Reading a Poem - Washington State University

Reading a Poem Practice Session on Close Reading Randall Jarrells The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner Purpose The purpose of this exercise is to give you practice in analyzing a short poem. The questions are specific to this poem, but basically they all ask you to do the same thing: Look closely at the words of the poem.

Look closely at their meaning. Look closely at their sounds. Ask yourself this: Why this word and not a different one? The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner Directions: Read this poem aloud and write down as much as you can about its sounds and meaning. From my mothers sleep I fell into the State,

And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life, I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. When I died, they washed me out of the turret with a hose. Context Who is the speaker? What situation is being described? What do we know

about him, and what words tell us of his situation? B-17 during World War II First Line From my mothers sleep I fell into the State. Underline the words that seem important and think about them:

Why sleep? What does this say about the narrators life? Why use a verb like fell instead of walked or went? Why is State capitalized? Can you fall into this kind of State? Second Line And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze. What image does this suggest (being

hunched in someones belly)? What literally is the wet fur? What does it suggest figuratively? How does this line set up a contrast to the previous line? What noun is the referent for it? Does the State literally have a belly? Third Line Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,

Why six miles from earth? What does this image do for the poem? Whats the referent of its here? How does the word dream relate to the rest of the poem so far? Why does Jarrell choose the verb loosed? Fourth Line I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters. How do the words and images this line relate

to the previous lines? What is black flak? Is this language an example of euphony or cacophony? What are the nightmare fighters? Fifth Line When I died, they washed me out of the turret with a hose. From what position is this narrator telling of his experiences? Who is they? What effect does using this

language have? What has happened to him, and why is this a vivid way of describing it? Why does he say me instead of my body? Other Features What is the writers view toward what he describes? What controlling metaphor does he use for his experiences? What do you think is his attitude toward

war?

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