Student Spotlight: The Poetry of Argument


Recently in senior rhetoric class, the 12th graders studied “the Poetry of Argument.”

We had already studied the structure of a logical argument and observed the power of claims and reasons and evidence. But now we were studying the important matter of poetic expression. We discussed how there is a modern mentality that demands precision, quantification, abstraction, and direct correlation in language. This is the analytic paradigm.

But we observed that there is another paradigm for language that values metaphor and personification. It requires imprecision, qualification, concrete images, and oblique correlation. I asserted to the students that this way of speaking is actually often more accurate and often more powerful.

Which is more powerfully expressed?

“It is currently 104.3 degrees Fahrenheit outside.”

“The Devil called; he wants his weather back.”

As a way to explore these two modes of expression, the students were assigned this exercise in description: use analytical language to describe a spring day. Then use poetic language to describe a math problem. They were befuddled at first, but they got the point. And I might add that they got the point quite well. Especially Ali Hosseinpour, who wrote two wonderful descriptive paragraphs. I share them with you below — please enjoy them.

Analytic Description of a Spring Day

It was Friday April 4, and it was 86.45 Fahrenheit outside. I went outside my house and saw 96 helianthus annuss; surrounding them were apis mellifera linnaeus, which are in the order hymenoptera. As the 12 millimeter apis beat its wings at 11,400 times per minute, it tried to find a suitable helianthus annuss. Then it stuck its proboscis to suck out the nectar and carried the nectar to his beehive. I could also see two cyanocitta cristata trying to get a perennial which is in the section cyanoccucus. 3.8 meters away from me I could see an odocoileus virginianus. She was doing a basic function needed to sustain life. 46 degrees to my right there was a pinus aphremous which was using photosynthesis to obtain nutrients so it could also sustain life. The sky, due to the atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere that separate the sun’s white light into many colors and scatters them into the atmosphere, was blue. The sky was filled with tiny drops of condensing clear water vapor and ice crystals that settled on dust particles in the atmosphere. This was a great time for the earth to be tilting toward the sun.

Poetic Description of a Math Problem

What is one plus one? It is like me and you on a hot summer’s day, enjoying the warm air, playing in the grass and having fun at the fair. It is like you and I becoming friends, being happy to be alive and living like we should. It is not just one which is all alone and has no friends and does not know warmth. It is two which is far greater than one. When one cannot succeed by itself, two can strive forward. When I cannot figure out a math problem, do a chore, lift a burden, or feel good you will be there to show me the way and make me feel alive. One plus one is the mother and son being together, always having faith in each other and loving each other more than the world. They will never leave each other’s side, because the son can do far greater things with the mother, and the mother will have much more fun with the son. One plus one is something that should not be subtracted or divided because one plus one is something that should live on bringing happiness to the world.

Great work, Ali!

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