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A Generic Name for a Genre

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Even though poetry is a generic name for a genre, it impresses by the variety of styles and approaches chosen by the author. Poems are the finely selected metaphors of author’s thoughts and dreams, refined and tailored according to individual preference. Regardless a unique and unrepeatable craftsmanship of each poet, the similarities are noticeable among their works too. In order to prove such, I have chosen to analyze poems My life has stood a loaded gun by Emily Dickinson (Kennedy & Gioia 771), and Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer Day? by William Shakespeare (Kennedy & Gioia 768).

The poem “My Life Has Stood a Loaded Gun” expresses rage of the speaker, who compares the tension in her life with a loaded gun, which is about to fire. It brings us close to understanding Emily Dickinson as it transmits an infinite destructive power of desperate violence of a female artist of the nineteenth century, who feels through each written masterpiece, yet is underestimated and is judged for her passion because of gender difference.

In contrast, the theme of the poem “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer Day?” by William Shakespeare ignites the heart of the reader with a soft summer breathe and fills the reader with hope and serenity. Shakespeare discloses the concept of love and peace through the description of the natural course of life. Being a romantic, the poet creates the atmosphere of a connectedness to the nature. He emphasizes natural processes, such as cycles of day, blooming, and life.

Emily Dickinson has made an interesting choice of combining fourteen common alternating eight-syllable and six-syllable lines in Iambic meter, which sounds almost as a lullaby in her poem with the negative and pessimistic mood. The poet decides to structure purposefully the words in a hymn-like manner in order to make sense of what she feels, but cannot express in public due to the societal rules of her époque. The meter also may be symbolically envisioned as loading and firing of a gun, representing the theme of life and death.

“Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer Day?” was written in a famous Shakespearian sonnet, which is composed of three quatrains and final couplet in Iambiac pentameter. Contrasting the Emily Dickinson’s poem, the sonnet has a rhyming scheme. Such structure brings a feeling of lightness and weightlessness of freedom.

Although these two poems are different in époque, the authors’ gender, and the structure, both authors use the same linguistic approaches. Both poems use the same figures of speech, therefore, creating a particular mood for the reader. They are filled with comparisons of a person with an inanimate object: “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?” (Kennedy & Gioia 768), or nature “And now We roam in Sovreign Woods - And now We hunt the Doe” (Kennedy & Gioia 771), which give to poems a romantic side of theme development. Both poets have in common usage of the similes to compare one thing to another: “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see” (Kennedy & Gioia 768); “It is as a Vesuvian face had let its pleasure through” (Kennedy & Gioia 771). In addition, they both use intentional puns to create a duality of understanding in their works. The usage of metaphors is also common in both poems by Shakespeare and Dickinson.

In conclusion, poetry genre has more differences than similarities depending on a variety of factors. Nonetheless, poetry always has some elements in common. Regardless the difference in époque, when the poems were written, the gender of the poets and style of writing, compared in this essay, share in common figurative language as a literary approach.

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