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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

THE INSTRUCTION MANUAL, by         Recitation     Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"The Instruction Manual" is a poem by John Ashbery, an American poet and writer who was associated with the New York School of poetry. The poem was first published in 1961 as part of Ashbery's collection of poems, "The Tennis Court Oath."

Context:

The poem was written in the early 1960s, a time of great social and political change in the United States, particularly with regard to the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. The poem reflects Ashbery's interest in the avant-garde and experimental styles of poetry that were emerging during this time, as well as his exploration of language and meaning.

Content:

"The Instruction Manual" is a poem that explores the theme of instruction and the ways in which we learn and acquire knowledge. The speaker of the poem notes the many different ways in which we are instructed, from reading manuals and following directions to observing the natural world around us. The poem emphasizes the importance of observation and attention to detail in learning, as well as the role of imagination and creativity in interpreting the world around us.

Structure:

"The Instruction Manual" is written in free verse, with no consistent meter or rhyme scheme. The poem is divided into two parts, with each part contributing to the overall theme and structure of the poem. The first part of the poem emphasizes the importance of instruction and the many different ways in which we learn, while the second part of the poem explores the role of imagination and creativity in interpreting the world around us.

Poetic Elements:

The poem makes use of a variety of poetic techniques and devices, including imagery, metaphor, and repetition. The use of metaphor helps to create a sense of the many different ways in which we learn, while the repetition of certain phrases emphasizes the importance of observation and attention to detail in acquiring knowledge.

Summary:

"The Instruction Manual" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the theme of instruction and the ways in which we learn and acquire knowledge. The poem's use of metaphor and repetition creates a sense of the complexity of the learning process, emphasizing the importance of observation and imagination in interpreting the world around us. Ashbery's exploration of these themes reflects the social and political context of his time, as well as his interest in the avant-garde and experimental styles of poetry that were emerging during this time.

Poem Snippet:

"Here are the steps leading into the garden.

Take this snake.

Hold it to the light.

See how its scales shine.

Feed it to the parrots.

Now, dig a hole.

Plant the snake."


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