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Student discussion: Feelings

In the first of our round table discussions between Rebecca and University of Reading students, they discuss poetry as an experience or an event.
We want to begin by thinking about a poem as an experience or an event. And an experience or an event is something that often stirs feelings in us. And we’re going to be thinking about that word ‘feelings’ in two different ways. We’re going to be thinking about feelings as in emotions. How does this poem make us feel and what kind of emotions do we find expressed in this poem? But we’re also going to be thinking about that word ‘feelings’, as in something that we can feel, something that we can touch. What does this poem feel like to us? So let’s begin. Would anybody like to kick off with some of the emotional qualities of this poem?
How does this poem make you feel? I personally found the poem, reading it the first time, to be quite lonely and isolated. The line breaks and some of the words, the enjambment at the end of ‘pictured’ and verbs like ‘thought’, it kind of gives this idea of miscommunication. So I thought it was lonely, but she’s talking to someone else, but we don’t know who the other person is. So I felt quite alone when I was reading the poem. Right. So that sense of loneliness and isolation. Those are really strong qualities in this poem. Are there any– would the other people agree? Did you also have that sense? I think it’s just kind of sad, in kind of a wistful way.
So not necessarily sad about what’s happened, but kind of sad that it’s past, if that makes sense. I feel like some kind relationship between the narrator and the– who they’re talking about the maybe. It doesn’t exist anymore, or it’s changed. And like you’re saying, that leads to kind of the isolation and just– it’s just sad. I think I’d absolutely agree. The whole reading through the poem for the first time, it kind of left this sense of loss or longing, almost. The whole thing just felt very drawn out. It felt like an old– like thinking of an old memory or looking through an old photo that means a lot to you or something along those lines. I did really like it.
Yeah, great. Some lovely adjectives. Loneliness and wistful and sad and that sense of something past, a memory. Can I ask you about feeling the poem? This is a little bit harder. Emotions, we can respond to. But it’s quite odd to think about a poem as having a sense of touch. If you had to describe what this poem feels like, what would you say? That’s actually really interesting, because one thing that really got me about this poem was actually, as you said, how much it has a particular feeling where it’s almost tactile. I think for this particular poem, the first thing which struck me is it just felt very drawn out. It felt very– it felt soft, I guess.
Yeah, great, yes. I think soft is– I think we’re sometimes hesitant to put adjectives like that on poems. Because you think, well, how can a poem be soft? But I think that’s a really lovely adjective for this poem. Are there particular parts of this poem that draw your attention, that call out to you, that you want to zoom in on? I think at the beginning of the poem, in the first stanza, you’ve got the plosive alliteration, the ‘perhaps Patagonia’ and ‘pictured a peninsula’. So I think that’s quite delicate. It gives a sound quality of easiness, and also the ‘perhaps’ kind of indicates a spontaneity to ‘perhaps Patagonia’, just maybe.
So while there is that yearning and there’s that I thought and I pictured and those kind of reminiscent qualities, there’s also something easy and delicate about it. That’s right. And that’s a lovely adjective, delicate. And that plosive sound, that puh, puh, puh sound is a very gentle sound on our lips, isn’t it? So the sound world of the poem creates that sense of delicacy. That’s a lovely thing to think about.
It’s something about kind of the raw emotion, I want to say, at the ending, in that kind of the first four stanzas are quite kind of descriptive and calm and kind of more relaxed in that sense, whereas the last– kind of the last lines of the fourth stanza are leading into the last couplet. It just seems very much more a kind of raw emotion and letting that come through. So ‘empty aching blue’ and then ‘all of them with you’. I don’t know. It just seems very kind of intense emotion. I think I agree with that, and I think it’s partially because of the alliteration that you’re mentioning in the first stanza.
Those first four lines are, as you say, it’s very easy. It’s very soft. When you get to the end and it says– and it ends almost with ‘Patagonia’ again, I think to a certain degree you’re expecting that same feeling that’s almost been established. And then it goes into this very intense ‘I meant’, ‘I meant’, ‘I meant’ with this really intense ‘empty aching’ and ‘years’, and the entire thing just, it ends on this very intense kind of note. Like really contrasted against that very sort of soft sort of pleasant beginning, I suppose.
And I think that’s a great point, Elliot, that when the poet returns at the end of the fourth stanza and says, ‘when I spoke of Patagonia’ and you think, oh, we’ve been here before. We’ve heard about Patagonia before. But the end is somehow different from the beginning, and we’ve lost that sense of gentleness and delicacy, and now there’s much more of a sense of yearning and angst and sorrow. So there’s a kind of shift of emotion through the poem. We’ve had a really wonderful first discussion of this poem. It’s been hugely exciting, and we’ve all seen things in the poem that we hadn’t seen before.
So what we’d really like you to do now is to share this poem with somebody else. See what parts of the poem they are drawn to. Are they the same as the ones that you are drawn to? Which images or ideas really captured your imagination and your attention?
In the previous Step you considered what feelings you thought were expressed in ‘Patagonia’, and what your own feelings were in response to the poem.
In the first of our round table discussions, watch University of Reading students Elliot, Yinka-Maria and Alannah, discuss with Rebecca their own thoughts and feelings about the poem. They consider how the literary techniques used make them feel both emotionally and physically. While watching the video consider the following questions and feel free to share your thoughts in the discussion area after.
Did any of the observations in the discussion match your own? Did you notice anything different?
In the next Step, we move to our next point of focus: Patterns. Here, you’ll consider the form and structure of the poem and the impact they have on you as you read.

Course tip

We provide a written transcript of each video in this course which you may find useful. You can find this by clicking ‘view transcript’ found underneath each video or at the bottom of the Step under the heading ‘downloads’.
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