The poem I was assigned this week was Walk Whitman’s “Out of the “Cradle Endlessly Rocking”. I definitely had to read this poem several times but as I did, I began to see more and more and things started to fall into place in my mind. The two critical approaches I chose to use to analyze my poem were new criticism and reader-response.
In using the approach of new criticism, I focused on the text itself (the words on the page/screen). “New Critics look for patterns of sound, imagery, narrative structure, point of view, and other techniques discernible on close reading of “the work itself.” (Biddle and Fulwiler 1989) What stood out most to me was the imagery Whitman creates, I could imagine him watching these birds and how they interacted with each other. I could see in my head, “And every day I, a curious boy, never too close, never disturbing them, Cautiously peering, absorbing, translating.” (Whitman 2016) There is some rhyming, though it does not seem to be in a particular pattern (or at least not that I could see). However I noticed a pattern that several lines in a row begin with the same letter and often the same word.
The other approach I used to analyze the poem was reader-response. With this approach, we look at “the significance of the series of interpretations the reader goes through in the process of reading.” (Biddle and Fulwiler 1989) I think this is a great approach from a sociological perspective (I’m a sociology major haha) because to me, it is about the connection of the reader to the work. Each person brings their own perspective to what the read and how they interpret the work because they have had their own experiences in life. This approach also “insists that all literature is a structure of experience, not just a form or meaning.” (Biddle and Fulwiler 1989) This poem is all about the experience and it brings the reader into it, but also allows the reader to create their own. I feel that the following quote from the poem is one that can show a universal exerpierence, most reader-responses would likely be of a fond memory at the beach as a child: “The boy ecstatic, with his bare feet the waves, with his hair the atmosphere dallying, The love in the heart long pent, now loose, now at last tumultuously bursting…” (Whitman 2016)
I feel that while both approaches can be applied well to analyze the poem the one I think best does so is the new criticism approach. I feel that there are more elements in this approach that can be applied to the poem in an analytical way.