Introductory activities

Kevin Hart proposes in his book A. D. Hope in the The Oxford Writers Series possible intentions for writing poetry that range from provocation to pleasure, writing that ‘a poem’s strength is revealed in its ability to amuse, annoy, delight, edify, interest, move, offend, please or puzzle’ (p.2). And it seems that, in its reception, Hope’s poetry and essays have not disappointed in this regard. Hope’s observation that there was no school for poets, unlike for artists and musicians, provokes the question: does poetry, then, matter? Through the study of Hope’s writing students will reflect on the nature of, and reason for, poetic endeavour; the place of literary tradition; the satire of modernity; the dialectic that shapes culture and identity; representations of women; and the resonances of isolation in the lives of individuals.

In introducing this unit students will reflect on:

  • why poetry matters
  • how the relationship between a reader and a text can be seen as conversational
  • how universal narratives, such as myths, express what it means to be human.

Activity 1: Does poetry make nothing happen? (Was Auden right?)

In this learning sequence students reflect on why they have studied, and are studying, poetry. The premise of the activity is to invite students into a poetic mindset through the creation of a poem, either an ode, elegy or epistle (verse letter), that reflects on whether poetry does in fact make anything happen in Australia. In this activity students investigate the focus topic – how Australians see themselves today – and work collaboratively to debate and discuss this question, create a poem and reflect on whether poetry does indeed matter.

  • Display for students these two comments:

A poem’s strength is revealed in its ability to amuse, annoy, delight, edify, interest, move, offend, please or puzzle.

Poetry makes nothing happen. (W.H. Auden)

  • Discuss with students the connections between these two statements, using prompts such as:
    • Who is right?
    • Are these two mutually exclusive?
    • What purpose would poetry serve?
  • Inform students that in this activity they will be creating a poem about Australian identity and invite them to prepare some thoughts that focus on these two questions:
    • How do Australians see themselves today?
    • What are the issues of the day in public discourse?

Potential sites for investigation could include:

  • As a whole class, develop an opinionnaire focusing on how Australians see themselves. The purpose of an opinionnaire is to elicit student opinions about a particular topic or question in order to establish a connection between their attitudes and beliefs and that question. It also provokes discussion and provides opportunity to challenge opinions offered.
      • Working individually, students draft a series of statements based on their research that are quick, clear and provocative. The aim is to elicit a YES or NO answer so the statement has to eliminate the middle ground. Sample statements might be:
        • Racial background determines access to opportunities in Australian society. 
        • Australians believe that Australia is the lucky country.  
      • Form the class into groups of four and invite students to test their statements on each other.
      • Invite each group to select their two best statements to use in the class to conduct the opinionnaire.
      • Designate a place in your classroom for YES and NO positions.
      • Reconvening the whole class, each group reads aloud a statement and students move to stand in the YES or NO position. Students will use their research to justify their decisions in class debates.
      • Re-form the groups of four and have them list three or four key areas that they see as significant in how Australians see themselves. These should be areas that they are keen to explore and that they will draw on to create a poem.
  • Revise with students the forms of the ode, the elegy and the epistle. Quite deliberately traditional poetic forms have been selected here to reflect Hope’s connection with Western European literary traditions. While constraints associated with these forms vary across historical and literary contexts, the following key points could prove useful:
 The Ode The Epistle (verse letter) The Elegy
  • is a poem of praise on a public subject
  • looks outward to the world.
  • presents a considered, and in some senses, complete view of its subject matter.
  • may have a tone of great or mild warmth, but will be one of praise.
  • has a specific and personal addressee, often someone with whom the poet feels on equal terms.
  • may focus on the moment and may emphasise social activities.
  • does not have to have a lofty vision and the tone will rarely be serious.
  • can include anecdotes, puns, gossip.
  • will use rhyme.
  • is a poem written for a specific occasion of death.
  • often moves from a position of sorrow to an element of solace or acceptance.
  • may include repetition or refrain.
  • has reiterated questions or outbursts that allow the mourner to move from the loss to the rest of the world.
  • Maintaining the collaborative groups established previously, in this activity students use their research and reflection on Australian identity to create a short poem about 10–15 lines long, depending on the form they select.
  • Linda Young in her article suggests structuring groups for poetry writing with clearly defined roles for each student within the group:
Image weaver Language keeper Metaphor maker Music maker
  • provides two images for the poem
  • provides at least three interesting or unusual examples of word choice or word play
  • provides two fresh metaphors
  • is responsible for creating a sense of music – sound and rhythm – in the poem through such aspects as rhyme, assonance, sibilance, alliteration.
  • should work closely with the language keeper.
      • Once students have determined their roles within the groups, the group selects:
          • one of the key ideas from the opinionnaire activity to use as the basis for the poem
          • the form they would like to use.
      • Initially students work individually to develop their images, metaphors and so on for inclusion in the poem.
      • Students re-group to draft the poem, working collaboratively to combine the individual contributions.
  • Invite groups to read their poems to the class.
  • Ask students the following questions:
      • Has anything happened in the making of the poems?
      • Was Auden’s claim right?
      • What do you see as the purpose of poetry?
      • Why do you think you are studying poetry?
  • Display a copy of A.D. Hope’s short poem ‘The Progress of Poesy’ and invite students to explore:
      • what Hope might have seen as the purpose of poetry and its relationship to the world
      • how Hope uses language (image, metaphor, wordplay, music) for effect in this poem.

