Prof. Jessica Penner | OL05 | Fall 2020

Week 13: Style & Voice–a final week

Let’s finish off the section of focus on style and voice by reading the following poems by Cathy Linh Che and Sheryl Luna.

After reading both poems, answer the following questions:

  • How would you describe the style and/or voice of each poet? What makes you describe it this way?
  • Which poem do you enjoy more? Why? Be specific!

Answer the questions in the comments section by Wednesday, 11/18.

I hope that reading these various poets shows you a few things: one, that a poem can take multiple forms, and it doesn’t have to follow a structure, two, that the subject of a poem can be about the most mundane and global–sometimes at the same time, and, three, that writing poetry can be frustrating and exhilarating at the same time!

You’ll be able to express your frustrations and exhilarations soon in a journal post, but first, let’s continue with the writing.

Here’s the continuing assignment from last week:

If you haven’t done this yet, make sure you take time to do it this week! If you started this last week, keep on looking and writing!

Go to this website. It’s a site that has writing prompts for poetry. Each prompt has a poem. There are several, so survey the prompts and then choose at least four you’re attracted to.

  1. Read the prompt and poem carefully. Read the poems first for enjoyment, then examine how each poet “does it.” What’s their style? Formal, conversational, something in between? What’s their voice? How do they express their unique self?
  2. Next, I want you to match the poet’s style and voice with your own words (not copy, of course, but try to follow their word choices–if they use slang, use slang, if they have rhythm or rhyme, use rhythm or rhyme). See if it works. If it does, great, but if it doesn’t, don’t stress. Look at other poems and prompts.
  3. There is a deadline for this assignment! Look on the Assignment page for this information.

I assume you’re seeing that poetry has many different voices and styles, and that poetry breaks a lot of the rules of grammar and spelling or has its own entire set of rules. This is why I want you to spend a lot of time examining and trying out different types of poetry!

Go to the Assignment page for Week 13 to see the due dates!


  1. Angelica Salazar

    In Linh Che’s poem I liked the tone that she had to her poem, she was very descriptive towards her emotion of mourning. I enjoyed reading her poem it was short and easy to understand, i also like how the stanzas are broken up.
    In Luna’s poem I like how she was detailed towards a day of work would be. I also liked how she described her surroundings. The way she described the events going on during her hours at work made me feel as though it were happening. The tone of the poem seems to be regretful, I say this by the last sentence of the poem.
    The poem i enjoyed the most was Luna’s poem, this poem was my favorite because in my mind it made more of a picture.

  2. Robert Rampersaud

    How would you describe the style and/or voice of each poet? What makes you describe it this way?

    “I Walked Through The Trees, Mourning” by Cathy Linh Che is a sad poem about the narrator dying of cancer. The narrator is slowly dying of cancer, and he or she even have thoughts about suicide. However, the narrator has not gotten that far because she trying to enjoy life by dancing which is taking her mind off her sickness. The reason why I believe it was cancer because the narrator talks about his or her hair is gone. The next poem is “Lowering Your Standards For Food Stamps” by Sheryl Luna which is also the narrator being disappointed in his or herself. The narrator talks about working in a gas as a clerk working long hours which lead me to believe he lost his job. The evidence that was brought to me was the tile because he or she is not used to getting food stamps, so they was probably a dramatic decrease in salary. By losing his or her job he had to settle for something less which he or she came qualified for food stamps.

    Which poem do you enjoy more? Why? Be specific!

    I like enjoy “Lowering Your Standards For Food Stamps” because it shows the reality of living in America. You could have something good, but when you lose your job it all can change. You have to settle for whatever you get that the time. Like the narrator settle for working in a gas station, and continue to work even having a fear of getting robbed.

  3. Luzmery

    Linh Che’s poem was very descriptive when it comes to her emotions, her tone was more like gloomy and calm, she made great use of words and it was very easy to understand. Sheryl’ poem focuses on her job at a gas station selling lottery tickets, we can clearly see that she is not happy with the life she is living. She uses imagery to describe her environment, an example of it is “Faces blur in a stream of  hurried soccer games” and by the words she uses “wacked out” “meth heads” we can tell she doesn’t like it at all.

    The one that I enjoyed the most was “Lowering your Standards for Food Stamps” because it describes the lives of so many people around the world that have to take whatever they can find to support themselves, no matter if they like it or not.

  4. Amna Ahmed

    How would you describe the style and/or voice of each poet? What makes you describe it this way?
    In Linh Chin’s poem, her voice can be described as despondent. It felt like something was coming to and end. Many times throughout the poem Linh Chin would use words like “gone”, “broken”, and “burned”. The words connote to an end and failure. In Luna’s poem, her voice sounds as though she is angry or bitter. Luna is bitter about struggling through her life doing menial work.

    Which poem do you enjoy more? Why? Be specific!
    I liked Linh Chin’s poem more than Luna’s poem. I enjoyed Linh Chin’s poem more because I liked her use of imagery.

