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Blog for ENG 215 Summer 2020

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“Design” Persona

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,

On a white heal-all, holding up a moth

Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth–

Assorted characters of death and blight

Mixed ready to begin the morning right,

Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth–

A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,

And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,

The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?

What brought the kindred spider to that height,

Then steered the white moth thither in the night?

What but design of darkness to appall?–

If design govern in a thing so small.


The persona that immediately came to me after reading Robert Frost’s “Design” was a character from Sarah J. Maas’s YA fantasy series, “Throne of Glass.” The main character, Celaena, was orphaned at a young age and raised by a guild of harsh assassins. She grows up to be the city’s most deadly killer, but she is young and pretty, and people are unlikely to suspect her as a murderer. This reminded me of the spider that Frost describes in his poem. The use of the color white to portray innocence, and the inclusion of the heal-all plant make the spider seem pure and elegant, unable to hurt. Frost contrasts this beauty and purity, much like Celaena’s character, with an ability to be lethal. Words like “death”, “blight”, and “darkness” play against the peaceful nature of the scene. I also liked the connection that the spider is not killing the moth out of malice, but rather because it needs to survive. This is much like Celaena’s character in that she was raised by brutal assassins, and had to learn to fight and kill out of a need for survival.

Since Celaena is fictional, and there isn’t a film adaptation, I attached the cover artwork for the first book in the series.


Class Definition of Poetry

I think what distinguishes poetry from plays and novels is that poetry allows more flexibility overall with structure, story-telling, arrangement, and tone of voice. Plays and novels follow a certain structure when it comes to formatting including how the lines and sentences are arranged on the page, grammar, punctuation, etc. –Saiara Mashiat

Saiara’s definition is super helpful to our understanding of lyric poems. Since lyric poetry is generally rhythmic, passionate, and relatively short, I found that “structure, story-telling, arrangement, and tone of voice” were especially great clues. Tone of voice is an important point when discussing the lyric. Because lyric poetry is meant to be filled with emotion, it is important for the writer to be able to display certain feelings through the tone and mood of the poem. I also think that “story-telling” is a strong descriptor of the lyric. When I think of songs or lyrics, I think about a story that the artist/writer is trying to tell. The same goes for all genres of literature, but the definition of “story telling” is very interesting when applied to lyric poetry.

Poetry conveys messages through the lyrical use of techniques and words and is appreciated because of its selected use of words, rhyming scheme, language and intensity of feelings or moods while novels and plays tend to more of a peculiar structure, separation through the use of chapters, and often prosaic language. – Rubén

Rubén makes an especially good point when talking about the “language and intensity of feelings or moods.” Lyric poetry is intended to be passionate and emotional, so it is impossible to speak about it without mentioning the way that it aims to make the reader feel something. As both Saiara and Rubén mentioned, structure is also important when considering lyric poems. They are more often than not relatively short in length and follow a specific rhyming pattern.

Poetry is distinguished from the rest by its emphasis on imagery and rhythm. -Jay

Jay makes a very crucial point about lyric poetry though the use of the word “rhythm.” One of the most important things about lyric poems is the musical, rhythmic pattern that they follow. As Professor Coats described, the very root of the word comes from an instrument and someone crating a rhythm. Imagery is another good descriptor. Because lyric poetry is relatively short, writer rely on imagery and figurative language to relay a message or portray a feeling.

Stevie Smith Illustration

There are many types of poems, making it incredibly difficult to come up with things that are unique to just poetry as a genre. One of the things that came to mind when attempting to define poetry was the structure, separated by stanzas and lines. This formatting is true of Stevie Smith’s “The Heavenly City,” made up of four stanzas and 16 lines. In my description, I also mentioned that speaking to an audience is something that often happens in poetry. “The Heavenly City” is written in first person making it seems though the narrater is speaking their feelings aloud (or to an audience).

Figurative language is another aspect that appears often in poetry. “The Heavenly City” is a metaphor for an idealistic place, this idea enhance by imagery of pure, gentle things. The word “heavenly” is repeated throughout the poem to place emphasis on the fact that it is supposed to be a haven for the narrator. The work follows a rhyme scheme, which is also pretty unique to poetry. This particular scheme is ABCB DEFE GHIH JKLK, all alternating lines rhyming.

Defining Poetry as a Genre (Revised)

I would probably say that one of the biggest differences between poetry and novels/plays is the structure. Stanzas are pretty unique to poetry, rather than separation through chapters and paragraphs. I also like Raven’s point about the inclusion of dialogue in plays and novels! When I think about most of the poetry I’ve read, it’s speaking directly to an audience rather than dialogue amongst characters. I will say that it’s impossible to completely rule out dialogue in poetry, because it’s included in epics and some poems, but that was just one of the first things that came to mind. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to distinguish between poetry other genres of lit! Eliot’s “Hysteria” reads and looks like it could be a passage from a novel, which I know is kind of the point, but it goes against all the things I named to help separate poetry from other genres.

I think before I make an official distinction of what categorizes something as poetry, I need a better understanding of the different types.



My name is Elizabeth, but everyone calls me EB. I am taking this class mostly to fulfill a gen-ed requirement, but I am super excited to have the opportunity to take an English course at VCU. I have always loved to read, but I have not explored much poetry. My grandfather is a big inspiration to me when it comes to my love of literature. Over the years he has sent me a plethora of novels to add to my shelves, something that has been extremely valuable to me. He has also introduced me to the big names in poetry (Frost, Whitman, Wilde, Plath, and so on), but beyond the basics, there is not much I know when it comes to poems. When you say “the lyric” I assume you are talking about the type of poem, which I know to be songlike, hence “lyric” or “lyrical,” but that is about the extent of my knowledge.

Along with this class, I am taking a 4 week long (fairly time consuming) math course. I am slightly worried about managing all of my assignments, especially since these are my first online classes at VCU, but I am doing my best to stay on top of everything. Thankfully, the math class will end way before this one, so during the back half of this course some stress should be relieved. I plan to complete the work for this class mostly during the late afternoon, because I meet via zoom for math from 1:00pm to 4:15pm.

Currently, my blog looks the way it does because I needed something that was easy to navigate. This is my first time using WordPress, so I am still familiarizing myself with it. As this class goes on I hope to add more details and fun things, but I like the way it looks for the time being.

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