The poetics of close reading

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With National Poetry Month upon us I’m thinking of the different connections between poetry and information literacy.  I’ll start with a powerful connection: close reading.

Poetry–especially when read aloud–encourages close reading.  Take the refrain ‘A terrible beauty is born’ from Yeats’s poem “Easter, 1916.”  Do we emphasize the word terrible or the word beauty?  Go over the line too quickly, and you miss this important question, one which undergirds the entire poem.

Even outside of poetry reading aloud makes us pay closer attention to what we’re reading.  Once I was leading an assignment-based session where the class instructor was also present.  I had willing students read the assignment instructions aloud.  We found potentially confusing points that we could have otherwise overlooked.

ACRL Standard Three (2000) addresses the evaluation of information sources (p. 11) .  In order to evaluate a source one needs to examine it closely.

Enjoy poetry month.  Even if you’re not a fan of poetry, enjoy the close reading that you prefer.


Association of College & Research Libraries. (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Chicago, IL: Author.

Yeats, W. B. (1989). The poems (R. J. Finneran, Ed.).  new York, NY: Macmillan.