Ten questions for students as they explore the manuscripts.
1. How do individual poems move from a field of possible ideas and images in scan one to the central approach to their subject, as shown in scans two and three? What material gets left behind and why?
2. Trace the development of central images in a series of poems and consider their importance in revealing the poem’s themes.
3. What notes written by the poet to himself in the three scans of particular poems guide you in your understanding of the poem’s development and purposes?
4. How do the poet’s notes to himself in a set of poems about place, or rural characters, or family, or popular culture show his common ideas or intentions in those poems?
5. Choosing several poems that vary in their form, investigate the choices made over the course of their development in line length, line breaking and the use of stanzas (or not), and explain the appropriateness of those choices.
6. Compare the third scans of several poems to the published versions and explain the poet’s final choices in content, form, and phrasing.
7. Locate crucial leaps, turns or insights in the development of several poems and consider how these crucial moments contribute to the final versions. Which passages have been discarded as the poem proceeds, and why?
8. Consider the development of the central symbols in poems such as “The Good-Boy Suit,” “After My Stepfather’s Death,” “Shovels,” “The 1950s,” “The Last Black and White TV,” and “Smoking.” How do marginal notes and choices made during the composition process add to your understanding of the symbols?
9. Select a series of poems that have been shaped around a single event. What do marginal notes or experiments in presentation show about the poet’s intentions for the event – its back story?
10. Trace the formation of the arc – the beginning, middle and end – of several poems and assess how the adoption or rejection of passages or ideas along the way benefit the creation of the arc.