What a student can actually find in Blake's "London" is, indeed, pretty remarkable, but it's important that we give them the chance to show what they can find. Too often when we teach poetry, we want so much to explicate something that is particularly cryptic or simply illuminate their understanding of the beauty of the poet's language. There's nothing wrong with a bit of this, of course. But we must also give them a chance to let their mind interact with a poem.
That's when we get something like this...
The mind-forged manacles rule, and I love the marriage hearse, but perhaps the best part of Maddie's visual brainstorming is an area in the middle where she makes a number of valuable insights about the poem:
Not only has the visual brainstorming allowed Maddie to articulate the importance of Blake's use of anaphora in the poem, but it's led her to draw a structure that symbolically represents a jail with the rather Blakean slogan: "Inmate 337: Individuality."
I could have told Maddie where to find anaphora, alliteration, consonance, and other figures of speech in the poem, but by providing her with time for minimally-guided inquiry, she's ended up doing this herself quite nicely...
...And I'm not about to stop her!
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Dr. Glen Downey is an award-winning children's author, educator, and academic from Oakville, Ontario. He works as a children's writer for Rubicon Publishing, a reviewer for PW Comics World, an editor for the Sequart Organization, and serves as the Chair of English and Drama at The York School in Toronto.
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