The poet, when his heart is young
And pure the stream and bland the words,
The Milky Muses from his tongue
Dispense insipid whey and curds mature.
But with the years the curds mature;
Grown rotten ripe, his talents please.
With gusto now the epicure
Cuts deep into his stinking cheese.
– Book VI, 1959, p. 28.
   (ACELR041)   (ACELR043)   (ACELR047)   (ACELR048)   (ACELR049)   (ACELR050)

Activity 2: Drawing on the myth-kitty – why do writers draw on myths and stories from earlier times?

Reminders of myths and stories from earlier times are common in literary works, inviting connections between authors and readers across time and place. A.D. Hope’s poetry explores the relationship between myth and truth. In this learning sequence, students examine the place of allegory and myth in literature: why are students in the 21st century still studying myths and allegories from centuries long ago?

Clive James in his essay ‘On A.D. Hope’ describes Hope’s poetry as being ‘unencumbered with specifically Australian references’ and at the same time populated with an international cast-list of biblical and classical mythology’. James also references British poet Philip Larkin’s pithy coinage ‘the myth-kitty’ taken from Larkin’s remark: ‘As a guiding principle I believe that every poem must be its own sole freshly created universe, and therefore have no belief in ‘tradition’ or a common myth-kitty or casual allusions in poems to other poems or poets, which last I find unpleasantly like the talk of literary understrappers letting you see they know the right people.’ (Philip Larkin, Required Writing: Miscellaneous pieces 1955–1982)

    • Display for students John William Waterhouse’s artwork Ulysses and the Sirens (1891), without the title, and ask them to undertake some preliminary visual analysis (adapted from Media Literacy K-12):
      • Invite students to study the artwork for a few minutes and then to note down people, objects and activities in the image, using prompts such as:
        • Based on your findings, what can you infer from this artwork?
        • What questions does this artwork raise in your mind?
        • Where could you find the answers? The answers will be used later in the learning sequence. (Adapted from Terry Barrett’s article ‘Based on Principles for Interpreting Art’)
    • Explain to students some of the principles of interpretation associated with visual art, such as that an artwork:
      • is always about something
      • is expressive and can stir multiple interpretations
      • suggests a worldview based on assumptions about the world
      • refers to other texts
      • reflects the artist’s life, concerns in life and existential issues.
    • Show students the title of the artwork and then have students apply these principles to the artwork using their answers to the previous questions. This could be a pair activity.
    • Students will now write a description of the artwork in pairs. To describe the artwork, students use evidence from the image to persuade the readers to accept their interpretation:
      • by identifying the subject matter and commenting on it – for example, by describing and characterising the people in it (the sirens and Ulysses) – and exploring what the artwork says about this narrative.
      • describing the form of the artwork, such as colour, shape, scale, emphasis, balance, arrangement, juxtapositions – the visual language of the image.
    •   Explain to students some principles associated with interpretations of artworks, such as:
      • that an interpretation is an argument based on evidence drawn from a variety of sources including what the artwork says and refers to, and what we know about an artist and their context.
      • that interpretations are persuasive. The critic always wants others to see the work the way the critic sees it.
      • all interpretations suggest a worldview based on assumptions about the world.
      • interpretations are not about being right. Interpretations are about being reasonable, convincing, enlightened and informative.
      • a strong interpretation includes all elements of an artwork. The interpretation must not omit aspects of the work.
      • interpretations of an artwork do not necessarily correspond to what an artist intended.
    • Invite students to swap their descriptions with another pair of students and then annotate the descriptions using the principles outlined above.
    • As a class, discuss whether any of the principles in this activity apply to poetry interpretation, making reference to ‘The Progress of Poesy’.
    • Display the word myth-kitty and Larkin’s comment: ‘As a guiding principle I believe that every poem must be its own sole freshly created universe, and therefore have no belief in ‘tradition’ or a common myth-kitty or casual allusions in poems to other poems or poets, which last I find unpleasantly like the talk of literary understrappers letting you see they know the right people.’
    • Based on their reflection through this activity, ask students to consider whether they agree with Larkin’s sentiment.

(ACELR039)   (ACELR041)   (ACELR042)   (ACELR045)

Activity 3: Personal response on reading the text 

In this blogging activity students read all the selected texts and share initial personal responses in a community of inquiry. Before beginning to read the poems and essays anticipated for study, explore with students how they feel about reading poetry.

  • At times poetry reading can be challenging for students so it might be useful to suggest that:
    • the first reading is simply that, a first and early reading. Re-reading needs to happen.
    • poets see themselves as existing in the world through their poetry.
    • as readers, they might explore how the poem is made and what it means, and that this could happen in either order.
    • poetry is about a freedom to express ideas in new or unexpected ways.
    • what a poet writes about comes from their values system.
    • the reader reflects on what the poet values.
  • This activity, using the starter-wrapper technique, is predicated on the value of talk (online, in this case), collaboration and interaction in reading literary texts.  It could be easily adapted for other mediums.
  • Divide students into groups of six to eight and ask all of them to read all the selected poems and essays.
  • Choose two students and allocate them to specific roles – one called the starter and the other the wrapper.
    • The starter:
      • after the initial reading, poses some problems or challenging questions about Hope’s writings to start the blog.
      • keeps the discussion moving along by asking other students in their groups to respond to the questions, contribute ideas, and share the key moment or expression in the poem. The starter should encourage, acknowledge and support the other students’ responses.
    •   The wrapper:
      • tries to establish areas of agreement and consensus through posing questions and responses to the other students by prompting them to clarify differing understandings and viewpoints.
      • concludes the blog by highlighting all the key ideas, views and solutions.
  • At the conclusion of this process, groups display two or three key lines from each poem or essay that they see as critical to their initial appreciation of Hope’s writing. These will be used during their close study of A.D. Hope.
    (ACELR037)   (ACELR040)   (ACELR045)   (ACELR047)

The writer’s craft including such elements as:

In this learning sequence students reflect on some assumptions that may lie behind an author study. Students explore a selection of Hope’s poems and essays, focusing on:

  • how Hope develops his distinctive poetic style and voice
  • how his poetry is part of a literary dialogue with the works of both earlier and contemporary writers
  • how Hope’s work has been received, including its place in the Australian literary canon.

