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"First Steps" by Floyd Skloot
1. How does the shape of this poem reflect the story the poem tells? How would you describe the shape of this poem?
2. What is your impression of the speaker in this poem? What is his relationship with his illness? How would you describe him as a person based on what he reveals about himself in the poem?
3. When you see the word “Frankenstein,” what happens to your visual image of the speaker walking? The speaker says he does not walk like Frankenstein or a tottering child. Does that stop you from seeing him walk in those ways?
4. There are many clichés in this poem. Normally, writers try to avoid clichés. Why does the poet use them here? How do they work for the poem? How many can you identify?
5. What has the speaker learned from his illness? What is his attitude?
6. What feelings does this poem evoke in you?
7. What makes the speaker dizzy? Notice how you feel in your body as you read the poem. Does the poem have a visceral effect on you? If so, what aspects of the poem cause that visceral effect?
8. The title, “First Steps,” has multiple meanings. How would you describe those different layers of meaning?
Changing Life Philosophies
"Another Life" by Susan Varon
1. What is this speaker’s relationship with her physical condition?
2. What comes to your mind when you notice someone walking with a cane or a limp? Do you think people have preconceived ideas about people who have physical disabilities?
3. How does the description of the canes “lying forgotten” apply to the speaker and her friend?
4. What is the mood of the speaker?
5. How does the speaker perceive the people “above her head”? How does she describe them?
6. What does the title, “Another Life,” refer to in the poem? How many layers of meaning can you identify?
7. Where are there “connections” in the poem? Where are moments of separation?
8. Which line or lines stand out for you?
9. What sounds does the speaker refer to in the poem? What do those sounds add to the poem?
10. Do you feel distance from the speaker? Do you feel connection with the speaker? Is it possible to feel both at the same time?
Coming to Terms with/Humanizing the “Other”
"Sleeping on the Perimeter" by Gaynell Gavin
1. Is there a connection between veterans “securing the perimeter” and the difficulty experienced by survivors of life-threatening illnesses in acknowledging their survival?
2. How is the Vietnam War used in the writer’s method of character development?
3. In what ways does the piece’s structure reflect the main themes of the story?
4. What are the various forms of conflict represented throughout this piece? Who do they involve? What are their causes?
5. What types of connections are forged through war and how? What types of connections are ruptured and how?
6. How does war affect the combatants? How are they transformed (psychologically, physically, etc.)? What does war do to their humanity and that of the “enemy”?
7. Numerous scars and wounds are described in this piece. Who is scarred and how? How do those affected deal with the scars and wounds (their own and others)?
8. What role does the excerpt from Tobias Wolff’s memoir play in this piece? What does he say about “jumping”?
"Survivor" by Eamon Grennan
1. Who is the survivor in this poem?
2. What happens with your breath as you read the poem? How does the architecture of the poem work to affect your breath? Your heart rate?
3. Imagine what the bee might be feeling when it is captured…as it is held…when it is freed.
4. What do you think the speaker feels as he captures, then holds, the releases the bee?
5. What purpose does it serve to have no breaks in the poem so that it seems to rush forward?
6. How do the sounds in the poem heighten its meaning? Which words call to each other?
7. What does the speaker mean by “of this world, and yet beyond it…”?
8. How many different references to pulse can you find in the poem? Why is the pulse and heartbeat so important in this poem?
9. What images would you describe as soft in this poem?
10. How would you describe the “puzzle of the world,” as it relates to the speaker and his encounter with the bee? Have you ever captured an insect and held it captive? Set it free? Do you remember how it felt to capture and then free it?
"Whatever is Left" by Cortney Davis
1. Why do you think the mother wants whatever is left of her fetus?
2. Why do you think the mother gives the “blood and small bones” a name?
3. How does the image of the plastic cup work for the poem? What does it tell you about the difference in how the institution of the hospital perceives “what is left” versus how the mother sees it?
4. How would you characterize the speaker’s attitude toward the mother? What actions show she is caring? What actions show she is part of the hospital culture?
5. How does the shape of the poem affect its subject matter?
6. Why do you think the poet repeats the word cup through the poem?
Death of a Child
"Visual Anguish and Looking at Art" by Carol Zoref
1. “The brain, having been asked to understand faster than it can absorb, replays the unprocessed stimuli again and again.” Does this relate to the responses many of us feel when we experience sudden personal loss or devastating illness?
2. Does the mind’s repetition of trauma serve a useful purpose?
3. How does the narrator struggle to express something indescribable? What kinds of words or means of expression does she eschew? Why?
4. How does the narrator view metaphor and simile? Why might these modes of description become ineffectual or defunct through the experience of 9/11?
5. What effect does location (proximity and distance from the event both physically and temporally) create? Between whom does it create a disconnect?
6. How does the narrator represent the disruption between sense perception and knowledge/understanding caused by the sights, sounds, and smells of 9/11?
7. Why is “desire” a “troublesome word” in the context of 9/11?
8. How is the narrator disconnected from her own body?
9. What does the sentiment “I ache for something greater for my senses” express?
10. What does “the eminence of place” mean for the narrator?
11. The narrator juxtaposes 9/11 with scenes of foreign and distant destruction and war mediated through artistic representation? How do they reflect upon each other?
12. What are the different forms of seeing in this piece? Who is looking at what and how is the viewer affected?
13. How does the art of Kenro Izu affect the narrator? Does the art of Bruegel the Elder affect the narrator differently? Why?
14. What are the various psychological terms that appear in this piece? What reflections do they inspire? To what are they applied?
15. How does the narrator find the path to recovery? What role does art play in this discovery and what is the nature of the healing process?
16. To what does the “it” of the last “Have you seen it?” refer?
"Strategy" by Samuel Menashe
1. How does brevity serve this poem? How does it embody the speaker’s strategy for life and survival?
2. What do you think the lines “We are given/What we did not ask” mean in this poem?
3. Why do you think the poet chose not to use punctuation? How does that choice serve the poem? What do you think about the two dashes after the word “task”?
4. What is the poem’s intent? How does the rhyme scheme contribute to the poem’s intent?
5. What is the mood of the speaker?
"Bereavement and Beyond" by Joan Kip
1. Does the author’s “professional” knowledge help her to deal with her own grief?
2. Would reading Joan Kip’s story help others who are grieving?
3. What traditional tenets of mourning does the narrator debunk? What rules/facts of mourning does she offer in their stead?
4. What kind of community does shared mourning create?
5. How has the narrator been transformed by the loss of her husband?
6. At what point does the author arrive at her epiphany?
7. What is the relationship between time and memory? In what ways does Kip express this relationship?
"In the End" by Robert Nazarene
1. What do you think “the end” means to the speaker? How would you describe “the end”?
2. How does the repetition of “the end” work for this poem?
3. How would you describe the shape of this poem? What feeling does it evoke for you?
4. What unspoken images come to your mind as you read this poem?
Consciousness of Death, Time