Literacy Information and Communication System

Discussing the William Carlos Williams poem, "This Is Just to Say"

Because there are few right-or-wrong answers in poetry, everybody is on an equal footing in interpreting poems. The important thing is to ask students to explain the reasons why they understood the poem as they did.

First read the Williams poem aloud with your class a few times. Then start the discussion with a few open-ended questions that ask the students to "read between the lines," questions such as:

  • Who is speaking in the poem? Who are they speaking to? What makes you think that?
  • How would you describe the relationship between the two people? Are they close? In love? What makes you think that?

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

William Carlos Williams
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