Multiple multicoloureded umbrellas, opened and clustered together.

What do you feel?

The word ‘feeling’ has several meanings, all of which are important when you start to read a poem.

‘Feelings’ can refer to emotions. If someone hurts our feelings they cause us emotional pain; if we experience feelings of joy, we’re in a happy emotional state. To have strong feelings about something – whether negative or positive – suggests a powerful, emotional response.

The word ‘feeling’ can also suggest a physical sensation. We feel things when we touch them. As our bodies encounter objects, they experience softness, roughness, heat, cold, wetness and any number of other qualities through our sense of touch.

When we say, “I have a feeling about something,” we use our intuition to understand it. And if we share our feelings, we offer our personal thoughts and opinions.

Of course, there are close connections between these different meanings of the word ‘feeling’. We experience our emotions in and through our bodies. When we touch something, our response is often emotional as well as physical. Our feelings or opinions are products of our ideas, our emotions, and our personal, physical experiences of the world around us.

When we begin close reading a poem, we need to acknowledge our feelings. Consider the following:

Does the poem inspire an emotional response in you? What kind of response? Is that response a reflection of emotions expressed in the poem, or is it a reaction against them?

If the poem were an object or a room, what would it feel like? Would it be rough, smooth, flat, dry, soft, bright, dark or something else altogether? Can you identify what it is about the poem that makes you consider it in this way?

What feelings do you have about the poem? Where do those feelings come from – something in the poem, something about you, or a combination of the two?


Task

Read ‘Patagonia’ through again, this time really focusing on feelings.

  • What feelings are expressed in the poem, and what do you feel in response to them?
  • Imagine touching the poem. What does it feel like?
  • What feelings do you have about the poem after you’ve finished reading it a few times?

You may want to consider whether the feelings expressed in the poem, and your feelings about the poem, are the same all the way through, or whether they change and develop between the beginning of the poem and its end.

Feelings of a poem can deliver some challenging aspects to discuss, especially in the physical sense. In the next Step, you delve further as you meet Rebecca and the students who discuss their feelings and interpretation of the poem.

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This article is from the free online course:

A-level Study Boost: Unseen Poetry and the Creative Process

University of Reading