  5. malik lee

    How would you describe the style and/or voice of each poet? What makes you describe it this way?
    Linh Che’s poem was very descriptive especially with her emotions. What I enjoyed most reading her poem was it was very easy to understand but I liked how even though the narrator was effected by cancer she still was able to live her life doing thinks like dancing which took her mind off her sickness. Once the narrator opened up about hair loss made me believe it was cancer. Sheryl Luna poem focused on a person day working at a gas station selling lottery tickets. Luna use of words made me believe the narrator was disappointed with their job and was very unhappy.

    Which poem do you enjoy more? Why? Be specific!

    I enjoyed reading Linh Che’s poem the most. Linh Che’s poem shows the reality of life and death. Linh Che’s poem is a prime example of not living in fear. Some people maybe be afraid to live their life but in Che’s poem the narrator was so full of life regardless of their sickness which shows the true meaning of living life.

  6. Leviza Murtazayeva

    How would you describe the style and/or voice of each poet? What makes you describe it this way?
    -The style and voice of the Linh Che’s poem was very calm and soothing my opinion. It is a very short and straightforward. It also seems like it is projecting a message to a reader of this poem , the author may have used personification, because she adds a line “asking bitter questions of a gun.” This shows how she may describe someone as if he/she is angry, if describing a weapon, someone for example me discriminated.
    – Poem by Luna, on the other hand, is also very straight to a point but does not sound calm. There are no pauses, so it the information is continuous, and it being thrown at the reader. This poem reminded me of a rap style song about life and everything that goes around. This is because she uses lines such as “I am drawn to dramas, the couple arguing, the man
    headbutting his wife in the parking lot.”

    Which poem do you enjoy more? Why? Be specific!
    -I like the Sheryl Luna’s poem a lot more, since it did hit home to me more. I like poems that have a lot deep meaning to it. For example this poem, starts off with a title about lowering your standards for food stamps. This is a very straight forward message to those that keep the standards way to high in economy of the country. This poem has a strong voice, I could tell that with this line, “Visionaries off their meds and wacked out meth heads sing to me. A panicky fear of robbery and humiliation drips with my sweat.” this line is deep which explains situation that can occur and may be already occurring in the city. This poem is a voice that is asking for a change, and I love it.

  7. Diana Rivera

    Linh Che’s sonnet was extremely enlightening with regards to her feelings, her tone was more similar to miserable and quiet, she utilized words and it was straightforward. Sheryl’s sonnet centers around her position at a corner store selling lottery tickets, we can unmistakably observe that she isn’t content with the daily routine she is experiencing. She utilizes symbolism to portray her current circumstance, a case of it is “Faces obscure in a stream of  rushed soccer matches” and by the words, she utilizes “wacked out” “meth heads” we can tell she doesn’t care for it by any means.

    I like Sheryl Luna’s sonnet significantly more since it hit home to me more. I like sonnets that have a ton of profound significance to it. For instance, this sonnet begins with a title about settling for less for food stamps. This is an exceptionally straight forward message to those that keep the norms approach to high in the economy of the nation. This sonnet has a solid voice, I could tell that with this line, “Visionaries off their drugs and wacked out meth makes a beeline for me. A panicky dread of burglary and mortification trickles with my perspiration.” this line is profound which clarifies circumstance that can happen and might be now happening in the city. This sonnet is a voice that is requesting a change, and I love it.

  8. Saja Musa

    1. The voice in Che’s poem is that of a person who is trying to hold onto life but feels it slipping away. She is trying to cling onto life but feels like her efforts are not working. She states that she is still dancing which I felt was her way of saying she is still fighting to stay alive. In Lunas poem, the narrator is bitter and angry. She is not content with her surroundings. It seems like she works in some sort of convenience store selling lottery tickets in a unprivileged neighborhood that is crime and drug ridden. She is exhausted and angered with her setting. Her angry tone can be felt through the use of diction.

    2. My favorite poem has to be Che’s poem because it’s tone is less angry. I found Che’s poem to be a bit inspirational. For instance, I felt that despite losing a bit of life daily, the narrator refuses to give up dancing her way through the days that remain hers. Such poem gives a new meaning to life. It teaches us not to take advantage of this gift of life because many are fighting to continue to live it.

  9. Jozelyn

    How would you describe the style and/or voice of each poet? What makes you describe it this way?
    -Cathy Linh Che: The style of the poem showed that the poet is in touch with her emotions by using very descriptive words. I would say the voice of this poem shows sadness and anger.
    – Sheryl Luna: The style of this poem is very conversational and shows emotion and series of events that has happened within the individual’s day. The voice of the poem expresses frustration and tiredness as well. She states that “I am far from poems” which can mean that she is so tired and “over it” that she just needs to say what she needs to say.
    Which poem do you enjoy more? Why? Be specific!
    I liked Luna’s poem more. I feel like it was a poem that was more conversational and relatable.