In addition to exploring a selection of Hope’s poems and essays, students question the roles of the author and reader in literary study – whether there is a lack of connection between the addresser and the addressee. A number of approaches to teaching poetry suggested in Elaine Showalter’s ‘Teaching Literature’ including performance, imitation, generic focus, comparison, connection, engagement and evaluation are embedded in the suggested activities.

Activity 4: ‘The End of a Journey’ 

While the first stanza of this poem was written in the early 1920s, the whole poem was completed in the 1960s. A lyrical poem, it invites readers to sympathise with the disillusionment that often comes with old age. It opens both the selected and collected editions of Hope’s works, inviting consideration of the paradox where, in retrospection, individuals find themselves reflecting on and reconciling the relationships between identity, endings and beginnings, aspirations and realities. By introducing close study of this poem, a number of recurring concerns and motifs encountered throughout the poems selected for study are framed, such as what truths lie in myths, the representation of woman as a femme fatale and how, as individuals, people feel isolated.

  • Introduce the poem by telling students that poetry requires reflection and speculation rather than fixing on a particular meaning. One way of teaching this is to provide a selection of phrases from the poem that invite speculation. Either through a small group or an individual activity, students explore the connotations of key words and phrases from the poem. This builds a connection with the poem before reading and illustrates that a range of interpretations or perspectives is possible.
  • Begin close study of the poem by giving students some extracts from the poem (PDF 115KB) and asking them to consider:
    • any patterns that can be identified, such as imagery, allusions, symbolism
    • words that have specific connotations that might shape their expectations of the poem
    • different possible interpretations for these phrases.
  • Extracts for speculation include these below, already linked above:
Thought the night tedious, coughed and shook his head,
An old man sleeping with this housekeeper.
Setting his jaw, he turned and clambered down
A goat-track to the beach; the tide was full.
He stood and brooded on the breaking wave
Revolving many memories in his skull
Grimly he watched his enemy the searage round the petty kingdom he called home; Roped to a mast and through the breakers’ roar
Sweet voices mocked him on his reeling deck:
A castaway upon so cruel a shore.
  • Read the poem aloud to the class and then invite students to memorise the poem. Explain to students that through memorising, they appreciate written and auditory features of the language, experience a connection with the poet and in some senses possess a poem when they can memorise it.
  • Initially working individually, students can memorise the poem by:
    • making a list of key words from one verse of the poem
    • stringing the words into a vivid story
    • drawing the images/story from that verse in detail.

Students may need to research the references to the mythic story of Ulysses as part of their visual representation.

  • Students then meet in groups of four to negotiate the meaning for the entire poem. Focus questions to guide this discussion might include:
    • Which particular words and phrases have specific connotations to guide interpretation?
    • How does Hope characterise Ulysses and Penelope?
    • How do language features such as the narrative structure, use of enjambment and imagery guide meaning?
  • Once students have negotiated an interpretation in groups, the groups rehearse and recite their memorised verses to the class.
  • As a concluding class activity, discussion or writing activities might focus on whether the poem is autobiographical, how it relates to the poetic process, the feelings of isolation humanity experiences, and whether truths may be drawn from myths. Revisit the option of the myth-kitty to explore the notion of connections between authors and readers across time and place.
    (ACELR037)   (ACELR038)   (ACELR041)   (ACELR042)   (ACELR043)   (ACELR044)

Activity 5: ‘The Death of the Bird’

This poem has generated much debate regarding its meaning. Speaking on Radio National’s Poetry Special, Clive James, Australian essayist and poet, states that the poem is simply about the death of a bird, noting that the lack of specificity about the type of bird and where it is flying to and from and the fact that it migrates instinctively every year generalises the experience. He posits that the bird is drawn by an invisible thread, like us all, towards mortality.

In this activity, based on similar activities in Barbara Bleiman’s The Poetry Pack, students learn about line length and its effects in poetry.

  • Explain to students that variation in line length might signify emphasis, suggest meaning through use of space or create rhythm.
  • Distribute to students a prose copy of the poem (PDF 109KB) and ask students to read the text. Focus questions might consider:
    • whether the prose sounds like prose
    • where students might include line breaks
    • whether they might choose to have one stanza
  • Working in pairs, students rearrange the text by inserting line breaks. Students present an extract from their rearranged poem to the class, justifying how their decisions relate to the meaning of the poem.
  • Refer students to the poem and play this recording of Clive James reading the poem ‘The Death of the Bird (0:00–4:38).
  • Ask students to read and reread the poem and then discuss any idiosyncrasies of language, questions about potential meanings of words, and any parts that resonate personally or even make them feel uncomfortable.
  • Instruct students to annotate the poem, observing any aspects that strike them as interesting, writing these annotations as questions of the text. Here is an example:
For every bird there is this last migration:Once more the cooling year kindles her heart;With a warm passage to the summer stationLove pricks the course in lights across the chart.
  • Why does Hope begin the poem with a focus on the last migration?
  • What kind of bird is this?
  • Students compare their annotations, first in pairs and then in small groups, in order to have their questions considered.
  • As a class, discuss the questions that remain unanswered from the discussion groups. Consider aspects of the poem such as:
      • who the speaker might be
      • the context of the text
      • the intended readers.
  • Discuss with students the effects of Hope’s:
      • choices of line breaks and how they shape meaning
      • use of conversational speech rhythm and elevated diction
      • opening line and to what extent it compels the reader
      • development of a sense of movement in the poem
  • Ask students to name possible thematic concerns the poem suggests. Possibilities might include:
      • the impersonal nature of the journey towards death
      • what the relationship of landscape, distance and space to this tiny bird signifies
      • the paradoxical relationship of desire and death.
  • Invite students to explain the elegiac qualities of the poem, writing a response that explores how Hope creates pathos for the journey of the bird.
    (ACELR042)   (ACELR043)   (ACELR044)   (ACELR045)   (ACELR046)

