Journals can be quite informal but should be more coherent than scattered notes: complete sentences, reasonable paragraphs. Your job is not to construct an argument or introduce a reader to the poem, but to do some combination of these things:
- Register questions, which can be basic, factual questions you'd like answered (what does this mean, what's going on, why is this here) or topical questions you'd like to see discussed in class; often there's some overlap between the two, and both are important. Please never hesitate to ask a question, either in journals or in discussion, because it seems too basic (or too deep, for that matter).
- Work through your own opinions and interpretations, aesthetic, intellectual, theological, critical (etc.) as you read particular parts of the poem. I'm always interested to hear about likes and dislikes.
- Document your experience of reading the poem. What is that like - easy, hard, pleasurable, repellent? What associations and connections are formed as you read it?
Whatever you begin by writing in your journal, take some time to think about (e.g.):
Why is this a question?
Why is this topic significant?
How did I reach this judgment or opinion?
What about the poem is causing me to have this experience?
First impression can be extremely valuable and significant, but they get that way, usually, by being subject to further reflection. Your journals need not develop a single topic, but they should be thoughtful. (Except for the really basic questions: those can be added as a separate section if you have any. I will aim to address as many of them as possible).
Please submit your journals to me by email in one of these formats; others are not okay, and using either the first or second will ensure I spend my time reading and responding to your email rather than on other things:
Microsoft® Word document: highly preferred.
Rich text file (*.rtf): close second.
Adobe® file (*.pdf): nice to read, hard to do comments.
Pasted into email: a pain for me to format.