English 12 — Period 1 — Comments on Analyses of “Imagine the Angels of Bread”

Generally speaking, student analyses of “Imagine the Angels of Bread” featured an understanding of the poem’s reversal of the roles in oppressive scenarios. The responses also featured strong quotation integration and were generally clear and organized.

There was some difficulty in two very important areas however: 1) understanding the speaker’s overall purpose in presenting these scenarios and 2) addressing the topic of “repetition”.

Regarding the first point, I don’t want to offer too much interpretive help because I still want to be able to accept revisions and want to be able to give the writers credit for their own ability to come up with ideas but I will say this:

  • It is not enough to say that the poet is literally saying that this is the year when all these things will come true. 1) Obviously some of these scenarios are quite fantastical, many are unlikely, and most will at least take time. 2) This poem was not written in 2018, so obviously if you take the statement literally it is already false. That was not the year that those things happened. Clearly, the poet is concerned with progressive politics and is on the side of the oppressed. That is a more general understanding which you did get, but the question remains: why is he stating “this is the year” that all these things will happen such as refugees deporting judges, etc? Answering that question is necessary to comprehend the poem’s overall purpose and theme.
  • The answer is not hidden. It is right there in the poem. In fact many of your quoted and referred to these lines but did not seem to grasp their full significance. Reread the third stanza.

Regarding the second point, I was a bit surprised that there so few different interpretations of the use of repetition. Almost everyone said that the repetition was for emphasis and very few people said anything beyond that. In fact repetition has many different uses depending on context.

Here are some examples just off the top of my head:

  • In “Paddle to Canada” the writer repeats phrases that describe the kind of family they are because one of the main ideas of the piece is that defining and redefining family identity is a process. Family identity is always being constructed and revised. The writer is not simply “emphasizing what kind of family they are.”
  • In “Paddle to Canada” the writer repeats descriptions of the paddleboat story for the same reason: they characters are defining and reevaluating its significance as they go through changes in their experiences, emotions and recollections.
  • The water imagery in “Brutal Imagination” is repeated because it is part of the speaker’s make up. He came into existence in a watery environment and when Susan Smith thinks of him she must necessarily think of her criminal act at the lake. The water imagery is kind of like returning to the scene of the crime in addition to being a fundamental part of what makes the speaker who he is. So in narrating self, the speaker repeatedly makes reference to water.
  • When Justin Bieber sings “Baby baby” repeatedly it isn’t because he wants to “emphasize” that he has someone he calls baby. The repetition shows that he is overcome with emotion and fixating on the object of his love. It some parts it could be interpreted as obsessive love, in other parts it is more of a lament for what he has lost.
  • Similarly, if a person on the bus were repeating “I am going to die I am going to die I am going to die” it is not because they want to emphasize that they are going to die but because they are distraught and fixated on an emotionally difficult problem.
  • Generally speaking, the repetition in pop songs is for the sake of the pleasure of recognition. We like to hear repetition in music. It is pleasing and “catchy”.
  • When Martin Luther King repeats “I have a dream” in his famous speech, it is not because he wants to emphasize that he has a dream. It conveys the strength of his hopefulness and determination. It also creates a powerful, swelling tone.
  • Flashing lights use repetition to grab attention.
  • The stripes on animals use repetition to dazzle the eyes of predators.
  • Old cartoons repeat animated sequences to save time and money.
  • This list I am creating uses repetition (of examples of repetition) in order to give a sense of the large amount and wide variety of uses and purposes of repetition, as well as to show that the meaning of repetition is dependent on context.
  • During announcements made over the PA system before the end of class, the school secretary uses repetition to ensure that students and teachers hear the key information provided.
  • In the next essay we are going to read in this class, the writer makes repeated reference to her father to show that her choice of activity, “Trapeze Lessons” help her to maintain a connection with him and keep him in her life.

So there are many possible purposes of repetition. You must consider the poem’s overall purpose and tone and theme in order to find the different functions in this case.

Also, there is more than one thing being repeated. It is not just the phrase “This is the year”. There is also the repetition of similar scenarios and the basic ideas they all share. There is also repetition of the text itself in two languages English and Spanish. There is also the repetition of “If”.

In order to analyze repetition in a poem we must go beyond saying, “the writer uses repetition to emphasize his ideas.”

I will accept revisions.

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