1. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    Poetry Discussion Thread

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Sidewinder, Apr 9, 2011.

    So we'll see how far this goes, but I thought a thread for talking about poems might be a good idea. This way poets here who want to learn more about the craft of poetry can do so by taking a look at poems, deconstructing them, and observing how others deconstruct them. The idea would be that you can post a poem here and write a little bit about why you like it. Then other people can give their opinions or interpretations of the same poem if they feel so inclined. Another way to use the thread would be to post a poem that you don't understand and see if anyone has anything enlightening to say about it. You can comment on the various poetic devices present in poems in this thread, or you can just post general questions or comments. You can refer to literary theory, or just go with what your gut is telling you. I think a lot of good things can come out of this kind of discussion. I hope this is the right section to post this in. I know it's not discussing a single book, but presumably all of these poems can be found in books.

    I think we should stipulate that poems in this thread should be relatively short (<40 lines or so?). For longer poems start a separate thread, or just post an excerpt. I think we should also stipulate that if you post a poem you should at least say a few things about it, whether they're interprative, or if you are having trouble understanding it, what confused you about it. Another thing that I'd like to suggest is that if you don't understand any poetic terminology that's used, just look it up on wikipedia or google instead of asking someone else to explain what it means.

    My point in including this quotation is to remind us that poetry is not about encoding ideas with a grab bag of poetic devices. When writing poetry, poetic devices most often emerge through a natural process. You're trying to express something and suddenly you realize you've got a metaphor. A certain rhyme scheme seems to fit, so you work with it. When we're analysing poetry, it doesn't do any good to look at poetic devices in a vacuum. We have to comment on what effect they have. So don't just say "this is the meter." Say, "this is what the meter does." Don't just say "this is a metaphor." Say, "the metaphor makes me think of such and such." Or ask questions. "I noticed that this line has a strange rhythm. Does anyone have any impressions about that?" If we take that sort of approach, I think this could be a useful thread.

    And if I'm the only one contributing, it's not likely to last long. So I hope there are some poets out there interested in this sort of discusssion.
     
  2. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm gonna start things off with a simple little Emily Dickinson poem.
    I like this poem because it reminds me that small acts of compassion are important. Its rhymes make it pleasant and comforting to read aloud. The language is very simple, and the meaning is direct. But if you look at the form of the poem, you see that the simplicity of it is a bit deceptive. There are subtle little accents in the form that draw our attention to certain elements.

    Iambic pentameter is supposed to be the closest meter to natural everyday speech. The two lines beginning with "If" both fall half a foot short of iambic pentameter. At the end of each of these lines, there is a sense of dangling incompletion, so that the next line jars us a little bit. "I shall not live in vain" is three iambic feet, but then the shorter "Or cool one pain" jars us even more with three stressed syllables in a row. The next line, "Or help one fainting robin" breaks the form completely with a slanted rhyme and two stressed syllables in the middle of an iambic line. Also note that this is the only solid image in the poem, and that it's a rather strange image. (Do robins faint?) The effect is that Dickinson rather emphatically draws our attention to this image of a robin fainting, and causes us to spend some time thinking about it.

    Those are just a few thoughts about it. Feel free to post your own thoughts, or any other poems here.
     
  3. K.S.A.
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    K.S.A. Member

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    I think I'm just reading the general stressed syllables, in a pentameter, wrong. 'Fainting Robin' are the 2 stressed syllables you'd mentioned, right? But I've come across the term 'accent' before & that's a bit non-Googlable. So, I'm not entirely sure what that means. Also, I'm guessing 'Robin' is the incomplete/slanted rhyme because it doesn't really have the same sound to it as "pain, again, vain"? What would you describe the rhyme scheme as (we're asked to describe those in class, for any pieces we review)?

    The language is fairly simple to follow, which I'm very thankful for. The message, too, is not buried under layers & layers of metaphor, which I like. But even then, like you mentioned, just that one stark image of the "fainting robin" was enough to lead a sort of complexity to an otherwise simple piece. I understand this because sometimes, most poems just leave me feeling bombarded (with images), a bit like telling me & not letting me see for myself.

