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Forum Home > Poetry > Balloons - advanced reading of poetry

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

Advanced Poetry Analysis: Reading Balloons

Dr May asked me to post the following:

A balloon is an intriguing object for a poet to describe. Classical poetry often invoked air or wind as a metaphor for poetic inspiration, but balloons might also make us think of ‘hot air’, the idea of words without purpose. In this seminar, we’ll be reading Plath’s poem ‘Balloon’ through previous poets’ encounters with balloons, and thinking about the ways her poem might be in conversation with them.

Here are some things you can do to prepare for the seminar: 1. Read ‘Balloons’ by Plath, and make a list of all the different ways she describes them (e.g. ‘a red / shred’, ‘oval soul-animals’;). Pick TWO of these descriptions and make a note of what effect this description has. 2. Read through Shelley’s sonnet ‘To A Balloon, Laden with Knowledge’ and Emily Dickinson’s ‘You’ve seen Balloons set – Haven’t You’. Pick ONE of these poems and consider how you might compare their presentation of balloons with the Plath poem. 3. Do some internet research about ‘balloonomania’. What was it, and how might it help us understand the way balloons are described in these poems?

You can find these poems and another copy of the preparatory instructions for Dr May's seminar in the documents section of this website.:)

October 28, 2014 at 11:38 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921


 

‘Balloons’ (1963)

 

Since Christmas they have lived with us,

Guileless and clear,

Oval soul-animals,

Taking up half the space,

Moving and rubbing on the silk

 

Invisible air drifts,

Giving a shriek and pop

When attacked, then scooting to rest, barely trembling.

Yellow cathead, blue fish---

Such queer moons we live with

 

Instead of dead furniture!

Straw mats, white walls

And these traveling

Globes of thin air, red, green,

Delighting

 

The heart like wishes or free

Peacocks blessing

Old ground with a feather

Beaten in starry metals.

Your small

 

Brother is making

His balloon squeak like a cat.

Seeming to see

A funny pink world he might eat on the other side of it,

He bites,

 

Then sits

Back, fat jug

Contemplating a world clear as water.

A red

Shred in his little fist.

 

Sylvia Plath

 



‘To A Balloon, Laden with Knowledge’ (1812)

Bright ball of flame that thro’ the gloom of even

Silently takest thine etherial way

And with surpassing glory dimmst each ray

Twinkling amid the dark blue Depths of Heaven

Unlike the Fire thou bearest, soon shall thou

Fade like a meteor in surrounding gloom

Whilst that unquencheable is doomed to glow

A watch light by the patriots lonely tomb

A ray of courage to the opprest & poor,

A spark tho' gleaming on the hovel's hearth

Which thro the tyrants gilded domes shall roar

A beacon in the darkness of the Earth

A Sun which oer the renovated scene

Shall dart like Truth where Falshood yet has been


P.B. Shelley (Mary's husband)


 

‘You’ve seen Balloons’ (1863)

You've seen Balloons set—Haven't You?

So stately they ascend

It is as Swans—discarded You

For Duties Diamond

 

Their Liquid Feet go softly out

Upon a Sea of Blonde

They spurn the Air, as t'were too mean

For Creatures so renowned

 

Their Ribbons just beyond the eye

They struggle—some—for Breath

And yet the Crowd applaud, below

They would not encore—Death

 

The Gilded Creature strains—and spins

Trips frantic in a Tree

Tears open her imperial Veins

And tumbles in the Sea

 

The Crowd—retire with an Oath

The Dust in Streets—go down

And Clerks in Counting Rooms

Observe—"'Twas only a Balloon”


Emily Dickinson

 

November 5, 2014 at 11:43 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Ah, I think I might have been posting in the wrong place. Is there anybody there ready with a cup of tea to talk about balloons and poetry? My name's Will, and it's good to meet you...


November 5, 2014 at 1:05 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Would anyone like to join the seminar?


November 5, 2014 at 1:06 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Kate
Member
Posts: 16

Hello! I'm not sure I've come to the right place on the site either, but I'm ready!

November 5, 2014 at 1:07 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

Hi Will, good to find you here...could eveybody else following the seminar 'check in' and say a hello...

November 5, 2014 at 1:07 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Do say hello if you are online and would like to join the conversation...

November 5, 2014 at 1:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Hi Kate - it's good to meet you! Is there anyone else in the class?

November 5, 2014 at 1:08 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Kirsty
Member
Posts: 38

Not sure how I check in but hello! Thank you for coming.

November 5, 2014 at 1:09 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

We'll just wait to say hello to any other people joining us Kate, and then we can get started...

November 5, 2014 at 1:09 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Hi Kirsty - good to meet you!

November 5, 2014 at 1:09 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Is there anyone else here, or shall we get started?

November 5, 2014 at 1:10 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

I think we should get started Will - I expect other members will join in when they can/ want to. I looked up balloonmania but couldn't find much - what was it?

November 5, 2014 at 1:10 PM Flag Quote & Reply

HannahJecks
Member
Posts: 13

Hi, so sorry I'm late, this is my first seminar, I don't know my way round the site 

November 5, 2014 at 1:10 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

Well, Kate and Kirsty,  let's begin! What did you make of the way Plath describes 'Balloons' in her poem?

November 5, 2014 at 1:11 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

And hello Jecks - good to meet you! What would you like us to call you in discussion?

November 5, 2014 at 1:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

We'll start by looking at the Plath poem from 1963. Can anyone pick out any phrases which describe the balloons?

November 5, 2014 at 1:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

Neil Bowen at November 5, 2014 at 1:10 PM

I think we should get started Will - I expect other members will join in when they can/ want to. I looked up balloonmania but couldn't find much - what was it?

Hi, you're very welcome and you're in the right place. If you can't see updates in the discussion thread try refreshing the page...

November 5, 2014 at 1:13 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Will May
Member
Posts: 141

What effect do they have? Who'd like to get us started?

November 5, 2014 at 1:14 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Kate
Member
Posts: 16

Oops sorry- forgot to refresh the page! 

I found the phrase "queer moons" interesting

November 5, 2014 at 1:14 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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