Friday, December 23, 2011 | By: Brianna

Poetry Friday -- A Spiral Notebook

Today's Friday, which means...Brianna's reading and analyzing poetry!  Excuse the video quality, or the lack of alignment of video and audio...I blame Youtube.

This Friday I read a poem by Ted Kooser called "A Spiral Notebook" which I found in Good Poems for Hard Times.  If truth be told, the reason I picked this book up was because the spine was yellow and it said "Good Poems," I didn't see the "hard times" until after I got it from the library.  Sometimes I play into blonde stereotypes...

The biggest thing that I noticed in this poem is essentially a gigantic description.  It opens on a simile comparing the spiral wire roll to a "porpoise / in and out of the calm blue sea / of the cover..." which is a good integration of the animal comparison and the physical attributes of the notebook.  It seems to me that the poem could have been taken in the direction of going crazy with the porpoise image or stayed along the lines (ha ha, notebook, lines...) of physical descriptions, leading me to believe that the speaker leaned toward the latter.  The wire is also compared to a "sleeper / twisting in and out of his dreams" with another simile.  So lots of simile going on here.

The poem also discusses the function of the notebook.  " could hold a record of dreams / if you wanted to buy it for that, / though it seems to be meant for / more serious work," perhaps recording serious thoughts.  Here the speaker seems to directly address the reader by acknowledging a "you" which carries through the end of the poem.

The announcement of the "5 SUBJECT NOTEBOOK" is in the center of the poem in all capital letters, drawing attention to itself.  This poem is also made up of only two sentences, and this line ends the first sentence.  This is where the poem turns, talking more about the subject of growing old and (consequently) growing up.  The comparisons become a little more abstract in that they're broader, comparing the uses of notebooks by the young and uses by the old.  Or older.  It touches on the anxiety a person might feel while clutching a single subject notebook, alluding to the idea that the shopper would have chosen and committed to a single subject.  All the while "passing / your fingers over its surfaces / as if it were some kind of wonder."

So "analysis" was optimistic here.  I'm feeling rusty.  I'm going to blame Winter Break.  We'll go with that.

1. Think about the possible uses for an object or a notebook.  Enumerate them poetically.
2. How detailed a description can you write of one simple thing?  Can you romanticize a clothespin?  A bookmark?
3. Write about something that children use and how adults use or view it differently.  I'm talking about how do kids use red pens differently than adults?  Or highlighters?
4. What would you stand in a drugstore and buy?  Talk about a Walgreens/CVS shopping trip.

"...but instead to stand in a drugstore
and hang on to one subject
a little too long, like this notebook
you weigh in your hands..."
- Ted Kooser in "A Spiral Notebook"


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