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Working It Out Poetry Study with George Herbert - Book

Working It Out Poetry Study with George Herbert

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Have you always wanted to
understand great poetry?

Would you like to deepen
your devotional reading? 

Working it Out may be just what you need!

In Working it Out, you will study the work of George Herbert, a 17th-century poet, with an emphasis on seeing the movement of thought within each poem.

Though Working it Out was written primarily as a devotional, the book models a thoughtful method for reading and understanding poetry in general.

Trade paper; 6 x 9"; 216 pages; 51 poem lessons

Learn to understand great poetry by spending a year with the beautiful poetry of George Herbert.

One of the most delightful things about homeschooling is that you can choose unusual ways to study a subject. One of my favorite ways to learn about a subject is to immerse in it. This is especially effective for subjects such as poetry which ought to be enjoyed as a whole, before being dissected for further analysis. In Working it Out, Joseph Womack has not only written a lovely and throught-provoking devotional, but he has also provided a unique resource for learning how to read and understand poetry.
This one year study will take you through 51 works of the great 17th-century poet, George Herbert, with an emphasis on seeing the movement of thought within each poem. Though Working it Out was written primarily as a devotional, the book models a thoughtful method for reading and understanding poetry in general. Rather than learning parts of poetry through a dry textbook, you will instead be able to immerse in this devotional guide and finish the year with a greater ability to understand the poetry you read, as well as a deeper faith.

In Working it Out you will learn to see:

— The Big Picture: what the poem is about

—The Parts of the Picture: a stanza-by-stanza explication of the poem.

—The Parts of the Picture Come Together: a look at the movement of thought through the poem.

When a foundation of understanding is established, you may choose to move into the devotional elements of each chapter, which include:

—Reflections: questions for personal meditation.

—Scriptures for Further Reflection

By the time you finish a year of study in this book, you will have a structured method that you can use to read and understand any poem. Womack's models will help you see how a poet can use tone and nuance, as well as a variety of literary devices, to convey an idea.

Is Working it Out a complete poetry course?

Working it Out does not contain everything you will ever need to know about poetry. For instance, it does not include step-by-step guidance in meter. However, we provide a growing body of supporting instruction on the Excellence in Literature site, and I expect that students will also be studying poetry as part of the Excellence in Literature curriculum and/or the McGuffey Readers.
As you probably know if you've read many of my articles, I believe that immersion is one of the best ways to learn something. Working it Out will immerse you in the challenging but rewarding poetry of one of the most enduring spiritual poets of the seventeenth century. By the end of the year, you will have gained a much greater understanding of how poetry works, and will have tools you can use for the analysis of other poetic works.

Download a free sample lesson from Working it Out (PDF).

Everyday Education, LLC has introduced me to a fantastic Christian poet that I didn’t even know existed. It has been lovely.

From a review of Working it Out by Lori, at At Home: Where Life Happens

Why study George Herbert?

George Herbert is a poet every Christian should know. According to Professor Jerry Root in The C. S. Lewis Readers' Encyclopedia, "[George] Herbert was arguably C. S. Lewis's favorite Lyric poet." Root notes that there are "elements of Herbert's honesty and self-effacing manner that prefigure a similar quality in Lewis's own work."

In Joseph Womack's capable hands, Herbert's poetry becomes a path, not only to a deeper understanding of poetry and literature, but also to a closer walk with God. Whether you choose to enjoy it on your own, in a classroom or co-op, or with family or friends, you will be glad you spent a year in Working it Out.

From the back cover of the first edition:

The Apostle Paul exhorted the church at Philippi to "work out your salvation." George Herbert, a 17th century Anglican priest, worked out his salvation in his poetry as he portrayed "a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that has passed betwixt God and my soul before I could subject mine to the will of Jesus my Master."

George Herbert was a member of a distinguished family, a scholar at Cambridge, a member of the English Parliament, and, finally, a priest in the Anglican Church and a rector of a small rural parish. Most noteworthy, however, was his poetry. In it Herbert made his great contribution to English literature and Christian Spirituality.

As Harold Bloom points out in The Best Poems of the English Language, "there are only a few extraordinary devotional poets in the English language . . . by any standard George Herbert is the devotional poet proper in English."

