Using an essay about Wordsworth's poetic process and the 'Lucy poems' I introduce to students the idea that we can identify and unpack Wordsworth's creative process. Based on the qualities Wordsworth gives to his poems and his motivations as a poet I want my students to identify and unpack the poetic process.
I want the Lucy Scrapbook, I explain to them, to demonstrate Wordsworth's various influences. Where might the imagery in the poem come from? Who might have influenced his writing? What was going on in the world around him, and in his life when he wrote the poems?
"You are re-creating a historical document," I explain. "Rather you are exploring how an author approaches writing, his method, and his influences. This is a creative project, and each one of you will approach it from a different vantage. However, you have some concept of Wordsworth's goals when he wrote, and the underlying themes he wished to develop. Creating the scrapbook is essentially looking at that process in reverse and how it influenced these poems.
We then look at "Strange fits of passion I have known", the first of the Lucy poems. We read the poem once out loud together, and then I ask students to turn to a partner and paraphrase a stanza I've assigned to them. They are able to accomplish this quickly, and in a short time we've paraphrased the poem as a class.
Next, I have them focus on the imagery Wordsworth uses. The students recognize that the poem is dominated by images from Nature, from the simile used to describe Lucy in line 6 to the ominous moon that symbolizes the speakers fear of Lucy's demise.
Next we look at the narrative structure of the poem, and the way Wordsworth builds suspense in the poem, not through external forces, but through the speaker's own fears of what could be. This discussion leads to a side discussion over whether or not Lucy is really dead, some of the students thought the "lover's ear" mentioned in line 3 was that of Lucy, as the speaker recounts to her his fears. Other thought it was a different woman hearing the story of Lucy at a different time.
Finally, we discuss the overall theme of the poem, "What fond and wayward thoughts will slide / Into a lover's head!" and Wordsworth's explicit inclusion of a moral at the end of the poem. That Wordsworth seems to suggest that part of loving is a tendency toward passion and mild hysteria.
Which leads to the question: what is Wordsworth trying to accomplish with this series of poems? Now that the students have some possibilities they are ready to start working on their scrapbooks.
Now that the students have explored Wordsworth's poetics we're going to do a little Romantic imagining ourselves. I want students to understand that the poetic, creative process begins with the imagination, and that often begins with a single image. Often this image is translated by the poet into language which is developed using metaphor, simile, personification, etc. The students will get a a first-hand look at this process by imagining what Wordsworth first wrote about when he wrote the Lucy poems.
I hand out the Lucy Scrapbook assignment sheet and we go over the required points. I give each student a 8 1/2 X 7 blank examination book and explain that the cover should be decorated as well as the first 10 - 12 pages. There should be at least two drafts of each of the four poems, as well as journal entries and quotes from family and friends. At least two of those quotes should be genuine, and the journal entries should include some of Wordsworth's own wordds.
I encourage students to include art work as we well as artifacts like recreated letters and notes tucked into the journal.
Finally I explain that research is required for a project of this scope, and that a bibliography needs to be included in the back of the book on the last page.