The Poetry of William Blake

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11622

In these days of self-publishing and do-it-yourself everything, William Blake may not have stood out. But in his time, he was considered "mad." Read for yourself, and illustrate a Blake poem yourself!

categories

Literary Studies

subject
Reading
learning style
Visual
personality style
Beaver
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

If you were writing poetry that would be illustrated, would you rather hire a professional illustrator or create your own images to accompany your poems? Who would print your poetry? Would you want to be considered "mad" for your views?

A Poison Tree

Image from The William Blake Archive, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Portrait of William Blake

Image by Thomas Phillips from The Morgan Library, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

The best way to be introduced to William Blake's unusual life is to read the William Blake biography provded by poets.org.

As you read, answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper. After you have finished reading and answering the questions, discuss your responses with your parent or teacher:

  • What subjects influenced Blake's writing?
  • What type of education did Blake receive as a child?
  • How did Blake learn the engraving trade?
  • Why did Blake spend a lot of time in Westminster Abbey, and how did this experience influence him?
  • What skills did Blake teach his wife, Catherine?
  • How would you describe the process of relief etching?
  • Why did Blake often have difficulty finding engraving work?

Was there anything about Blake's life that surprised you? Discuss your response with your parent or teacher.

William Blake was considered a radical, even by his friends, for his religious beliefs and for his unusual style of engraving. Because of his unconventionality, he struggled to find work for most of his adult life, but he was emotionally supported by his wife of nearly 45 years, Catherine.

Move on to the Got It? section to learn more about Blake's engraving process, and to read several of his famous poems that he illustrated using the relief etching method.

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