1.  Shakespeare and Love.

Select any one poem from the “Poems” section of Chapter 20: “Love and Hate,” pages 719 – 735, and compare it to William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130, “My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun,” page 497.  How does the selected poem seem to fit, or not fit, the apparent “philosophy” of “My Mistress’…” regarding how a love poem should be written?  Once again, feel free to use any of the questions that follow the poems to help develop ideas or even to develop your central thesis.  (Alternate for this topic: you may also simply select any 2 poems from the “Love and Hate” section, pages 719-735, and write your comparison, leaving out any discussion of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130.)

2.  The World Around Us.

Select two poems from the “poems” section of Chapter 18, “The World Around Us” (pages 600-608).  These poems deal with issues of nature, man’s interaction with nature, God’s role in the world and our lives, and the divine “nature” of nature.  What is the attitude of the speakers in the selected poems?  Does one get a sense of appreciation? Regret? Loss? Hope? Respect? Fear?  What is the relationship of the speaker and the subject in each poem?  Do the poems seem to be in agreement with each other? Are there key differences?

3.  Identity in America.

Select two poems from the “poems” section of Chapter 24, “Identity in America,” (pages 1104-1116).  Most of the poems in this section touch on what it means to be “American.”.  Many of them also address the question of defining “American,” and they examine the relationships of the many peoples that make America home.  What is your definition of “American”?  What qualities and values do all of us share?  What sets us apart from each other?  What is the attitude of the speakers in the poems?  Does this attitude seem fair or justified? Narrow-minded? Too optimistic?

4.  American Dreams and Nightmares.

Select two poems from the “poems” section of Chapter 25, “American Dreams and Nightmares” (pages 1233-1246).  Like topic 3 (“Identity in America”), the central theme of this section starts with the basic question, “what does it mean to be American”?  What are the values we hold dear?  What are the things that make us unique?  But, this section also shows us that sometimes values and ideals can conflict and taken to extremes, cause harm.  We can also see that though we all may be “Americans,” we are not always necessarily “together” in all things.  How do these poems speak to these values?  What sense comes from the poems? Community? Isolation? Conflict? What person/people/groups are the subject of the poem?  How is it that one man’s “dream” can be another man’s “nightmare”? Be sure to read the quotes that start this chapter on pages 1184-1185.

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