Analysis of a working manuscript for Wilfred Owen's "Strange Meeting" provides the student with insight into the creative process. Owen's original wording coupled with his subsequent revisions illuminate how he may have intended the poem to be understood by the reader. Owen's revisions show a determination to accomplish three apparent objectives. First, Owen paid close attention to the connotative meanings inherent in his diction. Equally as important, Owen attempted to refine his language mechanics to enhance the esthetic quality of his work. Finally, there is evidence of a concerted effort to universalize the poem for readers of diverse experience.
In contrast to prose writing, diction must be sparing and more powerfully effective in poetry. Each word must serve a specific purpose beyond the creation of basic meaning. Word connotation must remain foremost in the poet's mind.
While different words may mean virtually the same thing in general terms, the intricate nuances of meaning and imagery associated with specific words goes far beyond generic lexical definitions. Connotative meanings contain the real power to evoke identification and emotional response in the reader. Owen's revisions to "Strange Meeting" show his desire to achieve the best synergy between lexical meaning and connotative imagery.
Line 11 of "Strange Meeting" contains two interesting word revisions. In the manuscript Owen wrote the word "fears" over some word impossible to decipher. Over that word, Owen wrote another word, probably "ways", which he later crossed out. The Norton Anthology of Modern poetry has published the line with the word "pains". Apparently Owen spent significant energy determini...
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...ast three aspects of the creative process in his work. First, poetry is inherently an act of language mechanics, involving attention to rhythm and esthetics. Secondly, the connotative choices involved in diction are significant, and can greatly affect the overall impact of a poem in powerful ways. Finally, Owen seems to have specifically attempted to broaden the potential audience of "Strange Meeting" by substituting words and phrases with less specific references.
Owen, Wilfred. The Wilfred Owen Multimedia Digital Archive. Http://www.hcu.ox.ac.uk/jtap/images/mss/bl/ms43720/20f3a.jpg
Owen, Wilfred. The Wilfred Owen Multimedia Digital Archive. Http://www.hcu.ox.ac.uk/jtap/images/mss/bl/ms43720/20f4a.jpg
Ellmann, Richard and O'Clair, Robert, ed. The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, Second Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1988.
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