Monday, January 19, 2009


beware: do not read this poem by Ishmael Reed (pg 1040-1041)

“beware: do not read this poem” has an interesting and unconventional form. The syntax is manipulated by the placement of the punctuation. Each punctuation mark has a space before and after it. This contrasts from the conventional use of punctuation. Usually there is no space between the last word and the punctuation but there is a space after the punctuation. This use of punctuation slows the pace of the poem and makes clear where there should be pauses in pace. The unusual spacing of the poem is clarified by the last lines of the poem, “…over 100,000 people disappeared/leaving no solid clues/nor trace only/ a space in the lives of their friends” (lines 45-48). These last lines show that the spacing of the poem represents the spaces left in the lives of those who have lost love ones.

In addition, the author uses no capital letters which gives every word the same emphasis. The author also uses frequent abbreviations for example “abt,” “w /,” and “yr.” These abbreviations give the poem a slightly rushed tone like its message is urgent. The external form of the poems greatly effects tone, pace and message of the poem.

[Buffalo Bill 's] by E. E. Cummings (pg 1044)

This poem is similar to “beware: do not read this poem” because of its unusual spacing. However, [Buffalo Bill ‘s] does not use any punctuation and instead uses spaces as punctuation. The format of the words helps the reader to read the poem; some words do not have spaces between them and others are spaced far apart. The spacing, similar to the previous poem, controls the pace of the poem. The words “onetwothreefourfive” and “pigeonsjustlikethat” run together this shows the fast pace of this section of the poem. This contrasts with “Jesus” which is spaced all the way to the right and it is the only word on line 7. This depicts the isolation of God within this poem. The external form of this poem dictates the pace and meaning of the poem.

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