    Another problem I'm having is with inversion. Iambic pentameter follows a five iamb rule but sometimes the first foot has the stressed syllable first, followed by an unstressed one. In such cases, how do you determine whether something is still an iambic pentameter instead of one of the other types of meter viz. dactly or trochee?
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Notice!

    Any poems posted here MUST be identified by both title and poet, or they will be removed. If there is no title, the title shall be given as "Untitled."

    NO EXCEPTIONS.
     
  5. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    You'll just have to look at overall trends and effects. I know there are sources that will list 'acceptable' substitutes, but even still, it's not an exact science.

    If the first three lines of a poem are iambic pentameter, and the fourth line throws in a trochee at the start, the poem is probably still iambic pentameter. It doesn't change the overall structure, and in fact such substitutes are often used to heighten the main meter scheme, and you're rarely find a poem that always follows one scheme perfectly, as that gets boring and expected, so often a writer will toss in a change to re-inject life into the poem or bring attention to an important part.

    With the poem in question, I'm not convinced it has enough of a consistent scheme to claim one exists. I wouldn't say it starts out iambic pentameter, as if you're dropping the stressed part of a foot, without no non-dropped examples established, then imo it usually means you might want to look at it being tetrameter with an added unstressed half-foot added. This is probably likely, as it fits into the 4/3 ballad style she often worked in.
     
  6. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    Pentameter or tetrameter, it starts out close enough to iambic to comment on the meter. It's not the length of the line but the type of metric foot that's significant here, really. It sounds like plain old ordinary iambs, so the parts that break that are noteworthy.

    The two stressed syllable in a row are "one fain-" the way I'm reading it. I guess "one heart" and "one life" could read that way too.

    Rhyme scheme -- ABABABB. The third A is a slanted or half rhyme. Yes, robin is a half rhyme, but it's more noticable because of "fainting" before it.
     
  7. K.S.A.
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    K.S.A. Member

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    Now I'm just totally confused. Doesn't a Ballad usually imply a narrative, story-telling verse. Then how does this one qualify? Also, tetrameter meaning 3 syllabic feet, right? Because there are 9 syllables in the first & 6 in the second? ARGH! **hard drive crashed because of information overload**

    Also, would this verse be termed feminine because the lines involved in incremental repetition (an element of ballad...ah) end in unstressed syllables?
     
  8. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    Tetrameter is four feet. He's saying it's tetrameter with an added half foot, which is sort of inconsequential -- it's still a dangling half foot at the end of the line. And it's not a ballad. He's talking about ballad meter, which goes 4 feet 3 feet, etc. Dickinson used that a lot. This is why worrying too much about form can be confusing. Just think about what's on the page in front of you. Like popsicledeath said, it's not science, there are just trends.

    Yes you could term it feminine.

    When talking about free verse, it's unlikely that meter will even get mentioned.
     
  9. K.S.A.
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    K.S.A. Member

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    Ah, new interesting info to assimilate.

    But this isn't free verse, is it? I was told that included lines of varying meter, no rhyme scheme & the like. Is that not right?
     
  10. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    Free verse can use these devices but more liberally. I wouldn't call this one free verse exactly. But I chose it because it's hard to characterize and must be read for what it is, instead of just for its form.
     
  11. Baywriter
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    Baywriter Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm going to post a new poem now for discussion. Let's not get too obsessed with form and meter because no matter how you choose to write poetry, the point is always to express something. So what's important is what's actually being expressed. Frankly, in my opinion, meter is a rather confining tool. In most cases, it is simply used to make the poem read well. And if I were to write a poem with a set meter, I might feel like I'm conforming to this idea of "the perfect poem." Stressed and unstressed syllables do not make poetry. Poetry is expression and emotion. It's words that breathe. Who cares how many lines or syllables you use to express yourself?

