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In Some Poems, It's All in the Tone

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Most poems are emotional journeys that move through different moods and tones of voice, according to Dana Gioia, a prominent poet and chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Participants in the "Poetry Out Loud" National Recitation Contest learn how to create a "tone map" for every poem that helps them break apart a poem and assign to different sections a tone that fits the meaning. Following is an example of a tone map provided to students for the poem "Jenny Kissed Me," by James Henry Leigh Hunt.

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SECTION---------------------------------------------------------------- TONE

Jenny kissed me when we met, ------------------------ Fond reminiscence

Jumping from the chair she sat in;--------------------Amused, affectionate

Time, you thief,-------------------------------- Still amused but growing wary

who love to get

Sweets into your list,

Put that in!----------------------------------------------------------- Disdainful

Say I'm weary,----------------------------------------------------- Shrugging

Say I'm sad,--------------------------------------------------- Candid, a little sad

Say that health and wealth have missed me,---- Lightly or playfully regretful

Say I'm growing old,-------------------------------------------- Real regret

But add,---------------------------------------------------------- Rallying, insistent

Jenny kissed me.----------------------------------------- Marveling, contented

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