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Content of Poetry

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Content of poetry comprises the context or the author’s background, the tone or the author’s attitude or personal view toward the subject, the symbol or something used to represent something else, the theme or what the poem is all about, and the motif or the recurring idea in a poem. Individually, these components have distinct functions that appeal to the readers, arousing their interest and stirring up in them feelings or emotions such as love, happiness, excitement, disappointment, brokenheartedness, among others, or points of view regarding life, technology, beauty, or any other subjects.

Context as content of poetry refers to the author’s knowledge of the topic of the poem. When the author knows much about the topic, he/she is able to.write well about it.

Acrostic is a kind of poem wherein the first letters of each of the lines spell a word.

Form nine groups. Your teacher will post the word “education” on the board, with the letters written down vertically. Using a stick, your teacher initially points to the first letter posted on the board. You are given one minute to write on a sheet of paper a line that starts with that letter. The line must be relevant to the idea of the entire word posted. Your teacher will call the next letter, and so on until all the letters have been used.

After the activity, your teacher will collect the group output and assign the class to write acrostics with your names or nicknames. These acrostics will be presented to the class.

Tone in poetry refers to the author’s attitude toward the subject. Tone may be serious, enthusiastic, formal, objective, dramatic, humorous, among others.

Jose P. Rizal, a Filipino nationalist and polymath, wrote a lot of stories and poems which have stood the test of decades.

Research on the biography of Jose P. Rizal. Then, complete the timeline below by filling in the boxes with important or striking events in Rizal’s life that might have influenced his works.

Rizal is also known for his poems, most of which he wrote while studying in a university in Manila. Read and analyze the following poem of his and answer the questions that follow.

Education Gives Luster to Motherland

by Dr. Jose P. Rizal

Read Article

A symbol, which is one component of the content of poetry, is something used to represent something else; i.e., an idea, belief, etc. Through symbols, the author is able to go beyond the literal meaning of a text and present ideas figuratively. For example, a “blooming flower” may mean something that is constantly growing or unveiling itself beautifully.

Symbols aid in both the formation and identification of the central idea of the literary piece. For example, the symbols wedding rings, engagement rings, dove, confetti, and rice would give readers the idea that the central idea of the literary piece is marriage.

A theme is an answer to the question, “What is this story—or any piece of writing—really about?” When we read a poem, sometimes its themes will be clear from the first read-through. Other times we have to ruminate on the piece before we find those themes, or study it in a deeper, analytical way like we might have in school.

As we read a poem, here are some questions we can ask to determine the poem’s themes:

  • What are the explicit themes? In other words, what themes or topics do you see in the poem on the first read-through?
  • What is the poem’s overall tone? What thoughts or emotions does the poet convey? What images are used? How do these reveal the poet’s feelings toward the subject matter?
  • What is the poem’s overall mood? How does the poem make you, the reader, feel? What effect does the poem’s tone, setting, and word choice have on you?
  • What are the implicit themes? Now that you’ve considered the poem’s tone and mood, what other, less obvious themes have you discovered?

Why should we consider a poem’s tone and mood here? Because emotions themselves can be literary themes. Happiness, sadness, anger, fear—these and other reactions are not only feelings that characters or readers can experience during a piece of literature, but also part of the piece’s overall thematic web.

Literary pieces may also contain recurring words, phrases, or clauses. These are called motifs. A poem’s motif can help establish the theme of the poem by giv-ing the reader a clue on what the poem is about. In the example below, the motif or recurring word is “Dreamland” and the theme is about appreciation of Disneyland.

(Noun/one word)Dreamland!
(Adjectives/two words)Colorful, delightful
(Nouns/three words)Fantasy, Wishes, Dreams
(Interjection/four words)Oh my amazing Dreamland!

One has to have good knowledge of what comprises poetry in order to write poems effectively and efficiently. Poems include context, tone, symbol, theme, and motif. The context refers to the author’s knowledge of the topic. The tone emerges from how the author views the topic. Symbols are also used by authors to provide a figurative taste of the poem. Themes can be either abstract or stated and can only be derived from a complete understanding of the poem’s content, while motifs are recurring ideas or words that are very noticeable.

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