“I say, for you,” by Evelyn Van Cauwelaert (Belgium)
Issue 4.3 February 2023
Read the piece here.
About the form
—for background on the structure of this poem or as guidelines so students can write their own ghazal
The ‘ghazal’ is a 7th century Arabic style of poetry which has five or more couplets ending with a repeated refrain. It was and is primarily used to invoke feelings of love, pain, and beauty. Ghazals usually contain five to fifteen couplets (two-line stanzas), each couplet being independent, but following a similar theme.
Both lines of the first couplet end with a repeated refrain called the radif. In the subsequent couplets, the radif is seen in every second line. The radif is preceded by the kaafiya, which should rhyme, but not repeat.
Our prompt, “The Ghazal,” provides more guidelines and sample published pieces to help you write your own!
Discussion Questions (Or short written responses)
—featuring literary analysis with SEL (social-emotional learning) connections
Where in the poem does the speaker offer to care for or comfort the other person? How do physical actions—in both this poem and in your experience—convey emotion?
In which line does the speaker indicate there’s a limit to what they can do for the other person?* What is the purpose of this limit or boundary in the poem, and when might a limit or boundary be necessary in a real life relationship or friendship?
In her reflection on this poem (see below) Community Ambassador Malin suggests the poem focuses on a romantic relationship. Where in the poem do you see evidence that this could be a romantic relationship, and where do you see evidence that it could be another kind of relationship? Explain your reasoning.**
In the closing line of the poem, the poet writes, “you’ll grow into tomorrow in the right way for you.” If the speaker says these words, what do you believe their intended meaning is for the other person in the poem?* What else might we readers take from this line—and what might the poet be telling us about our own lives, our own relationships?
—in conversation with another student’s analysis
Read the following reflection on the poem by one of Write the World’s Community Ambassadors (a young writer on the site who takes a leadership role in the community). Then, write your own response, either building upon Malin’s reflection with further evidence and examples, or by explaining where your opinion differs from Malin’s and why.**
Teacher’s Note: This exercise can then be repeated as students continue to trade their own writing and their responses to others’ paragraphs. If you’re using a private group on the site, students can leave thoughtful comments on each other’s paragraphs or write peer reviews as a form of conversation.
The writing portion of this activity helps students develop their analytical skills and prepare their ideas. Students can then share their ideas aloud or summarize another student’s idea from their paragraph and why they agree or disagree with that point to practice speaking and listening skills. Completing this exercise in writing first helps students build confidence and prepare for a productive class discussion.***
Reflection on “I say, for you,” by Community Ambassador Malin
“The poem seems to consist of metaphors—and yet a structure and an entire story are conveyed. It’s amazing how dense the poem is because of this—how much is put into two lines—thus making these two lines fully sufficient for a verse. It is a great example of how diverse poetry can be.
The questions at the start of the poem immediately engage the reader, demanding their attention. By placing the rhyme before the last two words, the emphasis is put on “you,” the person addressed with this poem, and each verse is furnished with a familiar conclusion.
The poem seems to be about the romantic relationship of the first-person narrator with a person who is not quite as the former wants them to be, so they let them go. The wish of the narrator to help or support the other person, though realising it does not work if the person does not want to receive that support, is relatable. The frustration that is caused by this is transferred to the reader. The way the narrator lets the other person go in the last verse is a release for the audience as well.”
Follow-up Reflection/Discussion for the Writing Activity
How did reading another writer’s analysis, or their response to another writer’s analysis, change your thinking on any parts of the poem?
How does a conversation (in writing or aloud) illuminate new aspects of the poem?
Common Core Standards Alignment for this Lesson
*Reading Standards for Literature: Craft and Structure, Grade 8
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
**Writing Standards, Research to Build and Present Knowledge, Grade 8
Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
***Speaking and Listening: Comprehension and Collaboration, Grade 8
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacherled) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
—a. Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
—c. Pose questions that connect the ideas of several speakers and respond to others’ questions and comments with relevant evidence, observations, and ideas.