    End rant. Anyway. This is one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost.

    First of all, I love Robert Frost, so maybe I'm a bit biased toward his work. But I love this poem because it makes me think. Which is more destructive, desire or hatred? I find that I tend to agree with what Frost has here if you take "suffice" to mean "equal." Because both are elements of human nature that are destructive. We'll fight to get something we want. We'll fight to destroy something we hate. Either way, it generally ends in someone getting hurt. I do question why hatred is associated with ice. On some level I get it. Makes me think of someone being cold and hateful. But on the other hand, I usually associate hatred with fire because when you truly hate something, there's just this burning feeling. Is ice meant to be associated with hatred at all? Or is he still talking about fire and we're meant to infer what ice is? (It doesn't read that way to me, but I thought I'd ask for opinions anyway.)

    And then I'm also always questioning the tone of this piece. Serious? Sarcastic?

    Thoughts? (If ANYONE says Twilight, I'm out of the discussion. Ha, ha.)
     
  12. K.S.A.
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    K.S.A. Member

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    Some of the oldest forms of poetry are also considered Art. That is because their creators took such pains to not only convey their message but to add some sort of intellect & beauty in putting them together. This is why I consider form important. I'm not saying let it restrict your creative freedom...I'm saying use it to go beyond the ordinary.

    Robert Frost has always been one of my favourite poets, apart from Wordsworth, Hughes & Plath. I was extremely annoyed when she used it in that blasted book (Eclipse not Twilight **grins** Please don't run away).

    Moving on: -

    I think he's trying to say that the world will end in either of the two ways - Fire or Ice. Fire refers to human passion & this is often linked to greed for something, & how people fight tooth and nail for mere trinkets. Ice refers to the human tendency to hate - hate that causes one human to turn on and kill his brother in the most cold-blooded manner, to achieve an ideal which does not include his "kind". The last two lines break away from the fluidity of the rest of the piece, showing a bleakness & a resignation, as if he has accepted the fact that mankind will eventually cause its own destruction. All he can do now is to choose how he dies.
     
  13. Baywriter
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    Baywriter Contributing Member Contributor

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    I suppose it depends on what your definition of beauty is. It is in the eyes of the beholder, after all. I don't think a set meter makes something beautiful or extraordinary, but that is simply an opinion that could be argued forever. Ha, ha.
     
  14. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    Frost is a very classic poet -- I love his stuff. It's funny though, because he paid a lot of attention to poetic form and devices, so strange that you mentioned that.

    I just want to say one thing about this one -- I think people usually miss the point of it. I think you're on to something when you use the word "sarcastic." I think it's deeply ironic in tone, especially the last two lines. I think by using these strong rhymes, flowing meter, and grandiose metaphors, he's very conscious of the poeticized nature of the language. It's like he's criticizing a fatalistic worldview -- commenting on how we seem to think that fire and ice are the only options. There's no human part of the equation insofar as the poem seems to suggest -- we have no say in the matter, it's all fire and ice. It's pretty clear to me that we're not supposed to take that at face value. The word "great" has a double meaning to me -- like great as in powerful, but also as in "oh wouldn't that be great?" Then the last line has a very matter-of-fact tone, like it wouldn't matter either way. This is still destruction we're talking about. So I think he's trying to make us stop and question if there might not be something between fire and ice that would be preferable.
     
  15. Baywriter
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    Baywriter Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, well I didn't mean that I don't appreciate poems that use those devices. I meant that even if they're present, they're not the most important part of the poem.
     
  16. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    Haha -- I know that. And actually you're making a really good point.
     
  17. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
    Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
    Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
    And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
    Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
    But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
    Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

    This is my favourite few lines of poetry from Dulce Est Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen.

    I know it is probably overused but the blood-shod line always gets me it has me cringing throughout the rest of it. I am not really able to analyse poetry - I just know when something gets to me.

