/he sees the moon as shining indulgently on the earth at sleep.
In stanza two, s/he says farewell to the daytime scene of green fields and groves where sheep have grazed. Now, where the lambs grazed angels tread, blessing everything that is growing and sleeping.
Stanzas three and four consider the angels' activities. They check nests; they check on all the animals, keeping them from harm and give sleep to any in distress, keeping watch by their bed. They weep when they find wolves and tigers howling for prey and try to drive away their hunger. If these beasts nevertheless catch their prey, the angels take the dead animals to a new life (heaven).
Stanzas five and six express the nature of this new life (‘new worlds'). It is a place of universal peace in which ‘the lion will lie down with the lamb'. The lion asserts that the gentle humility and wholesome purity of Christ (the unnamed ‘him who bore thy name' i.e. the Lamb of God) has driven out anger and sickness from this new place of endless day. The lion is now no longer the predator but the guard / shepherd. He can lie down beside the lamb and sleep, or think about Jesus' sufferings, full of tenderness towards the bleating, gentle lamb. Now the lion isimmortal (‘wash'd in life's river), he will be a glorious protector of the flock.
The poem draws on pastoral imagery, looking at harmony between nature and human beings. The contrasts of day, followed by night, followed by eternal day, stress only the positive aspects of each (which could be seen as demonstrating the inadequacy of innocence). Blake also employs a wealth of biblical allusion.


A positive vision?

In the light of Blake's ideas drawn from Jacob Boehme (see Religious / philosophical background > Philosophical influences on Blake > Blake and Jacob Boehme), this poem can be read as showing the inadequacy of innocence when it is the only vision available to the human being. The perspective of the poem's speaker allows little engagement with the experience of ‘woe':
  • The evocation of the passing day is idyllic, stressing greenness and peacefulness
  • All is growth – ‘green fields and happy groves'
  • Nothing is at risk – flocks ‘took delight', ‘lambs nibbled'
  • The picture of angels visiting, protecting and soothing troubled animals is seductive
  • It is the world of a lullaby.
Night actually neutralises the negatives associated with the image of night. After all, night-time is:
  • The time of human terrors and fears
  • When individuals are most vulnerable to attack
  • When most predators are at work – the only glancing reference to death is that the predators ‘rush dreadful'.
  • Frequently an image of death and oblivion.

A one sided picture

The reality of predation and death is present, and the angels cannot avert it. However, it is presented simply as a precursor to entering a more blissful existence, in which all antagonism is removed. The only values are those of meekness and tenderness. This vision of a world to come, or a world ‘beyond', offers comfort but might also signal an avoidance of the reality of devouring forces within human life (necessary contraries according to Blake). It also presents a vision of life devoid of energy and force:
  • The angels become static in the face of danger, tears the only protection they can offer
  • Lambs become merely ‘mild spirit[s]'
  • The lion lies down with the lamb as a tamed beast, grazing alongside the lamb. The distinctive qualities he brings to creation are channeled merely into guard duties in this ideal, pastoral world.


Read the poem below and answer the questions that follow.
The Fog
I saw the fog grow thick
   Which soon made blind my ken;
It made tall men of boys,
   And giants of tall men.

It clutched my throat, I coughed;
   Nothing was in my head
Except two heavy eyes
   Like balls of burning lead.

And when it grew so black
   That I could know no place
I lost all judgment then,
   Of distance or of space.

The street lamps, and the lights
   Upon the halted cars,
Could either be on earth
   Or be the heavenly stars.

A man passed by me close,
   I asked my way, he said,
"Come, follow me, my friend " -
   I followed where he led.

He rapped the stones in front,
   "Trust me," he said, " and come";
I followed like a child -
   a blind man led me home.
W. H. Davis

'It clutched my throat, I coughed' tells us that

the poet was suffocating because of the fog

the fog and the poet were fighting fiercely

the fog held the poet by the throat

the poet had a sore throat

The following statements are true except

the fog grew so thick that the poet could not get his directions right

a blind man who was also lost came to help the poet

the fog caused the poet to see things differently

the fog hut the poet's eyes

The word halted shows that the cars were probably





' ... the stones in front' in the last stanza refers to

the stones the blind man carried in a pouch in front of him

the stones that were lying by the side of the road

the road they were on

loose gravel

The blind man could lead the poet through the fog because he

was wearing a pair of sunglasses

had been to the poet's house

had a stick with him

knew his way

The last stanza of the poem tells us that

the blind man was boastful

the poet trusted the blind man

the poet could not return home

the fog had hurt the feelings of the poet