Unlocking the Poem | Sherpa Learning

Unlocking the Poem



A Guide to Discovering Meaning through Understanding and Analysis


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AP English Literature and Composition
Pre-AP English
Honors English

The limited number of poetry resources for high school students all present their subjects by way of techniques: poems are included in chapters focused on “metaphor,” “tone,” or “sound.” But no great poem was ever written to illustrate a lesson on metaphor.

The way to understand a poem is to get to know it as itself, rather than as an example of poetic technique. Unlocking the Poem treats each poem as an independent literary event, just as it was written. Discussion of literary elements begins only after the student has fully explored the poem with his or her eyes, ears, feelings, and mind.

The primary interpretive strategy of repeated reading and patient questioning—rather than the enumeration and analysis of literary elements—removes much of the mystification that a reliance on terminology imposes on the study of poems. Unlocking the Poem uses a friendly approach that recognizes our reasons for reading poems: to see things in a new way, to feel things keenly and freshly.

Unlocking the Poem provides a path toward understanding that any motivated student can follow. Using this book, students will develop the ability to connect with any poem they may encounter by following a simple progression of steps.