Activity 6: ‘Meditation on a Bone’ 

Kevin Hart in his book, A.D. Hope in the The Oxford Writers Series, states that the relationship between a text and its reader was a particular concern in Hope’s literary criticism. Hart writes (pp. 8–9) that Hope believed the poems were written to no one in particular. Hart cites a fable retold by Osip Mandelstam, a Russian poet, as an allegorical definition of the relationship Hope saw between poet and reader:

‘At a critical moment, the seafarer tosses a sealed bottle into the ocean waves, containing his name and a message detailing his fate. Wandering along the dunes many years later, I happen upon it in the sand. I read the message, note the date, the last will and testament of one who has passed on. I have the right to do so. I have not opened someone else’s mail.The message on the bottle was addressed to its finder. I found it. That means I have become its secret addressee.’

Hart further comments that ‘A reader encounters a poem by chance and chooses to regard himself or herself as personally addressed by it while knowing full well the poem was written for no-one in particular . . . There is a sense in which a poem is a kind of conversation with an unknown person, with a mind which is imagined and projected into space by the poem itself.’ (p. 9)

In this activity students question the notion of the intended reader, exploring how the viewpoint in the poem relates to the broader question of the relationship between reader and poet.

  • Pose the following questions to students, asking them to offer examples of poems to support their views: 
    • To what extent is poetry art?
    • To what extent is poetry social activism?
    • Who are poems written for?
  • Distribute to students, convened in small discussion groups, a copy of Osip Mandelstam’s Fable and ask them to discuss this question:
    • In what ways does this fable relate to the relationships between readers and poems?
  • As a whole class, discuss responses to the statement Poems allow the reader to find themselves in a poem or not.
  • Invite students to read the poem and re-read it using a slow reading method where students are shown the poem, as a presentation (PDF 127KB), line by line. As the students read each line, they can reflect on what it means and gradually build up and adapt their understanding of the poem. Students can also re-read the poem, navigating back and forth to reflect on how each line relates to the other. This could be conducted as a whole class activity, individually or in groups.
  • Based on this reading discuss aspects of the poem such as:
    • the voice of the poem and its relationship with imagery associated with age and memory, rage and passion
    • how the metaphoric importance of the bone guides the argument in the poem; for example, the convergence of the pen and the bone
    • how the poem relates to the premises suggested in Mandelstam’s fable, such as:
      • whether the bone is in fact equivalent to the bottle on the sand dunes
      • in what ways the persona by chance has found himself in the inscription
      • whether the students can find themselves in the poem or not.
  • Students complete a written response exploring this focus: To what extent does this poem address you as a reader?
    (ACELR037)   (ACELR038)   (ACELR042)   (ACELR045)   (ACELR046)   (ACELR048)

Activity 7: ‘The Brides’

This poem is an exploration of modernity and conformity. In it brides are compared to cars and driven off by the purchaser. It poses an argument that is framed around a conceit – a metaphor that is extended to become the governing idea of a poem. Conceits often combine two divergent ideas in an ingenious manner. This group activity requires students to engage directly with the poem, reconstructing it in order, and developing understanding of the conceit and its satire.

  • Allocate students to groups of three and give each group of students a verse of the poem (PDF 226KB).
  • Allow each group five minutes to record observations about the verse prior to passing the observations on to the next group of students.
  • Complete the rotation by ensuring that students finish with their original verse. Focus areas could include:
      • what it might mean
      • patterns of language such as imagery
      • whether the poem is serious.
  • In groups, students review their impressions of the poem and give it a title explaining their decision to the class.
  • Provide students with a definition of the concept of a conceit and then direct them to read the poem in its entirety.
  • As a class, determine:
      • What two things are being compared?
      • Which is the literal idea?
      • Which is the figurative idea?
      • What are the grounds for comparison?
      • In what ways is the conceit powerful?
      • What aspects of modern life does it satirise? Conformity?
      • Is the satire directed against society for preparing girls for marriage as a commodity OR is it directed against men suggesting that men should treat cars as brides?
        (ACELR037)   (ACELR038)   (ACELR039)   (ACELR040)   (ACELR042)

Activity 8: ‘Conquistador’

Like the previous poem, ‘Conquistador’ is notable for its satire of modern life and conformity. This learning activity is based on an active reading process where students participate in a stanza workshop (for reference, see additional resources page in this unit). Here students engage with how language reflects the thought processes of the poem. The poem characterises an everyman, Henry Clay, presenting him caught in the dialectic tension of repression and desire. In Dance of the Nomad: A study of the selected notebooks of A.D. Hope, Ann McCulloch notes that this grotesque poem is ‘seriously funny’ about the ‘joy and terror’ that Henry faces.

  • Display for students the last stanza of the poem and as a class explore its nuances, such as:
    • the invocation to prayer and direct address to the reader
    • the significance of the words destiny and with any luck
    • the use of the exclamation
    • the capitalisation in Hero of our Time.
    • the flat tone of the last sentence including the use of idiom
    • how the verse establishes connection to the reader.

