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What do you feel?

Feelings can be both emotional and physical. In this Step, you'll consider how understanding our feelings can help us to make sense of poetry.
Multiple multicoloureded umbrellas, opened and clustered together.
© University of Reading
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? It can take a bit of an imaginative leap to think about what the room of a poem feels like. You may want to think about the poem’s sounds and rhythms. What kind of texture do they have? Are they rough and bumpy, bright and cool, delicate and intricate, or something else? The shape of a poem can act like the walls, ceiling and floor of a room. It might be long and thin, tiny and cramped, wide and expansive, uneven or regular. Try out a few different adjectives and see which ones fit. It can take courage to do this if it’s not something you’re used to doing. Remember, there’s no right answer: you’re just trying to notice something about the poem that you might not have seen at first.

Task (10-15 minutes)

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?
  • Where do those feelings come from – something in the poem, something about you, or a combination of the two?
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 explore this further as you meet Rebecca and the students who discuss their feelings and interpretation of the poem.

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© University of Reading
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