How to swallow a poem
Waiting for the Barbarians
- Write down your first impressions. What thoughts or images come to mind? What words or phrases stand out? Do you make any word associations-do other words come to mind that aren’t in the poem? Do you feel connected to the poem? If yes, what is the connection about? If no, where is the disconnect for you?
After reading through the poem, the first image I got was a confused, disillusioned, and resigned community. The words “The barbarians are coming today” stood out as the poem’s main theme. I associated the words with anticipation, fear, and terror. I connected with the poem’s theme relating to moments when I felt terrified of losing and winning in an argument.
- Focus on the mood that you feel in the poem. Write down the mood words that fit for you.
The people in the poem are scared of the expected barbarians, creating a mood of terror and confusion. Rather than fear, the poem also creates a resigned mood represented by the senators who are not doing their work as they wait for the barbarians. Ultimately, the poet changes the poem’s mood to sadness and frustration after the awaited guests fail to come noting “those people were kind of solution.” The mood fits my feelings when fighting emotionally, arguments are confusing, and their end can be sad.
- Lookup any words you need to define, and write the definitions here:
Barbarians: Barbarian refers to brutal and uncivilized people. The word may also refer to a stranger with different ethnicity and cultural practices.
Legislating: Legislating refers to the process of creating and enacting laws.
- Look at the structure of the poem. What do you notice about its shape? How would you describe its shape, the line breaks, the length of the line, the length of the stanzas? Is this a structure you recognize? What do you think the structure says about this poem?