Good people, for the soul of Henry Clay
Offer your prayers, and view his destiny!
He was the Hero of our Time. He may
With any luck, one day, be you or me.

  • Read the poem to the class and ask students to number each verse.
  • Have students copy two nonconsecutive stanzas that they like and write a short reflection on why they liked them. Students might comment on puns, sound imagery or perhaps an everyday phrase.
  • Collect and display the numbers of the verses that students enjoyed and use these to guide discussion of the poem, building on the reflection students have written.
  • Form the class into groups for closer analysis of the poem based on a particular brief. Students could:
    • explain and connect the preceding and following verses to each other.
    • locate the stanza that best characterises Henry Clay.
    • explore how Henry’s isolation is portrayed.
    • explore stanzas whose irony suggests the gulf between appearance and reality in Henry’s life.
    • discuss the stanza that best represents the conversational tone of the poem.
    • analyse the stanzas that drive the narrative structure of the poem.
    • choose the stanza that typifies the everyman and link this to the poem’s consideration of non-conformity and modern life.
    • enquire into the relationship of the final stanza with the rest of the poem.
  • Students write a response to two or three of the stanzas that they find powerful in this poem, analysing the language features and explaining their relationship to the poem as a whole.
    (ACELR042)   (ACELR043)   (ACELR044)   (ACELR046)   (ACELR047)

Activity 9: ‘Advice to Young Ladies’ 

This poem, published in 1965, instructs the reader on the differences between how women are treated in patriarchal societies and how they should be treated. Hope draws on examples of the subjugation of women from ancient Rome and throughout European history as he builds his argument. There persists in the tenor of its title, however, nuances of paternalism on the part of the author. In this activity students analyse the arguments posed by Hope in the poem. Like ‘The End of the Journey’, Hope draws on classical references to present his viewpoint.

  • As a pre-reading activity, invite students to create a glossary of classical references in the poem. These could include the following:
    • A.U.C. 334 refers to Ab urbe condita libri, a history of ancient Rome written by the historian Livy.
    • Pontifex Maximus refers to the high priest of the College of Pontiffs in ancient Rome, the most important position in religion.
    • Tacitus was a Roman historian who wrote with an emphasis on political process and power.
    • Galileo was a 15th-century Italian scientist, philosopher and astronomer found guilty of heresy.
    • Hypatia was a Greek mathematician and philosopher from the third century, murdered by Christians for allegedly exacerbating conflict in society.
    • Socrates is recognised for his contribution to the study of ethics. His approaches and ideas are significant in the traditions of western philosophy.
    • St Paul was an apostle in the early Christian church. Fourteen books in the Bible have been attributed to his authorship.
    • Giordano Bruno was regarded as a martyr for free thought. He was burned at the stake for questioning Catholic teachings in 14th-century Italy.
    • Joan of Arc is regarded as a French heroine and a saint in the Catholic church.
  • Begin this activity by displaying for students the phrase ‘Young Ladies and explore the connotations for such a phrase. Prompts might include:
    • Where have you heard this expression used?
    • What does it suggest to you? Does it have any particular connotations?
  • As a class, discuss the possibilities associated with the relationship between the poem and the reader, such as:
    • who is speaking in the poem.
    • who is being spoken to
    • the nature of the advice
    • lines that specifically resonate for readers.
  • Explore how the poet develops these arguments through:
    • persuasive devices
    • logical argument
    • re-purposing historical or cultural stories.
  • Students could also explore parallels in recent cultural, historical and political memory that reflect on the degree to which the advice remains relevant. Focus questions could include:
    • Do women still suffer the same fate as Postumia, either literally or figuratively in society?
    • Which public figures would be the references you would draw on if you were re-writing this poem for a contemporary audience?
  • Invite students to ask themselves whether they agree with the sentiment in the poem and whether, and in what ways, they might argue back to the poem.
  • Students present these arguments through a rewritten verse or two from the poem. This could be renamed ‘My Advice for Young Ladies’.
  • As a concluding activity, revisit the title of the poem and how it relates to the connection between the poet and the addressee today.
    (ACELR037)   (ACELR039)   (ACELR040)   (ACELR041)   (ACELR042)   (ACELR043)   (ACELR044)   (ACELR049)   (ACELR051)

Activity 10: ‘Australia’ 

In his book Who Wants to Create Australia?, Martin Harrison describes Hope’s ‘Australia’ as a poem of voice and opinion. Published for the sesquicentennial in 1938, it was controversially received. The ambivalence of the vision of Australian society depicted in the poem is developed through a series of binary resonances. In this learning activity students will explore how the imagery builds structure and cohesion simultaneously with the oscillation that besets the attraction to and repulsion from home.

  • Inform students that A.D. Hope’s ‘Australia’ is a frequently anthologised poem, often selected to represent place, culture and identity.
  • As a pre-reading activity, have students research a poem that they find significant in representing aspects of Australia’s place, culture or identity. Students respond to these focus areas in their research:
    • a contextualisation of the poem
    • a reading of the poem or an extract from the poem
    • how the poem relates to notions of place and displacement, a sense of the ‘other’
    • comment on whether the view of Australian place, culture or identity is mythologised to some extent
    • comment on who is included or excluded in the poem
    • observations about whether the poem remains relevant to contemporary society.
  • Collect the poems for display and future reference.
  • Read the poem ‘Australia’ to the class and have students note down the lines that they find intriguing.
  • Working in groups, students look for patterns in the poem:
    • imagery associated with the geography of Australia
    • binaries such as here/there, jungle/desert, civilisation/apes, wet/dry, lush/arid
    • figurative language associated with two distinct places – Europe and Australia
    • connotations of specific phrases such as drab green and desolate grey, monotonousimmense stupidity, teeming sores, parasite, beyond her change of life 
    • patterns of hesitation or oscillation
    • the turning point in the structure of the poem where he shifts from a retrospective to prospective viewpoint and what it might mean
    • the savage tone of the last stanza.
  • As a class, students discuss:
    • Hope’s sense of place and displacement
    • whether the poem mythologises or debunks myths about Australian place, culture or identity
    • whether the poem remains relevant in an increasingly globalised world.
  • As a concluding activity, students will deliver a presentation entitled Experiences of Place and Displacement. Students will compare their chosen poem to Hope’s ‘Australia’ using the focus areas listed previously and their findings from their study of the poem.
    (ACELR037)   (ACELR038)   (ACELR039)   (ACELR040)   (ACELR041)   (ACELR044)   (ACELR047)


