for Students of English Worldwide
Sometimes poets use opposite or contradictory statements to express many sides of a feeling. After all, smooth surfaces can be dangerously deep (think of the smooth surface of a deep lake, for instance). Joseph Ceravolo, who worked as an engineer, suggests that natural objects that we often take for granted can be viewed as extraordinary, even unnatural. In the following two poems Ceravolo looks at trees and finds they contain wild feelings.
When the First Tree Blossoms
Snow fall like April:
the icicles stick. Like April
the birds float.
It is white foam.
Like April when the first tree blossoms
and you do not know it.
Happiness in the Trees
O height dispersed and head
in sometimes joining
these sleeps. O primitive touch
between fingers and dawn
on the back
You are no more
simple than a cedar tree
whose children change
the interesting earth
and promise to shake her
before the wind blows
away from you
in the velocity of rest
1) spikes of ice _______
2) quiet or sleep _______
3) to unite _______
4) pledge or vow _______
5) speed _______
6) flowers _______
7) scattered _______
1) breaking up _______
2) sophisticated _______
3) activity _______
4) slowness ________
5) unfasten _______
6) almost never _______
1) Another way of expressing "foam" is "a mass of bubbles."
2) The words "rest" and "velocity" contain opposite ideas.
3) "Primitive" means "ugly."
4) "Joining is like "sticking."
5) "Promise" is like "vow."
6) "Icicles" and "blossoms" are opposites.
7) When the wind "blows" it "moves."
8) "Dispersed" means "united."
9) "Height" means the opposite of "tallness."
10) "Sometimes" means "always."
Is "white foam" the birds, flowers, or snow, or all three? What do you think?
What words show the speaker is awake?
Do you agree that a cedar tree is "simple"?
The cedar tree's children "promise to shake her." To whom does "her" refer?
What metaphors describe the trees and saplings?
What metaphors describe the movement of the wind?
hot / cold
sunrise / sunset
grandmother pink / baby boy blue
animal / human
flying / stationary
modern / antique
After you have compiled your own list, write down some ideas connected to or associated with these opposites. Examples:
modern = scientific, new, bought at a store
antique = made by hand, old, sometimes "handed down" in one's family
hot = July, peppers, Amazon
cold = February, lime frosting, the North Pole
Now using a few words from your own lists of opposites and associated ideas, write a poem that contains one or two oppopsite or contradictory feelings. If you like, make these feelings become a totally new feeling.