My students start to prepare readings of selected Blake poems

The second phase of the William Blake project began today. Students responded with some trepidation about performing the poems in a musical fashion, but some were quite keen to have a go at home.

Many students were appreciative that they had time to study the poems in this way; they weren’t, on the whole, familiar with performing poems. However, the act of getting them to perform the poems did make them look again at the title of the poems, and notice that they are “songs”. One students asked an interesting question: “Is a poem a song? Or vice versa?” We had a discussion about the distinctions between poems and songs.

Some students are musical but felt a bit intimidated about the thought of playing/singing/performing the poems, but said they would go away and have a go for homework. We didn’t listen to any performed versions in this lesson.

Most students were appreciative of the fact that this approach is more in the spirit of William Blake — who certainly wouldn’t have liked people to over-analyse his poems before they really “felt” their impact.

I feel that this is a good approach because it enjoys an “aesthetic” response to the poems as opposed to an analytical, cognitive response; this is what art is about, “aesthetic appreciation”.

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2 thoughts on “My students start to prepare readings of selected Blake poems

  1. London By William Blake
    Songs of Innocence and Experience
    The poem based on the city of London, relies on the senses throughout, particularly sight and sound. In the opening stanza, Blake employs the semantic field of sadness, ‘Marks of weakness’ ‘marks of woe’ the repetition of marks is significant as it portrays to the reader that the people the protagonist is seeing have had experiences which have left them with noticeable marks, perhaps from a harder time. Experience in this particular poem is consistently suggested to be negative, emphasized by the sounds described, ‘infants cry’ and ‘Soldiers sigh’ the poet creates a solemn image and employs certain references to characters clearly upset, evoking the audiences emotions. Blake provokes a sense of melancholy by describing the ‘Chimney sweepers crying,’ this abstract noun is suggested here by the thought of the soldiers and chimney sweepers enduring their jobs in a time of sadness. Colour is also relied on throughout this poem by William Blake to evoke negative connotations, ‘blood’ and ‘Blackening’ both give the audience an uncomfortable sensation, asif the whole of the London is sad and under a cloud of industrialization and depression, symbolized by the employment of dark imagery, ‘hearse’ and ‘blackening church.’

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