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Reader Response Theory

Susan Stenson


The woman is running down the road past the yellow house
and if the line above had read, walking, it would be a very different poem
And what if the woman was crawling down the road past the yellow house
and the house was not really painted yellow at all because yellow is not a colour
for houses in this town so it must really be a jail and not a house at all

A jail, with yellow brick and grey mortar, the colour of jails in this town
and the woman is running or walking or crawling past it
and the road easily becomes the road you were running on
that day you ran down the road past the yellow house

But had to make it look like you were really walking so nobody'd
get any funny ideas and figure out that you were not running down the road at all
but running away from the yellow house and all that time
it felt like you were crawling, not walking, not running and
if you were not a woman at all but a man running this road

The readers would need to know what kind of man you were because men in poems
are much harder to see. Easy to see a woman running down the road past the yellow
house. What kind of reader will question that a woman is running down the road past
a yellow house or assume that she must have a reason for running
because the poem says she is running but the poem does not say

That she is running away from anything (unlike you that time in stanza three)
you were definitely running away from something so she must be running away
from it too, even if the poem simply says the woman is running down the road
past the yellow house
or a man was described as running down the road past
the yellow house, the reader would want to know where the man was running to,
because most likely the man was running toward something, not away from
something at all, but it's the woman who is running down the road
past the yellow house and that is all you are told



Susan Stenson's works copyright © to the author.


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