English Literature Unseen Poets - Angelou and Harrison

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What is the background of Maya Angelou? (early 1900s to early 2000s)
She had a difficult childhood in Southern USA. Her parents divorced at 3 and at 8 she was abused by her mum's boyfriend. She became mute and didn't speak for five years. She spoke again by reading poetry out loud.
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What themes are common to Angelou's poems?
She writes about oppression, ageing and love.
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What does she write about oppression?
She wrote about oppression based on race, sex and poverty and how people respond to oppression, loss and hardship. She focuses on the strenght of the human spirit.
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What did she write about love and ageing?
Her poems deal with getting older and also family love and relationships. She writes realistically about love -the bad and the good.
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What devices are often used in her poetry?
She uses repetition, imagery and unusual structures.
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How is her use of repetition effective?
She often repeats words, phrases and entire stanzas to emphasise her point. It makes her poems sound like they have a chorus. It makes them good to read aloud.
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What does she use to create effective imagery?
She uses similes and metaphors to create imagery.
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What about her use of structure?
Some have a regular structure but a lot don't. She emphasises words by separating them on a new line which makes them fun to read aloud.
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What is Tony Harrison's background? (1937 to present)
He is from Leeds and his dad was a baker. He won a scholarship to a grammar school and studied Classics at uni. He taught English before becoming a full time poet. He also writes plays for stage and screen and he translates texts.
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What are the main themes of his poems?
Family, class and politics.
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What does he say about family?
His parent's didn't understand or like his poetry and as he became more educated he lost connection with his parents. He writes about the conflict between them, but also about happy memories and his grief of their deaths.
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What did he write about class?
His education set him apart from his working class roots and he often writes about divisions between social classes. He is critical of intolerance and class snobbery.
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What did he write about politics?
Some of his poems reflect his views on current events. He speaks out against groups enforcing their will on others based on race, geography, political and religious views.
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What devices are used in his poetry?
He often uses direct speech, rhyme and classical forms.
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How is direct speech used?
He often writes parts of a poem in his parents' voice by writing in a Yorkshire accent. His poems use a lot of colloquial language and swearing to demonstrate his working class roots.
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How is rhyme used?
His poems often use a strict rhyme scheme which imposes order on complex, chaotic feelings and ideas. They have a regular rhythm that makes them sound like speech.
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How does Harrison use classical forms?
He uses poetic forms such as sonnets and elegies and techniques like alliteration, yet his subjects are modern and working class. This shows that human nature and concerns remain the same, regardless of time, place and background.
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Card 2

Front

What themes are common to Angelou's poems?

Back

She writes about oppression, ageing and love.

Card 3

Front

What does she write about oppression?

Back

Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4

Front

What did she write about love and ageing?

Back

Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5

Front

What devices are often used in her poetry?

Back

Preview of the front of card 5
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