We had the opportunity to review a digital copy of Working It Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert written by Joseph L. Womack and from Everyday Education, LLC.
Reading poetry is not just for those people who enjoy “reading poetry”. Poetry can be read, understood and enjoyed by everyone. It is just a matter of taking the time and “working it out” towards a better understanding of what you are reading. The Working It Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert by Joseph L. Womack and published by Everyday Education is a language arts program that helps the student read, analyze and understand great poetry. Not only does the student gain those experiences, but the works of Herbert also take them on a spiritual journey through Herbert’s life.
Of all of the poets I know, I had never heard George Herbert. For people like me, Womack introduces the student to Herbert in a section that appears before the lessons begin. Real quickly, Herbert was one of 10 children, whose father died when Herbert was three. He was raised by a mother who was:
“unusually gifted with grace, intelligence, and literary and musical tastes, and the household was witty as well as pious”
It is also shared that his mother greatly valued religion and education, which obviously had a great impact on Herbert, because both come through in his writing. He suffered from ill health during his twenties until his death at the age of 39.
Reading and understanding the poetry of Herbert has been mostly for those who are “poetically gifted”. His poetry has been defined as devotional poetry. Herbert writes poems about God and ones that are uplifting. Reading the poems Womack shares of Herbert in Working It Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert is like taking a journey through Herbert’s life experiences. Womack categorizes the poems in a manner that is by seasons in one’s life. It reminds me of looking in the index of a Bible. Some of the topics Herbert covered in his writing were his experiences of confession, grace, prayer, grief and others.
Womack presents Herbert’s poetry to readers and provides steps to complete, so they have a good understanding of what they are reading as well as an appreciation for talent of George Herbert. The one-year course is good for middle school to adult readers and presents more than 40 poems. Through the discussion of The Big Picture (poem overview), The Parts of the Picture (stanzas are grouped and broken down with an explanation of what it means), The Parts of the Picture Come Together, Reflections (questions to better help the reader understand the poet’s goal of the poem) and Scriptures for further reflection (readers are directed to the Bible for further study of the theme of the poem), readers will be able to come to know the reason why Herbert is such a noted poet.
River and Lily worked through the program. They each chose poems in the sections that represented life seasons they have experienced. Rather than sharing the included explanations from Womack for each analysis step, I asked River and Lily to provide their own thoughts about what they thought was The Big Picture, The Parts of the Picture, etc. After that, we discussed their responses. Surprisingly, they understood much of what they read in the poems. I will say that we read poetry a lot and discuss it, so they have had practice.
One of the poems I like is Joseph’s Coat, which shares how one may handle grief. Herbert’s words are graceful and are comforting. Regardless of what we go through, Herbert reminds us to keep our path towards God.
The poetry analysis steps Womack introduces in Working It Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert are ones we may easily apply to reading and understanding the writings of other poets.
I will say I enjoyed reading through some of Herbert’s poems and conducting the poetry analysis. Both gave us time to really ponder what Herbert was trying to relay to his readers. I will also add that Herbert’s poetry (devotional poetry) is quite different and not one on which to base all poetry. The reflection in Herbert’s poems can be daunting and more often heart wrenching only because the topics are about experiences that everyone will go through at some time in their lives. Reading his poetry is not something you flippantly do. Reading a Herbert poem is done with intention and Womack gives you the tools to successfully accomplish that task and actually understand what you have read.
You may purchase a print version of Working It Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert for $17.95.
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