    The Robert Frost poem I found really funny. Roger McGough is probably my favourite but he is still well in copyright - (although some of his pop groups songs might be about to come into the public domain).
     
  18. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    I love this poem. I remember studying it at University. It evokes the horror of war so powerfully. The words he uses are so vivd and precise that you feel like you're there in the midst of a gas attack. Another thing about it is he makes really effective use of subtle repetition and rhyme throughout for the purpose of emphasis.

    Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
    And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,


    That second line there is so powerful, especially when you look at how all the lines end in powerful words except for "in." This makes it read like one big long line that ends in the word "face."

    I just love the bitter sense of indignation in the ending of the poem too.
     
  19. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    One of the the few poems I know by-heart. A grand thing.

    Just a little thing like that, so devastatingly efficient, is the mark of a lively poetic mind....is the sort of thing that can transform prose writing too.
     
  20. arron89
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    Firstly, I wanna address that bit I bolded. You seem to think that the expressive and formal qualities of a poem are mutually exclusive, as though things like rhythm and meter are constraints to creativity. Really though, poetry can only be defined in formal terms (specifically, the formal properties of 'the line')--expressiveness is a quality of a lot of poetry, but it isn't the defining characteristic and you certainly shouldn't approach a poem only looking for meaning or expression, and even when you are analysing meaning, it's important to consider how form influences it.

    I personally can't stand that Robert Frost poem, so I'm not gonna do an in-depth analysis, but it's pretty clear that it's meaning owes a lot to its form, particularly in how it alludes to Dante (through meter and rhyme) how it establishes a dichotomy in subject matter (again through rhyme, and the division of lines).

    I also don't agree with the sarcastic hypothesis...Frost's work generally deals with these kinds of big philosophical issues in a subtle but entirely sincere way. It makes even less sense to read it in this way if (as I do) you subscribe to the idea that the poem consciously references (and perhaps condenses) Dante's Inferno.
     
  21. K.S.A.
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    K.S.A. Member

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    Sidewinder, you started off with one of her poems, which was relatively simple to grasp. The following one, however, has me a little confounded. If any of you could please break this down for me, I'd be grateful.

    The poem is titled 'The Loneliness One dare not sound' & it's by Emily Dickinson:-

    The Loneliness One dare not sound --
    And would as soon surmise
    As in its Grave go plumbing
    To ascertain the size --

    The Loneliness whose worst alarm
    Is lest itself should see --
    And perish from before itself
    For just a scrutiny --

    The Horror not to be surveyed --
    But skirted in the Dark --
    With Consciousness suspended --
    And Being under Lock --

    I fear me this -- is Loneliness --
    The Maker of the soul
    Its Caverns and its Corridors
    Illuminate -- or seal --

    ------------------------------------

    Also, please help me understand what's with the million hyphens?!!!
     
  22. Sidewinder
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    Sidewinder Contributing Member Contributor

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    @K.S.A. -- I'll have a look at that one later when I have some time.

    @arron89 -- Frost was sincere but he wasn't above irony. I've studied him pretty extensively, so I know what you mean about the sincerity. Nonetheless, if there's no intended irony in this poem it's certainly not very interesting, so I can see why you hate it with that reading. "Sarcastic" is probably a bit too strong of a word though. I'd agree with that. But Frost was very good at using subtle ironies.

    And yeah it's alluding to Dante, but that doesn't trump the tone of the writing. Besides which, there is a lot of irony in Inferno, so I don't understand your point.

    I wouldn't say I hate it, but I do think it's an overrated poem.
     
  23. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree not many can write with the impact of Owen.

    Is the Frost poem not meant to be funny lol ? I don't know anything about something about reminded of Manny in the Ice-Age films :)
     
  24. Eunoia
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    It's already been mentioned, but I absolutely adore Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen. I keep meaning to read more of his poetry.

