A Poem’s Expectations: Attention To Connotation (2015-07-08)

A Poem’s Expectations: Attention To Connotation (2015-07-08)

It is more worthwhile to write a mediocre poem than to write a great instruction manual.” —Hippokrites

We are accustomed to reading for denotation, for information. If a gardening guide says where to plant your roses, you don’t think about all the connotations of the word ‘rose’. “A rose is a rose is a rose,” as Gertrude Stein wrote—albeit ironically.

But in carefully constructed literary works, connotation is of great importance. The word ‘rose’ has all sorts of resonances. It is a traditional symbol of love and beauty. The red rose is also a symbol of the blood of the Christian martyrs, as well as the adopted symbol of socialists. Not to mention that it is the national flower of England and the floral emblem of the United States. Being aware of these connotations and the context in which the word appears greatly enriches the effect of a poem.

Robbie Burns’ “My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose.”


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