Here are a few activities from Gale, which take an approach that sees the poem in five subject areas:
These are, of course, not to be considered definitive categories for examining poetry, but they serve to give instructors a means for moving from specific poems to a level of abstraction.
The walls between these subject areas are permeable. Beauty is a specific subcategory of Form, the most notable distinguishing characteristic being that Beauty requires a value judgement; Form and Identity can be seen as variations of the same idea, different only when one is using an objective or a subjective light for illumination; Struggle, it is often said, defines Identity, by forcing individuals to abandon the affectations they use to disguise human essence; and Death is itself a biological moment, not worth studying in the humanities except that it dictates how the Struggle of life is played out. The circle is made complete if we consider Beauty and Death linked, as our only portals to eternity.
Instructors are invited to use these subjects, or to organize class units around any other scheme: the reason these poems are considered lasting and significant is precisely because they each present so many facets that welcome approach. This Guide provides explanations and methodology that will allow instructors to get the most out of the course of study offered. The activities included here are designed to make students think about a given subject category and how it fits into the study of poetry in general.
David J. Kelly is an author and college instructor. He holds a Bachelor's of English from DePaul University, Chicago, and a Master's of Fine Arts from the Writers Workshop program at the University of Iowa. Mr. Kelly teaches creative writing, literature and composition. He has won awards for his short fiction and is currently writing his first novel. In preparing this guide, he received guidance and insight from his wife, Bernadette Tomasik-Kelly, B.Ed., M.Ed.
Source: Exploring Poetry, Gale, 1997.