Judith Wright in her Preoccupations in Australian Poetry wrote that Hope’s gift to poetry was more than just the poems themselves and that his elucidation of the poetic task was equally important. In this learning sequence students explore what the poet writes about the purpose, nature and processes of poetry and some of his approaches to reviews of other literary works. The first essay, ‘Notes on Poetry’ (page 170), is a series of observations on poetry and the second essay, ‘The Discursive Mode: The Ecology of Poetry’ (page 186), explores through analogy how poetry presents an argument, a thought line to be explored rather than simply an intuitive text – satire being one of the most obvious forms. The activities on essays and reviews that follow focus on close reading of the texts and will form the basis of further activities, particularly on locating the significance of texts in the wider world.

Activity 11: Essay: ‘Notes on Poetry’ 

In this activity students explore some of Hope’s comments about the nature of poetry in the essay ‘Notes on Poetry’ and look for examples in the poems they have studied. The reading material is quite challenging for students so these activities have a number of approaches that support the student in reading the text.

  • Allocate one of the ‘notes’ in the essay to pairs of students and invite them to:
    • turn the opening sentence for each note into a question that reflects the intent of the paragraph
    • write the answer to the questions in point form
    • reflect on whether they can find examples from their study of the poetry to support their notes
    • present their findings to the class.
  • As a whole class, students create a set of understandings that they see as shaping Hope’s ‘poetic task’ across a range of poems.
    (ACELR037)   (ACELR044)   (ACELR045)   (ACELR047)

Activity 12: Essay: ‘The Discursive Mode’ 

This activity adapts a reciprocal teaching strategy to develop understanding of the essay. Begin by reminding students of Wright’s remark that Hope’s gift to poetry was more than just the poems themselves and that his elucidation of the poetic task was equally important.

  • Ask students to brainstorm what they think the word discursive might mean and then suggest how this might relate to poetry.
  • Ask students what they think a ‘poetic task’ might be.
  • Explain to students that they will be learning how to engage in reciprocal teaching by working in groups and using four different reading strategies:
      • questioning – where the group generates questions about the text read
      • clarifying – any misunderstandings about the questions in the previous step or the text
      • summarising the key elements in a section of text
      • predicting what the text might consider next – based on the section of text at hand and any earlier sections discussed.
  • Initially it is best to model this process for students. Distribute to students just the first three paragraphs (PDF 96KB) of the essay and then do the following:

1. Generate some questions that relate to the text and elicit answers from the class. After initial discussion, students might write formal answers to the questions individually and then, through collaboration and consultation with their group, edit and refine their responses. Initial question prompts might include:

      • What aspects of the natural world does Hope foreground?
      • What principles is he establishing about the natural world?
      • How does the author organise the premise of his argument?
      • What connections do you anticipate between poetry and the natural world?

2. Clarify any issues that have arisen, specifically any ambiguities they might encounter. Students could record specific ambiguities and then suggest possible explanations for these.

3. Summarise the key points of the text and write down the central argument or claim of that section of text. Students defend their responses with textual reference.

4. Predict what will happen next, including how the argument might develop.

  • Allocate students to groups and appoint a group leader to conduct the process. Students then proceed to read the essay, or an extract from the essay, using this process.
  • At the conclusion of this reading process, as a class explore some key questions such as:
      • Why does Hope lament the decline of earlier poetry forms such as the verse epic? An example of verse epic by Milton can be found here.
      • Why does Hope regard modern poetry as undermining tradition?
      • What is the relationship between social and historical change and writing forms?
  • As a whole class, students create a set of understandings that they see as shaping form in Hope’s poems.
  • Kevin Hart notes in his book A.D. Hope that the American critic and poet Dana Goia observed that a person born in the 19th century would be quite perplexed about the poetic forms typical of the late 20th century. Goia laments:

Where are the narrative poems . . . the verse romances, ballads, hymns, verse dramas, didactic tracts, burlesques, satires, the songs actually meant to be sung . . . Are stories no longer told in poetry? Important ideas no longer discussed at length? The panoply of available genres would seem reduced to a few hardy perennials which poets worked over and over again with dreary regularity – the short lyric, the ode, the familiar verse epistle, perhaps the epigram, and one new-fangled form called the ‘sequence’ . . . (The Kenyon Review, 1983, Vol.5(2), pp.19–23)

  • Display for students the quote from Goia and ask students to:
    • select and read some examples of the forms listed, such as romance, ballads, verse drama and so on from other authors
    • look for contemporary examples
    • evaluate their reading experience in the context of the quote from Goia’s essay.
  • As a class, debate whether
    • Goia’s concern is borne out and whether readers see it as a relevant or valid concern
    • whether modernity has to be contrasted with tradition.
      (ACELR039)   (ACELR045)   (ACELR047)

Activity 13: Reviews 

In this learning sequence students read and reflect on three of Hope’s reviews:  ‘Jindyworobaks’, ‘Norma Davis’ and ‘Patrick White’Ann McCulloch, A.D. Hope’s biographer, states in her article ‘A.D. Hope, the Life and the Art: Let it rip’ that Hope was committed to the idea that one should state one’s feelings directly and with vigour. She writes of the expression let it rip:

By this adage I understand that Hope believed that one should express what one feels, without anger, gloom, joy or fear. I also understand this in terms of Hope’s work as a reviewer of others’ works or when writing upon about well-known people – that he would do so without caring or perhaps even considering the impact it may have on these people. The principle of ‘let it rip’ can be governed by the need to honour some criterion of excellence perhaps in poetry, or reserved for those warranting the stings from the satiric muse or an expression in art of matters of the heart.

