A microtheme is one-page, single-spaced (approx. 500 word) analysis paper that focuses on a specific poem or a specific moment in a poem. Think of it as a microscope, and just as a microscope is used to zoom in on a particular organism or its constitutive parts in order to extrapolate and formulate larger concepts about the nature of the thing or its species, so should your microtheme zoom in on a poem, paying particular attention to its diction, figurative language, rhymes, rhythms, symbols and whatever else you find pertinent to an interpretation of it.

In your microthemes, you will be practicing what literary scholars call close reading (or slow reading).

You are required to write 7 of microthemes. They are due the day we discuss the respective group of poems, and should be posted in the respective Forum as well as submitted as a hard copy to me. They are to be written about a poem and not a poetics essay. Though you are required to write 7, you can write more. I will count your best 7 toward your grade. If you prefer, you can substitute one microtheme with a video recording of you reading a poem for that week. You must post this video to our Readings page. This video counts as full-credit, graded on completion. Be inventive.

They are to be formal in tone; I expect coherent, grammatically correct, logical papers. Yet while formal, these essays are meant to be exploratory, and there are a couple of ways you might approach them. You might attempt to explain a poem, paying particular attention to the way it marshals particular poetic devices. Or say you find a poem incredibly confusing. You should describe the nature of the difficulty. Rather than explain the poem per se, you would discuss the techniques that make it difficult to understand as precisely as you can. Maybe a metaphor seems illogical, and so you would want to explain why it is illogical. Any paper that fails to meet the standards of college writing will require a rewrite. If you have to do five or more rewrites, you cannot get higher than a C for the course. They are due the day we begin to discuss a particular text. (If, for example, we discuss Frank O’Hara’s “Having A Coke With You” on Thursday, a microtheme about that poem is due that day, online and in hard copy, not after we discuss it.)

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