Poetry from Other Cultures – Coursework Assignment Paper

Published: 2021-09-10 22:25:07
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Category: Poetry

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I have been studying and analyzing the poems ‘Maple Syrup’ by Donald Hall and ‘The Flower Press’ by Penelope Shuttle. I am going to compare and contrast the two poems. The poems are very different but they also have some similarities which makes this assignment interesting.
‘Maple Syrup’ is about a man telling and showing someone else about his childhood. He returns back to his grandfather’s house who died ten years before and describes it in great detail. The man finds some maple syrup in his grandfather’s house which has been there for twenty-five years.
‘The Flower Press’ is about a mother talking to her daughter after finding a flower press from her childhood. It gives clues to a secret past belonging to the mother throughout the poem. However, it never reveals what really happened. The mother shows a lot of interest in what her daughter thinks about the flower press because she seems insecure and has little confidence. This maybe relates to her past and what could have happened during her childhood therefore the mother might think it could reflect on her daughter.
Obviously these poems have similarities such as the content of them both finding something linking to their past – a discovery. Also both poets are talking to another person and sharing their past with the reader.
The language used in the two poems is different but again has some similarities. The language used in ‘Maple Syrup’ is old, yet understandable. For example, ‘saphouse’ and ‘quart jar’ are old words but once they have been looked up or discussed it makes the whole poem make sense. There are many devices used in ‘Maple Syrup’ such as lists ‘Keneston, Wells, Flower, Batchelder, Buck’, this builds up a sense of quantity so it makes the graveyard seem full of his ancestors. A metaphor is used when it says ‘sweetness preserved, of a dead man’ to create imagery and a sense of loss and death. The poet is trying to say that there is continuity between the past and the present. The poet also uses similes, for example, ‘like someone exhausted’ this creates imagery and gives the effect of the saphouse sounding like a person dying. A rhetorical question is another device used in the poem ‘Maple Syrup’: ‘what is this?’ this gives the sense of a surprising moment and involves the reader by making them think about what it could be. Also it makes the reader want to carry on. Personal pronouns such as I, we and you to make the reader feel involved. Another main device used to create suspense and emphasis is repetition: the poet repeats ‘sweetness’ three times in the last stanza to make the reader believe and understand how sweet the maple syrup actually was. I think this device gives the message across clearly.
Like this, the poem ‘The Flower Press’ uses many of the same devices. On of these is a rhetorical question: ‘Am I right to warn you of their perfections?’ This also involves the reader but makes them think in depth. However, in comparison to ‘Maple Syrup’, ‘The Flower Press’ uses negative words and phrases such as ‘nervous’, ‘ghosts of flowers’, ‘dry’, ‘frail’, ‘faded’ and ‘flawed’. These words create an almost deathly feel to the poem, a dark and depressing time. They are used to represent the mother’s past – it is a metaphor of her memories. Another device used throughout the poem is a metaphor, for example, ‘ghosts of flowers’. This created an image of ghosts belonging to dead flowers, a deathly feel. Alliteration is used when it says ‘dry, frail, faded,’ and this emphasises deadness and makes it stay in the reader’s mind.
Both poems are written in present tense.
Comparing the structure and layout of both the poems; they are both very different. ‘Maple Syrup’ consists of six stanzas most of which contain enjambment. Enjambment is when the sentence carries on onto the line below giving the effect to the reader of the poem not having a rhythm so the reader doesn’t read it with a beat. It also makes the reader read it slower which I think helps the reader to understand. Each stanza in ‘Maple Syrup’ has a different amount of lines; this means the poet hasn’t used a certain pattern because there was no logical way in which he wanted to make the reader read it or say it. The first and second stanza describes the graveyard and gives clues about his past. The third stanza tells the reader about when he visits his grandfather’s house and describes it in great detail for example, ‘spinning wheels, pretty boxes, quilts’ The third stanza also reveals the discovery of maple syrup found in the attic. The fourth stanza is about unfolding the great surprise and memories from his past and sharing the moment with his wife. The fifth stanza describes the saphouse. Finally in the sixth stanza he shares the maple syrup with his wife and tastes it for the first time in twenty-five years.
In comparison to this, ‘The Flower Press’ is one continuous stanza. However, each line is also a different length which stops the poem having a rhythm or pattern. The effect of having the structure like this is easy for the reader to read it. I think the reason why the poet has chosen to write the poem in one continuous stanza is because it is set in one location where as, ‘Maple Syrup’ has been set out in different changes of scene.
The tone is very important when studying a poem because it shows what message and mood the poet wanted to get across and create towards the reader. ‘Maple Syrup’ gives a reflective tone when the man is walking round the graves and it mentions names he is familiar with. However, it also sets a happy tone like the man is thankful because he has his wife or a close friend there with him. Throughout the poem happy memories are reflected which creates a good mood.
Comparing ‘The Flower Press’ with ‘Maple Syrup’, ‘The Flower Press’ gives a very anxious feel to it by using negative words and asking depressing questions. At times in the poem the tone is sombre but the poet also makes the tone feel happy at some points for example at the end when the discovery overall becomes a promising advance for the mother. During the middle of the poem it becomes poignant giving negative comments and then uplifting the mood.
Both poems are poignant overall but give off different tones throughout the poem. This gives both poems a large similarity as they both have high spirited endings of which they have shared with a loved one who wasn’t present originally.
Donald Hall who wrote ‘Maple Syrup’ wrote the poem wanting the reader to think and get involved with his past. I think Donald Hall wanted us to imagine all the detail he describes such as in the house, the saphouse and the discovery of the maple syrup. He uses all his devices to capture the thought of the reader and for the reader to question the poem in depth. I think he wanted us to remember our childhood and the little things that made us happy and to also share them with loved ones.
Penelope Shuttle who wrote ‘The Flower Press’ also wrote the poem making the reader think in great depth. ‘The Flower Press’ hides the mother’s past by describing it but not telling the reader what actually happened. The poet indicated that the mother had a negative past; this makes the reader think about what it could have been.
Both the poems make the reader think but in different ways which is a good way of capturing the readers attention.
My thoughts on ‘Maple Syrup’ are positive. I understand the poem and it makes me think a lot. I like how the poet creates suspense during the third stanza by using a rhetorical question – this made me want to read on as I was excited to know what the discovery was. I like the fact that the poem has used enjambment because I have never really come across a poem like this which makes it more interesting and different to read.
Out of the two poems, ‘The Flower Press’ is my favourite. This is mainly because it almost hides a secret in a kind of way because the poet is not telling the reader the basis of the story. Therefore, it makes the reader imagine their own view. I like how the poet has consistently used negative words for description but she also manages to create the feeling of happiness and relief towards the end of the poem. When I first read this poem I didn’t like it or understand it but now I have studied it and thought about the meanings of words and phrases I have grasped it and I enjoyed working on it.

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