    I recently read Tyrannosaurus Rex Versus the Corduroy Kid by Simon Armitage. I enjoyed the collection, and one that stood out to me was You're Beautiful. Here is some of Simon Armitage's You're Beautiful poem, but it might not be completely accurate as I've copied it from an internet source:

    You're beautiful because you're classically trained.
    I'm ugly because I associate piano wire with strangulation.
    You're beautiful because you stop to read the cards in newsagents’ windows about lost cats and missing dogs.
    I'm ugly because of what I did to that jellyfish with a lolly-stick and a big stone.
    You're beautiful because for you, politeness is instinctive, not a marketing campaign.
    I'm ugly because desperation is impossible to hide.

    Ugly like he is,
    Beautiful like hers,
    Beautiful like Venus,
    Ugly like his,
    Beautiful like she is,
    Ugly like Mars.



    It follows this structure throughout. I can't pinpoint why I like it, there's just something in the tone and detail.
     
  25. Elgaisma
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    @KSA maybe I am just being too simple about this, but sure it is about plumbing the depths of loneliness - wasn't it Emily Dickenson that wrote the poem anout being shut in a cupboard as a child about feel unheard. This seems to have a similar feel - that she isn't understanding why the loneliness is there it is unfathomable and has no ending ?

    @Euonia not sure I really understand this one - I like poems that have a physical as well as poetic structure they draw me to them on the page. However I am tired maybe missing something.

    I felt an urge to include this one as Prince Charles became the longest serving heir to the throne today. I love him lol but has to be one of the most debated poet in the English language. Mr McGonaghall and his An Ode to the Queen in Her Jubilee Year

    An Ode To The Queen
    On Her Jubilee Year

    Sound drums and trumpets, far and near!
    And Let all Queen Victoria's subjects loudly cheer!
    And show by their actions that they revere,
    Because she's served them faithfully fifty long year!

    All hail to the Empress of India and Great Britain's Queen!
    Long may she live happy and serene!
    And as this is now her Jubilee year,
    I hope her subjects will show their loyalty without fear.

    Therefore let all her subjects rejoice and sing,
    Until they make the welkin ring;
    And let young and old on this her Jubilee be glad,
    And cry, "Long Live our Queen!" and don't be sad.

    She has been a good Queen, which no one dare gainsay,
    And I hope God will protect her for many a day;
    May He enable her a few more years to reign,
    And let all her lieges say - Amen!

    Let all hatred towards her be thrown aside
    All o'er dominions broad and wide;
    And let all her subjects bear in mind,
    By God kings and queens are put in trust o'er mankind.

    Therefore rejoice and be glad on her Jubilee day,
    And try and make the heart of our Queen feel gay;
    Oh! try and make her happy in country and town,
    And not with Shakespeare say, "uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."

    And as this is her first Jubilee year,
    And will be her last, I rather fear:
    Therefore, sound drums and trumpets cheerfully,
    Until the echoes are heard o'er land and sea.

    And let the innocent voices of the children at home or abroad
    Ascend with cheerful shouts to the throne of God;
    And sing aloud, "God Save our Gracious Queen!"
    Because a good and charitable Sovereign she has been.

    Therefore, ye sons of great Britain, come join with me,
    And welcome in our noble Queen's Jubilee;
    Because she has been a faithful Queen, ye must confess,
    There hasn't been her equal since the days of Queen Bess.

    Therefore let all her lieges shout and cheer,
    "God Save our Gracious Queen!" for many a year;
    let such be the cry in the peasant's cot, the hall,
    With stentorian voices, as loud as they can bawl.

    And let bonfires be kindled on every hill
    And let her subjects dance around them at their freewill;
    And try to drive dull care away
    By singing and rejoicing on the Queen's Jubilee day.

    May God protect her for many a day,
    At home or abroad when she's far away;
    Long may she be spared o'er her subjects to reign,
    And let each and all with one voice say - Amen!

    Victoria is a good Queen, which all he subjects know,
    And for that may God protect her from every foe;
    May He be as a hedge around her, as He's been all along.
    And let her live and die in peace - is the end of my song
     

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