Unmasking Poetry
By
Nicholas Anyuor

Co-Authored by: Cosmas Maruko

Copyright © 2014
All rights reserved by Nicholas Anyuor

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,graphic,electronic,or mechanical including photocopying,recording,taping or by any information retrieval system, without permission in writing of the publisher.

Ariba Technologies & Book Publishers
P.o Box 503-40600
Siaya –Kenya
Website: www.aribatecbp.com
Email:admin@aribatecbp.com

ISBN: 978-1497304253

First published 2014

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Dedication……………………………………………

4

Acknowledgment……………………………………

5

Introduction………………………………………

6

CHAPTER ONE

Definition of terms……………….……….

7

Poem……………..………………………..

7

Poet/poetess/persona……………………..

8

Content………………………………

12

Theme/Subject Matter…………………...

13

Stanza……………………………………

15

Audience…………………………………

18

Characteristics of a poem………………..

19

Categories of poem………………………

20

Types of poems…………………………...

28

CHAPTER TWO

Stylistic Devices…………………………

32

Devices based on sound patterns………

32

Figurative Speech……………………….

32

RhetoricalQuestions/Repwetition/Parenthesis/Idiophone/Onomatopoeia………………………..

33

Imagery/Personification/Alliteration/Rhyme..

40

Consonance/Hyperbole/Assonance……

50

Rhyme scheme/Apostrophe…………….

56

Symbolism/Dialogue…………………….

59

Rhythm/Paradox/Oxymoron…………...

65

Irony/Allusion…………………

70

Contrast………………………………….

76

Satire/Tone……………………………….

78

Attitude/Mood…………………………

86

Intonation………………………………

90

Setting………………………………….

92

DEDICATION

I dedicate this work to my daughter Micere Tabitha Akeyo. In her the dreams of my ancestors are fulfilled. My only true friends Tonny, Martin and Junior, I salute you. I will remain a dedicated uncle and dad. My parents Peter and Akeyo, may God bless you. Finally, I dedicate this poetry book to my beloved wife, Jackline. You are a seed planted in the homestead to bear this kind of fruit.

Thank you.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
I hereby acknowledge the following people for their contributions to this book: The publishing staff, for efforts to have this work published and Abenea Ndago for careful look at the manuscript and important comments. I will not forget to appreciate Prof Peter Amuka and Dr Tom Odhiambo for their moral support in the field of academia. They wake me up!
Introduction
Learning and understanding poetry has been a problem to many students, not only in our secondary schools, but even at the universities. At university level, a number of Literature students fear taking poetry courses because the genre is ‘hard’, a myth that has indeed affected the performance of poetry in our learning institutions. What our students should know is that poetry started as an oral art, it is the dirges we sing at funerals, the chants we hear in our churches and even our own thoughts that make poetry! Some of the earliest poetry is said to have been orally recited or sung, which, with the development of writing, developed to the structured forms. But this again faced challenge as witnessed in the 20th Century poetry that lacked the traditional structured forms and were in free verse and prose poems. Therefore, there is nothing new in poetry that should make students shy away from. The genre is informative, entertaining, educative, and helps in promoting culture.
CHAPTER ONE

Definition of terms

Albeit there are many different terms used in poetry, we are going to select a few common ones that will help us understand some concepts in this study. Let us define poem, poet/poetess, persona, content, stanza, audience and setting.

Poem

An American poet, Emily Dickinson, has wonderful remarks in her attempts to define poetry and what, therefore, a poem means to her. Dickinson says:

“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?”

Dickinson’s assertions lead us to understand how important poetry is in our physical and emotional feelings and from this we can come up with a tangible definition of what a poem is. A poem is, therefore, a piece of either written or oral words arranged in short lines that form a stanza or stanzas, expressing thoughts and feelings with the help of sound and rhythm. When writing a poem, the writer/composer would always use unique language to communicate the thoughts, and this is why sometimes it becomes very difficult for students to understand poetry. However, rather than shying away, students should appreciate the poetic language for better understanding of any given poem.

Poet/Poetess and Persona

Many students have confused the difference between poet/poetess and the persona. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, a poet is ‘a person who writes poems’ while a poetess is ‘a woman who writes poems.’ From these definitions, we come to learn that a poet is the author, one who writes a poem. The female writer of a poem is the poetess while the male one is the poet. However, persona is person or the object speaking in a poem on behalf of the poet/poetess; one created by the composer (poet/poetess) — a person or object that will tell the story or present the thoughts on behalf of the composer.

The poem below, Don’t Cry, My Child by PC Njuguna will help us understand this difference better.

Don’t cry my child,

Don’t let me bear your sobs

Don’t even let me bear the growling

The rumbling complaints of your empty stomach,

Suckle your finger my child, keep your screams,

Restrained.

Suckle your finger my child, keep your screams,

Restrained.

Keep the knives of pity from tearing my heart-

Don’t cry my child

Suckle your finger

I will lullaby you to sleep

Once more we shall cheat this monster that is hunger

Please go through the poem again. Do you listen to what the mother is telling the crying child? In fact, when reading the poem, one would obviously realize that it is the mother who is speaking. The mother speaking in the poem is the ‘persona’ while the one who has composed the poem, the one who has created the mother in the poem is the ‘poet’, which, in this case, is P.C Njuguna. Therefore, we can safely assert that the mother is the ‘persona’ while P.C Njuguna is the ‘poet’, but could be a ‘poetess’ if female, say, Marjorie Oludhe Macgoye, that is if P.C Njuguna was a woman. However, it is not a must that the persona be a human being. In some instances the poet/poetess may invent a non-human as their persona. In that case, the non-human that is made to address us in the poem is personified. 

For example, in the poem below, Chameleon, S.J Downing uses chameleon the animal as the persona.

I perch here, waiting like a fish

Out of water, not floundering

On this bare twig, in this green bush,

My body green, hard-pressed against

a rocking branch, my scaly back

curved, low-arched above my belly

flat-spread along the fleshy bark.

I squat. I perch. I balance. My

colour is not of my essence.

Set me in blue. I am the blue;

In green, I have a green presence.

My skin is the colour of leaves.

I am not leaf, though I am green.

I am the environment without. I am all things to all men. I am what my surroundings say

I am, perched here, eyes unblinking.

Waiting, a green reptile, unseen,

Fading, moving with the rocking

of a branch. Only now and then,

a sticky tube, my tongue flicks out,

A flash of pink against the green,

Pricks an insect. My turns, satisfaction spreads.

Against the green I set the pink

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