This week in class we read poems from a number of 20th and 21st century poets:

  • Ted Kooser
  • Mary Karr
  • Dylan Thomas
  • Wilfred Owen
  • James Wright
  • Wendell Berry

There were two final notes we made about the poetry section:

First, we noted that attending to things such as poetic feet (iambs, trochees, dactyls, etc.), meter, and rhyme scheme helps us to be better students of language. It makes us more attentive to detail and forces us to be more sensitive to the ways that imagery, pronunciation, and so on can influence the way a piece of writing is received. Even if you never write another poem, the concern with details and imagery that you hopefully learn from spending time with great poets will be useful to you as a writer.

Second, we noted that good poetry can help us see a familiar thing in a new way, thereby developing empathy for other people, other ideas, etc. The point here is not that we need to agree with or approve of a thing, but we do need to be capable of understanding how a person could come to think a certain thing or behave in a certain way. Good poetry, which will usually see its subjects in some kind of sympathetic way, can help us to do that. (We looked specifically at James Wright’s poems about the upper midwest, Kooser’s poem about his mother, and Berry’s poem about a Russian woodsman.)

Turning toward persuasive writing, we’re going to¬†start off by talking about basic rhetorical principles, beginning with pathos, ethos, and logos. Watch this video for a quick overview:

Then read this brief post that helps give some additional examples of ethos, pathos, and logos.

Next, read this post from Copyblogger that talks in more detail about different ways to write persuasively.

Finally, as an exercise in learning to identify how some of these principles are used in actual argumentation, read this Facebook post from one of your senators, Sen. Ben Sasse.

NOTE: I don’t care if you agree or disagree with Sen. Sasse and we won’t talk about¬†that in class. What I want you to do is read what one of your elected officials has written and observe how he makes his argument. Try to identify how he uses pathos, how he uses logos, and how he uses ethos to make his case. Come prepared to discuss that.