In this book are over 50 poems that reveal the spiritual struggles of, and the peace found by, this celebrated devotional poet. Each poem is presented and then followed by a commentary on the poem along with reflections designed to enable the reader to connect with the poems on a personal level. The purpose of the book is to assist the reader in understanding and experiencing the wholeness of George Herbert's poetry and thereby to enable the reader to come to a better understanding of God's workings in his or her life.

About the Author

Joseph L. Womack has degrees from Baylor University, The School of Law of The University of Texas at Austin, and the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Virginia. He has taught English literature at Stetson University, was an attorney for 20 years with the U. S. House of Representatives, and before retirement, served as an ordained minster for three churches. He and his wife Cynthia make their home in Virginia. 


Working it Out: Comments from Reviewers

The Yellow Swing: "Reading a Herbert poem is done with intention and Womack gives you the tools to successfully accomplish that task and actually understand what you have read."

Write Balance: "The dual nature of studying both George Herbert's poetry and also his history through personal reflection provides a wealth of learning no matter how you decide to utilize it."

My Journey Through Life: "Working It Out was written mostly as a devotional, but truly, it also teaches a thoughtful way of reading and understanding poetry in general, which means it would help when studying other poets, as well."

Happy Strong Home: "Herbert’s ability to delve deeply and richly into spiritual thoughts modeled for me how to do the same. It’s like doing a word study, only you’re doing more of a concept study. What an impact this is having on my Bible reading time!"

3 Girls, My Guy, and I: "What I loved the most about this amazing product is not just the understanding gained of poetry, but rather the growth and development of my relationship with God. I found this course to be both challenging and supremely rewarding."

Tots and Me: "Mr. Womack has a way of explaining how each of the lines and stanzas work together, making me see what I didn't see when I first read the poem."

Homeschool Coffee Break: "Even as literary devices were being pointed out stanza-by-stanza, the overall feel of the guide is one of inspiration and an appreciation of the gift of language to share profound spiritual insights."

The Simple Homemaker: I don’t recommend this as your child’s first exposure to poetry. If, however, your children have enjoyed simpler poetry, this is a most excellent method of taking it to the next level. With a poet in the family . . . I love how this shows ways you can use poetry to God’s glory . . ."

Families Again: "George Herbert is very deep and his poems can be sometimes difficult to understand and follow at first glance, but with the help of this great book I am beginning to learn to not only understand his work but to apply it to my Christian living as well."

Thou Shalt Not Whine: "We used Working it Out primarily in our morning together time . . . The big kids and I took turns reading the poem aloud and discussing the elements and Reflections together."

A Glimpse of Normal: "I feel like I have gained a much better understanding of how to study poetry by using this book . . . I will also eventually teach my kids this method of breaking down and analyzing poetry to gain a deeper understanding of whatever poetry they study."

For this Season: "I struggled with the first two poems, the good kind of struggle where I could tell I was being challenged spiritually and being challenged in my own literary analysis skills."

Homeschool All Around: "Extremely easy to just pick up and go with, I totally enjoyed this devotional/poetry analysis . . . Even though this is not your typical high school literature course with more popular poems, Working it Out: Poetry Analysis with George Herbert would definitely prepare a student for college literature courses. Yet, moms would enjoy, as well."

Sensible Whimsy: "The purpose of this book—the challenge behind it—is to slow down and let the poetry settle into your soul."

Be Thou Exalted: "I enjoyed the devotional and reading through the poems. If you're like me when you read poetry and your response is "huh?", this would be a beneficial devotional."

Homeschool Happenings: "After reading through various poems I either had no idea what it was talking about or totally missed the meaning altogether. After reading the three part dissection of each work I was able to go back through the poems and see the meaning clearly and effortlessly."

At Home: Where Life Happens: "In order to gain as much as possible from each poem, I worked through them as suggested, focusing carefully on the analysis provided by Womack. I would often find myself wandering back through the poem as I read the analysis and saying 'Wow. That is wonderful.'"

Little Homeschool Blessings: "To use the guide, we would recommend considering reading the poem silently, then aloud. Then have your child narrate the poem either orally or by a written narration and then delve into the parts of the study."

Working it Out is also available as an ebook