Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Owls prompt

In "Owls," Mary Oliver conveys the complexity of her response to nature through the use of imagery, juxtaposition, and highly complex syntax.
Oliver begins her piece by describing the great horned owl in all its majesty and terror. She can hear the "heavy, crisp, breathy snapping of its hooked beak;" she stumbles upon the "headless bodies of rabbits and bluejays" knowing that the owl killed them because it has "an insatiable craving for the taste of brains." She says, "If it could, it would eat the whole world." And yet, she is as attracted by the night killer as she is repelled by it. She sees herself and the owl as "standing at the edge of the mystery" and says that "the world where the owl is endlessly hungry and endlessly on the hunt is the world in which I live too."
From the vivid description of the bloodthirsty owl, Oliver jumps to, of all things, flowers. Poppies or lupines, and roses. They are "red and pink and white tents of softness." This sudden change, this juxtaposition, emphasizes again her complex response to nature. One minute she sees death on the wing, then she is enraptured by flowers. But....soon the flowers take on a kind of sinister air. They become "excessive" and an "immutable force." Perhaps she sees them marching over the sand dunes and taking over the world?
Throughout the piece, Oliver uses highly sophisticated and complex syntax. Beginning in line 45, one sentence utilizes asyndeton, polysyndeton, parallel structure, multiple independent and dependent clauses--all to emphasize her extremely complex response to nature. She is struck, taken, conquered, washed into it; she can't move, is restless no more, replete, supine, finished, filled to the last edges. And this is not only fulfilling and wonderful to her, it is also "terrible" and "frightening."

1 comment:

Christine said...

Hello Sherry,

Lens 1: Affect
Watching you teach, I now see why it is so important for a teacher to be an expert in his/her field. You have an expansive knowledge of literary devices and writers’ craft, and it is evident that you have much to teach your class. This feeling kept me engaged because I wanted to learn from you.

Lens 2: Best Practices
I noticed several best practices woven throughout the lesson. Before reading, students reviewed several literary devices through nursery rhymes/ songs: metaphor, rhetorical question, etc. This activated prior knowledge and connected to the lesson. A few new devices were taught and linked to a concrete object—candy!! (I’m not sure if you’ve heard of the terms: jackdaws or artifacts, but they are interchangeable terms used to describe your candy connection. By connecting learning to an object, it then becomes symbolic of the learning and can be collected and used to jog memory at a later date to recall the learning more easily. There’s lots of research on that topic, which I’ll bet you already knew. ) After the reading students were given an opportunity to discuss as they were writing in response to the reading.

Lens 3: Standards
Thanks for adding the AP standards to your lesson plan; it was very thoughtful.

Lens 4: Extensions and Adaptations
You have reminded me of the power of jackdaws, which I will share with my staff this year. Also, you have illustrated many craft devices that I haven’t know, which intermediate students can incorporate, like parallelism and asyndeton.
Lens 5: Questions arisen.
I’m wondering what models you provide your students to help them compose essays. Are there some exemplary models out there?
Thank you, Sherry. I really enjoyed learning from you today.