W.B. Yeats’ “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” & Bernadette Mayer’s “Sonnet (You Jerk)”


W.B. Yeats’ The Lake Isle of Innisfree & Bernadette Mayer’s Sonnet (You Jerk) .

When I teach intro poetry classes, I have found that playing these recordings next to one another provoked a lively discussion of diction, tone, etc. Obviously, the contrast between these two poets and poems is fairly stark, but we also look at any formal similarities between the poems. We talk about the ways these two recordings might distort one another. For example, students often pick up on Yeats’ elevated diction and contrast than to Mayer’s generally conversational word choice, but there are often several words and references in Mayer’s poem that students are not familiar with, and we talk about that too. The idea is not to come out with an aesthetic winner, but to talk about both content and context in a more organic, experiential way than listing and defining terms on the board. I like this kind of discussion because students build an understanding of terms and techniques out of their own concrete perceptual experiences.


2 Responses to “W.B. Yeats’ “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” & Bernadette Mayer’s “Sonnet (You Jerk)””

  1. 1 MoGa

    Hi Eric,

    I’d send you an email and do this privately, but I can’t find one for you. A few things: first, I read the latest Sentence on my way home from Denver, and seeing your contribution reminded me of how much I love the final poem in Tuned Droves. I would love to reprint that poem in Willows Wept Review (http://willowsweptreview.blogspot.com), if you’re interested; second, I read a few others of yours in invisible ear, and one of them very much reminded me of one of my own:


    doves come for love, used things, hoping to allude on a tar-dark night to the topography of your mouth: tongue, holes, eat and blow are words I ink on fraying wings of paper I love to over-fold like hard sharp origami. Your name in my mouth can solute, you know, just as the body of this letter in my teeth, all disassembled, lodging one along another until I sing your love letter and sink; and to think, your molasses-inks letter right there, over coffee, where, in the next dimension, you will storm like an infection.

    Anyway, hope to hear from you soon. My email is molly.gaudry@gmail.com.


  2. 2 MoGa

    Whoops, not sure why I thought you were in Sentence. I guess I just meant invisible ear . . . hmmm. Sorry about that.

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