  • Display the expression let it rip and explore with students the nuances of the phrase, canvassing:
    • whether students have heard it
    • its grammatical qualities, such as the use of the causative verb let and the fact that the sentence is a command
    • the effect achieved from combining the notion of abandon and force in the verb rip with the meaning of let (i.e. to allow something to happen)
    • other situations where such an expression might be used.
  • There are many different examples of critics in social and political discourse as well as in literature, the media, music and entertainment areas (for example, reality TV). Brainstorm with students what they see as the key features of criticism.
  • Invite students to create a hierarchy or hierarchies of some or all of these qualities. Some qualities that they may wish to include might be:
expert knowledge vehemence persuasion
courtesy argument the creation of a villain
analysis ethical behaviour synthesis
judgement truth logic
rhetoric clarity fairness
balance evidence re-presentation of the object in a particular light
  • Using these hierarchies, students are to find an example of a text from their experience and test their expectations of criticism, analysing whether, or in what ways, their chosen text ‘lets it rip’.
  • Ask students to read the three reviews, ‘Jindyworobaks’, ‘Norma Davis’ and ‘Patrick White’, and to choose one of the reviews they would like to explore further. Individually students apply to their chosen review the hierarchy they have created.
  • In this activity students are going to develop an argument for an essay responding to the question: Using one of the reviews you have read for the basis of your consideration, to what extent do you think a critic should ‘let it rip’? To develop an answer to this question, students engage in a written dialogue with another student using an essay in two voices method. This activity could be adapted to a blog and Twitter feed lesson activity. This method (scaffolded below) involves students:
    • writing an answer to the question and exchanging this answer with another student
    • at each exchange, responding to the discussion of the previous student, gradually reducing the word length
    • not sharing any response ahead of the appropriate time
    • not being critical or judgemental about the quality of comment from the other person
    • clarifying and refining their thinking.
Student One: Writes 500 words and exchanges text with partner.
Student Two: Writes 500 words and exchanges text with partner.
Each student writes 250 words in reply.
Each student writes 120 words in reply.
Each student writes 60 words in reply.
Each student writes 30 words in reply.
Each student writes 140 characters in reply.

Ways of reading the text

In Radio National’s Poetry Special Program David Brooks reflects on how situations and contexts shape the meanings of texts. Recalling A.D. Hope’s reading of ‘The Death of the Bird’ at Hope’s wife’s funeral, he notes that Hope was in a way re-orienting the poem, in some way making the bird his wife. This notion that literary texts can be re-oriented by situations, contexts and readers shapes the activities that follow. Students will reflect on questions associated with the reception of Hope’s work as poet, essayist and reviewer.

Activity 14: Hope and the literary canon

The notion of a literary canon involves admitting and rejecting texts against specific criteria, commonly based on whether a text resonates with some aspect of form, values or perspective. For a canon to exist there needs to be agreement, and this agreement may shift over time and cultural perspective.

  • Introduce the concept by displaying for students the examples of plaques (PDF, 559KB) recognising Australian literary figures from the NSW Writers’ Walk at Circular Quay in Sydney and discussing the attributes of these writers that are acknowledged. Students should look for any patterns or trends; for example, the importance of place and belonging.
  • Invite students to write the text for a plaque for A.D. Hope based on their appreciation of his writing. They should select a quote for the plaque and write an attribution.
  • Show students the plaque written for Hope and elicit the differences in the attributions including their writing and the other three plaques.
  • As a class, discuss the relationship between cultural icons like writers’ walks and how agreement about which writers should be acknowledged might have been reached.
  • Invite students to list the poems they would include in their own personal canon. Would they include any of Hope’s poems? Which Australian writer do they think should be included on such a walk?
    (ACELR037)   (ACELR038)   (ACELR039)   (ACELR041)   (ACELR049)


Rich assessment task 1

Activity 15: Language, place and identity

There are many different ways that identity and place are represented in the literary texts students have studied, including poems, essays and reviews. Interestingly, all four writers’ walk attributions consider the significance of place and notions of home. In this research activity students develop an appreciation of what critics do by engaging in a particular form of critique, this time from a postcolonial perspective. After applying their readings to a specific Hope text, they will compare Hope’s poem ‘Australia’ with poems by other poets drawn from the Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature. Other possibilities for comparison texts could include John Tranter’s parody of ‘Australia’ or Martin Harrison’s reply to this poem published in his anthology The Kangaroo Farm (1997). As a concluding activity, students will write an essay responding to the question: Belonging to a place is often fraught with contradictions. Compare the representations of Australian identity in your chosen texts.