  10. Angelica Hernandez

    How would you describe the style and/or voice of each poet? What makes you describe it this way?
    I find Linh Che’s poem to be more symbolic and more up to the reader to interpret, there’s no setting or context by what I can tell so it can mean anything to whoever reads it. Her tone to me seems very calm and relaxed.
    Luna’s poem gave a different experience, where she’s more straightforward with her work and easier to understand. Her tone seems more alarmed and more attentive since she’s paying attention a lot to detail.

    Which poem do you enjoy more? Why? Be specific!
    I liked Luna’s poem better because I visualized her experience by the way she wrote. I found it more interesting and entertaining to read. Theirs a clear setting and you can tell what she works as, and her experience as well.

  11. Dylan

    How would you describe the style and/or voice of each poet? What makes you describe it this way?
    Che’s voice is somber, and feels as if she is struggling to find a purpose, something to hold onto. Her body is failing, and she feels hurt, but she still roams, searching. The spaces between stanzas make it feel as if she is taking her time going through this thought process, unsure and maybe hopeless.
    Luna’s voice is short and sharp. Her lines are descriptive yet blunt, and you can feel the bleakness in her tone. Her delivery masks no emotions, she simply states what she is going through and how she is ashamed of the state she has found herself in, holding herself fully accountable.

    Which poem do you enjoy more? Why? Be specific!
    I enjoy Che’s poem because it sounds less harsh than Luna’s. Luna feels direct and bleak, while Che approaches her situation with a somber tone which is also much less intense. Che provides minimal text to express what she feels, leaving much more to interpret, while Luna holds nothing back,

  12. Sarvi

    1. How would you describe the style and/or voice of each poet? What makes you describe it this way?
    Ans: I walked through the trees mourning by Cathy Linh Che would be described as conversational as well as simple. The reason I describe it as that is because it’s very direct, it uses day to day wordings. The author is also speaking about aging in the lines:
    “Dance is a body’s refusal to die. But, oh, your gone hair. The flame & orange flare.
    Our forms, our least known selves.” Aging is something we go through naturally and unwillingly every second. And many people talk about it in their daily life. Lowering Your Standards for Food Stamps by Sheryl Luna would also be described as conversational. The reason for that description is that it made me feel as of I was listening to my friend’s work stories, or someone who had a very hard day at work. Or like many people in the United States who face hardships in their daily lives.

    2. Which poem do you enjoy more? Why? Be specific.
    Ans: I enjoyed Lowering Your Standards for Food Stamps By Sheryl Luna more because I felt like I related to it more. For example. I’ve had to struggle working at a supermarket for long hours, dealing with terrible managers who offered a lot less then what I’ve worked for. Also surrounded by thugs who were involved with gangs who would commit terrible stuff.

  13. Maria Mateo

    Luna’s poem was more direct and uses a descriptive style that makes it easier to understand. She described what a workday is like for her and the things that she goes through. With this style she had the ability to reach the reader’s imagination and create a better picture in our heads of what she was describing. In Linh Chen’s poem she also uses a descriptive style. Even though it was a little shorter, she was able to describe in a few words that she was sick and about to die.
    I enjoy Luna’s poem more because as a person that works as a cashier I can perfectly identify myself with the things she has to face in her workday. I had to deal with annoying customers and even sometimes as she mentioned fake a smile on my face.

  14. nickay82

    I read “I walked through the trees, mourning. By, Cathy Linh Che” four times and still did not get a full picture of what was taking place. It was hinted that the main character was sick in the first few stanzas but the author did not provide enough details for me to conclude what was really happening. The author seemed angry when she wrote “ I roamed the field angry & burned asking bitter questions of a gun”. The story line was all over the place and I had a hard time following.

    I enjoyed reading Lowering Your Standards for Food Stamps by Sheryl Kuna. The author was very descriptive about what life was like for her working a low-end job at a gas station. It was evident that the main character hated that job and was filled with regret about the way life was going.

    I like Sheryl Kuna poem most because it was easy to understand. I like that the author was very detailed and made her point about how she felt about the job she was doing.

  15. Marina Malak

    The first poem by Cathy Linh Che is very descriptive and written in a metaphoric way. Her voice and style is complicated to understand the metaphors yet simple once you know what she is talking about. The author talking about either a process of aging or a bodily disease as she said, “Dance’s the body’s refusal to die, but oh your gone hair”. The poem is in a sad tone in general and makes me feel some type of loss. The second poem by Sheryl Luna is written is unsatisfied with her life and what she has to do to survive and make money to live. She mentions “the American way”; which I felt personally how in America people just work and have little to no time and money to live comfortably. I enjoyed reading the poem by Sheryl Luna more because it basically described a daily issue that we deal with living in America; especially as an immigrant who’s trying to build their future through hard work, but it never ends.

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