Saturday, November 20, 2021

Asking a poem, "what makes you weird and difficult?": John Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"

For our discussion of John Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning", I followed Stephanie Burt and asked my students to consider how the poem is "weird and difficult" in ways that could feel negative or positive (Samuel Johnson's and T. S. Eliot's respective reactions). When I read them the poem out loud, I considered my own response, too. While reading, I found the extended metaphor of the compass in the last three stanzas thrilling; in contrast, while I enjoyed the phrasing of the astronomical stanza with "the trepidation of the spheres", my response felt less emotional than intellectual (after I had looked up the sense of that phrase while preparing the poem). (Andrew Shields, #111words, 20 November 2021)

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