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Love Illustrated: Mimesis, Reinterpretation, and Imagery in Poetry

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Samantha Bihis

Student Number: 68931047

LLED 363

Professor Kedrick James

Group Members: Katrina Lo, Dana Inouye

Love Illustrated: Mimesis, Reinterpretation, and Imagery in Poetry

“Poesy therefore is an art of imitation, for so Aristotle termeth it in the word mimesis – that is to say, a representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth – to speak metaphorically, a speaking picture – with this end, to teach and delight” – Sir Philip Sidney, in The Defense of Poesy


Activity 9, expanded. See Unit Plan Activities uploaded by group to see where it fits in the unit.

Unit Theme: Love is a nebulous concept. It cannot be quantified, contained, or defined. For something that is so central to the human condition, it is frequently in the shadow of science. Logic and reason above heart and soul. This unit will seek to take some of the intangible aspects of love and make it palpable through poetry, music and art. In doing this, students will see that what he or she visualized is not necessarily what his or her classmates envisioned. Thus, students will see that poetry is a living, breathing and changing medium.

Guiding questions:

  • What types of images does the poem evoke in the reader?

  • What role does the reader play in being a creator or author of the poem?

  • What is the relationship between author, text, and reader?

Students with many different learning styles will be supported. This unit plan will include youtube clips, artwork, music and music videos, animation, and spoken word performances. The unit will culminate in a Poetry Café that includes a gallery and poetry performance. This activity will prepare students for the poetry performance.

Activity Rationale: This activity will prepare students for the poetry performance portion of the final project. Students will have the opportunity to watch and listen to a spoken word poetry youtube clip of Taylor Mali’s “How Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog”. In this activity, I want students to pay particular attention to the way Mali punctuates certain parts of his poem with volume, hand gestures, facial expressions, etc. For this lesson, I am intentionally not going to provide students with a text until later. Instead, I will play the poem for them multiple times. Students who are not native speakers of English can become the experts on rhythm and sound because they will not necessarily be distracted by the meaning of the words. Students who are not native English speakers will have an opportunity to write a poem that blends English and that student’s native tongue in order to draw patterns with sounds, tone, etc.(students can incorporate any language, but poem must be a minimum of 50% English) This activity will provide a chance for non-native English speakers to showcase and celebrate being multilingual.

This unit seeks to help students understand that poetry does not have to be solely about the words on a page. Instead, poetry can also be about kinesthetic expression, inflection, volume, pacing, the exaggeration of sounds, etc. Through this activity, students will be able to:

  • Apply features of oral language through the genesis of his or her own spoken word poem

  • Identify the significance of tone, inflection, volume, pacing, rhythm, and other features of oral language

  • Understand that poetry is a kinesthetic art form. It appeals to the entire body, not just the eyes

Activity Procedure:

  1. Play youtube clip of poem

  2. Ask students to discuss, in small groups, what they enjoyed/didn’t enjoy about the poem

  3. Bring class together. What features make a performance, as opposed to silently reading a text, unique?

    1. Is it hard analyzing/discussing poetry that has a dictated pace? (for example, it’s more difficult to slow down and think)

    2. What made this performance successful? (Pacing, emotion, story)

  4. Students will be shown the text of the poem on an overhead. Think-Pair-Share.

    1. Does this change your interpretation of the poem?

    2. Do you need the text in order to understand the poem?

    3. What is lost in solely attending to the text?

  5. Students will begin work on writing their spoken word poem.

Next class: Students will do a trial performance of their poem in small groups to get immediate feedback from peers, with reference to the evaluation criteria.

Primary Source:

Youtube clip:

How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog
by Taylor Mali

First of all, it’s a big responsibility,

especially in a city like New York.
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you’re walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain’t no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?

On cold winter nights, love is warm.

It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.

Love doesn’t like being left alone for long.

But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.

Is love good all the time? No! No!

Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.

Love makes messes.

Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Sometimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don’t you ever do that again!

Sometimes love just wants to go out for a nice long walk.

Because love loves exercise. It will run you around the block
and leave you panting, breathless. Pull you in different directions
at once, or wind itself around and around you
until you’re all wound up and you cannot move.

But love makes you meet people wherever you go.

People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.

Throw things away and love will bring them back,

again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.


mess – give you a hard time

crook, mugger – criminal, thief, petty criminal

little surprises – with reference to dogs, means poop. With reference to love, not good surprises.

fixed – can mean the dictionary definition of “fixed”, but also a play on “fixed” as in when an animal is neutered


First of all - suggests that there will be a list of reasons, and suggests that this list will be numbered (second of all, third, etc). However, explain to students that the numbering may not necessarily happen.

Think long and hard – to think very carefully

On the other hand – a signal that an opposing idea is going to be presented

ain’t no one is gonna mess with you – poem using “street” language to emphasize toughness, edge

who knows what love can do… -- rhetorical question, not actually looking for a concrete answer

at all hours of the night – not literally all hours, just at the latest hours of the night

here and there – scattered throughout, but not in a definitive spot

cleaning up after – the “after” implies after a kind of mess, like after a poop, after a pee, etc.

not so much – a phrase that should prompt students to anticipate an inversion

pull you in different directions – can be literal, or also figurative, as in when you want to say that your views are distinct from somebody else, or about the many different factors that make decision making difficult especially when only one option is possible

all wound up – lots of things going on to stress out or occupy a person, being brought to a state of great tension

Difficult concept:

Love is used interchangeably with dog to draw comparisons

Poetry Café Performance Criteria

  1. Articulation ( /10)

    1. Clear volume

    2. Good pacing

    3. Enunciation

    4. Intonation

  2. Performance ( /10)

    1. Body posture

    2. Eye contact

    3. Movements

  3. Interpretation ( /10)

    1. Performance demonstrates understanding and some interpretation of the piece

“In the behalf of all poets, that while you live, you live in love, and never get favour for lacking skill of a sonnet; and, when you die, your memory die from the earth for want of an epitaph.”- Sir Philip Sidney in The Defense of Poesy

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