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The tone of A Poet’s Advice To Students by ee cummings is matter-of-fact and conversational, almost deliberately understated. A poet, apparently, ‘ is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feeling through words.’ ee cummings is being very deliberately obvious here, and the effect on some readers will be one of surprise, on others, disapproval ! The poet then goes on to say that
this may sound easy, but isn't.Cummings may be speaking to a captive readership here also, knowing that those who really matter (aspiring poets) are not there to be clever or publish damning critiques, but to learn. The poet knows they are curious and will read on, piqued by the easiness and approachability of the tone.
‘A lot of people think or believe or know they feel - but that's thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling.’ Cummings continues, here having lots of poor struggling poetry students identify with the feeling - and the tone as it becomes more profound and serious helps to deliver the message that a true poet must write with his heart, his emotions, not his intellect or conscience. Now the tone becomes more directly opinionated and educational ‘ And poetry is feeling - not knowing or believing or thinking.’ He is challenging the reader, and then starts to use a questioning tone, perhaps to get them thinking. Cummings finishes up by using an advisory tone, like a famous celebrity or even a teacher ‘And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world’ until they reach the startling ending , more shocking in tone, ‘unless you're not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.’ Here Cummings throws down the gauntlet to test his budding poetry student readers and the tone is more assertive. The poet finishes with a more reassuring and comforting and inspirational tone though as he ends
‘Does this sound dismal? It isn't.’ giving them that important thing - hope! The poet’s tone in the lines
‘It's the most wonderful life on earth. ‘ may convey the real opinion.
Look at the tone of the second poem in the same way, and make similar notes as you read down. Now you want to examine the form of each poem, to see how much it contributes to message and tone. They can be written in many forms which direct their length, line length,their layout on the page,whether rhyme is present and the actual rhyme scheme, their meter or rhythmic structure of lines, and so on. Often, forms are associated with certain genres - for example sonnets make lovely love poems. Ballad form is good for storytelling or narrative poetry. Poets decide which form to select, and form always affects content, maybe to underpin it or to challenge it – a poet might deliberately pick a sonnet form for example, when really he wants to create a sour bitter poem about romantic rejection. So compare your two poems in the light of these questions, be bold about your feelings but make sure you can back them up by referring always back to the poem.
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