Mastering the Lyric


Week Two Exercise: Three Lyric Features
In the “Mastering the Lyric” lecture and in the lectures on the Week One and Week Two literary works I’ve assigned—all of which are available in the “Assignments” tab, I went into length in explaining what the five essential lyric features are and showing where you can detect them in many of the poems we’re examining. Now I want to see what you have learned.
In your first brief exercise, I want you to point out three of those five lyric features: 1. subjectivity, 2. imagination, and 3. emotion in a lyric.
Here’s a re-cap on those features, but you should look again at the full lectures on the poems and the “Mastering the Lyric.”
Subjectivity: the subjective point of view (p.o.v.) in the poem. This is indicated by use of the first-person pronouns: I, me, my, mine (singular); we, us, our, ours (plural). Those pronouns alone provide the subjective p.o.v. Second person (you, your) and third person (he, him, his, she, her, it, its, they, their, them) are entirely irrelevant.
Imagination: this means imagery, which as I explained in the “Mastering the Lyric” lecture may be either literal or figurative.
Emotion: this means the poem’s emotional content. What feelings are going through the poem’s first-person speaker; what feelings does the poem evoke in the audience?
For your lyric to analyze, I wanted to give you something different from the lyrics we actually study in this class and something for which the Internet would be little or no help. Since many songs are themselves lyrics (and confusingly, perhaps, the words to any song are also called lyrics), it didn’t take me long to find an old song that also works perfectly well as a lyric poem. The following is a song written by the great rhythm and blues artist Otis Redding from Albany, GA, and recorded fifty years ago in 1967, just three days before he was killed in a plane crash.
Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay
Sittin’ in the mornin’ sun
I’ll be sittin’ when the evenin’ come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch ’em roll away again, yeah

I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay                                      5

Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

I left my home in Georgia

Headed for the ‘Frisco bay                                              10
‘Cause I’ve had nothing to live for
And look like nothin’s gonna come my way

So I’m just gonna sit on the dock of the bay

Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay                           15
Wastin’ time

Look like nothing’s gonna change

Everything still remains the same
I can’t do what ten people tell me to do
So I guess I’ll remain the same, yes                               20

Sittin’ here resting my bones

And this loneliness won’t leave me alone
It’s two thousand miles I roamed
Just to make this dock my home

Now, I’m just gonna sit at the dock of the bay              25

Watching the tide roll away
Oooo-wee, sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

Here’s what you’ll do:

In the above lyric, provide an example of every different type of subjective pronoun you find by listing each pronoun type and providing the line number from the poem where the example is found (up to eight points). This means that you need list “I” only once with the line number in the poem where you found it, but there are several other subjective pronouns besides “I” for you to also list. You don’t need to list the same pronoun with a contracted verb attached: “I’m” means “I am,” so if you listed “I” already, you don’t need “I’m.”
Find an example of imagery, quote the entire passage containing it, and give the relevant line number(s) for that passage. Explain whether and how it is a literal or figurative image (up to eight points).
Comment on the poem’s emotional content. What main emotion do you detect in the poem’s speaker? Cite at least three different words or lines which convey the poem’s main feelings (up to eight points).
Simply write your answers out in a list numbered 1, 2, 3 for the three parts listed above. Write out your answers in a Word document, and upload your exercise by Saturday, September 2, 11 AM, CDT. This is a twenty-point exercise. However, the three parts to this exercise each count eight points, and so if you get all 24 points, the last eight will count as bonus points. Your answers may be written in a list form, but you need to write them out as clearly as you can manage. If I cannot understand your answer because of mechanical or stylistic problems, you won’t get full credit or possibly any credit for it. Although writing doesn’t get as much emphasis in a class like this with large enrollment, I am an English professor and I expect my students to use standard (grammatically correct) English always. You are welcome to use the informal variety of it, meaning contractions are fine. I have a Style Sheet now open in the main tab in “Files” and recommend you read through it to get a reminder of college-level writing and my expectations and pet peeves as well as a review of the documentation basics you learned in ENG 1102. When you quote, be careful to quote the words or passage exactly as you find it in the original (use cut and paste). When you cite the relevant line number(s) where you found your example, use the following forms as examples: (l. 4), meaning line four, or (ll. 21-24), meaning lines 21 to 24, or (ll. 3, 6), meaning lines 3 and 6. You use the lower case “L”: “l.” to mean “line” (singular) and “ll.” when you cite more than one line. You need to put only the line number(s) in your parenthetical reference—do not add Redding’s name or the title of the lyric to your parenthetical reference.