  • As a pre-reading activity, have students read the poems entitled ‘Australia’ in theMacquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature and note their initial impressions. These poems include:
    • ‘Australia’ – Mary Gilmore
    • ‘Australia’ – Bernard O’Dowd
    • ‘Australia’ – Peter Goldsworthy
    • ‘Australia’ – Ania Walwicz
  • Remind students of their initial study of the poem that focused on imagery associated with geography, binaries, patterns of oscillation, turning points in structure and tone.
  • Explain to students that:
      • there are many different ways of being a critic
      • they are exploring Hope and other related texts from a postcolonial perspective
      • they will present their findings in an essay.
  • Display for students the aspects of postcolonialism suggested in the focus areas below and preview these.
  • Divide the class into pairs and allocate one of the focuses listed below to a pair of students, along with either one poem or review from Hope to use as a text for analysis. Avoid using ‘Australia’ as it will be the focus of the latter part of this activity.

Focus One: the depiction of the ‘other’ and whether it manifests itself through the depiction of different cultures and stereotypical representations; or the embrace of the foreign land as a ‘home’, or as writers fighting back against colonial domination.

Focus Two: how texts, inrepresenting the ‘other’, define identity (consider classical references, form and diction).

Focus Three: representations in texts and whose interests they serve. For example:

      • who speaks in the text
      • who the text is speaking for
      • what ideological beliefs underpin the text
      • what ideological beliefs underpin our reactions to the text
      • under what conditions has the text been produced.

Focus Four: whether there is a sense of ambivalence in the text (for example, whether Hope is simultaneously drawn to and disappointed in Australia)?

Focus Five: how landscape connects to our sense of being.

  • Have students rewrite the allocated focus area in their own words, clarifying their purpose in reading the text.
  • Working in pairs, students find examples from their allocated Hope text. Students analyse how language is used to represent perspective.
  • Convene the pairs into groups based on the poem or review and have them share their observations about the text.
  • Reconvened in pairs, students will now revisit the Macquarie PEN Anthology poems and use the focus questions to analyse one of these poems.
  • Students can create a comparison chart to map their observations on both poems prior to completing the essay set out in the opening of this activity.
  • Working in pairs, students co-construct their response to the essay question.
    (ACELR038)   (ACELR039)   (ACELR040)   (ACELR041)   (ACELR044)   (ACELR045)   (ACELR047)

Activity 16: Representations of women 

In this activity students consider the representation of women in the poems and reviews they have read, in particular ‘Advice to Young Ladies’, ‘Conquistador’, ‘The Brides’, ‘The End of the Journey’ and the review ‘Norma Davis’. Hope has been criticised for his representation of women in his works, and as Ann McCulloch notes in Dance of the Nomad: ‘Readers will decide the extent to which Hope transgresses the sensitive areas of race, class and gender.’

  • Using the words listed below (adapted from Appleman’s Critical Encounters in High School English, p.175), ask students to write a statement about how they see gender operating in their world:
    • identity
    • roles
    • expectations
    • valued
    • relationships
    • allowed
  • Share these as a class, discussing similarities and differences in perceptions.
  • Allow time for students to refine these statements on the basis of class discussion.
  • Focusing on Hope’s poems, students apply their statement and explore the questions below:
    • How does Hope represent women in this work?
    • How important is the femme fatale?
    • Is the representation relevant today?
    • Does the representation seem real to you? Why/why not?
    • What is your view of the representation of the relationship between men and women?
    • Is there an imbalance in power?
    • Does your reflection on the poem alter your view of its merit? Why/why not?
  • Discuss the answers to these questions as a class.
    (ACELR037)   (ACELR038)   (ACELR039)   (ACELR040)   (ACELR041)   (ACELR044)   (ACELR047)

Rich assessment task 2

Re-viewing assignment

In this activity (adapted from a project in Sheridan Blau’s The Literature Workshop), students apply their learning and reflection on Hope’s writing to a previously unseen poem. Students will write a response explaining the complexities of interpretation in the poem and then offer possible solutions. The project has three stages: the drafting of an interpretation, sharing interpretations, and revision and submission of the interpretation. Remind students about:

  • the statement from the opening activity: A poem’s strength is revealed in its ability to amuse, annoy, delight, edify, interest, move, offend, please or puzzle.
  • questions to ask about the nature of interpretation earlier considered:
      • that an interpretation is an argument based on evidence drawn from a variety of sources, including what the artwork says and refers to, what we know about an artist and their context.
      • that interpretations are persuasive. The critic always wants others to see the work the way the critic sees it.
      • all interpretations suggest a worldview based on assumptions about the world.
      • interpretations are not about being right. Interpretations are about being reasonable, convincing, enlightened and informative.
      • a strong interpretation includes all elements of a work. The interpretation must not omit aspects of the work.
      • interpretations do not necessarily correspond to what the reader imagines an author intended.
  • the breadth of their study
  • that they can draw on any aspect of their study to develop their interpretations, such as myths, form, satire, postcolonialism, representations of gender, the poetic process.

Stage One:

  • Direct students to read Hope’s poem ‘Observation Car’ and, working individually, make an initial list of aspects of their study that are relevant to this poem.
  • Invite students then to draft some initial ideas about possible interpretations for the poem.
  • Form the class into groups and at that point students discuss possible meanings and reasons for meanings.
  • Students then draft a response and bring in sufficient copies to share with their group.

Stage Two:

  • Students read the draft responses in groups and respond to each other’s work:
    • seeking clarification
    • offering additional observations
    • noting opposing and similar viewpoints.
  • Instruct students to make sure they document the discussion, annotating their responses.

Stage Three:

  • Students revise their responses, clarifying the possible interpretations and solutions they are offering.
  • Students must include in their final response reference to their other group members’ observations.
  • They may quote from another student’s response, and they may paraphrase or synthesise a perspective expressed in another student’s response.
  • Students must reference appropriately the sources used from their group (i.e. fellow classmates) throughout their response and include a reference list.
    (ACELR045)   (ACELR046)   (ACELR047)