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English Literature: How to Write a Poetry Essay

By: Kate Simpson BA, MA - Updated: 10 Jul 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Writing Poetry Essay Planning Poetry

Many students experience writer’s block when they first begin writing a poetry essay. Poems are unwieldy beings which throw up all sorts of images, ideas, associations and emotions. As a result of this, it is not uncommon for a student to feel somewhat overwhelmed by their thoughts on a given poem and to struggle with transforming their reading of it into structured sentences and paragraphs. Here, planning is key. Plenty of students find it useful to follow a set plan to order their thoughts. Making a few notes under useful headings prior to writing the essay can give students the confidence they need to write a successful poetry essay. Below is an example of a plan that has proven useful to many.

Introduction: Ideas, Attitudes and Feelings

In the introduction to a poetry essay, it is important that students signal that they know what the poem is about. Thinking about the ideas, attitudes and feelings expressed in the poem can be a handy way into getting a hold on its content. Is it a happy or a sad poem? What is the subject matter? What events occur in the poem? Is it about memory, the present moment or the future? What is the tone of the poem?

Voice

The question students must ask themselves here is, ‘Who is speaking?’. In some poems, the speaker can be clearly identified. In others, the identity of the speaker may be a little more difficult to detect. Is the poem written in first person? Who is it written to? How old might the speaker be? Are they male of female?

Structure

The word ‘structure’ refers to the way in which the ideas, events or details of the poem are unfolded to the reader. For example, a poem might begin with a tone of uncertainty, move on to ask a series of demanding questions and then end on a note of resignation. It can be helpful to visually group together similar lines in a poem and see where the tone, language or subject matter shifts and changes.

Language

When writing about poetry, the focus should be on the language that the poet uses. Alliteration, assonance, adjectives and adverbs should all be scrutinised. What effects do they create? Metaphor and similes should also be looked for. What images do they conjure up? It can be interesting to see what sort of objects appear in a given poem. For example, are there lots of objects that have to do with the world of work, or the beach, or wealth? Are there any clusters of words, or semantic fields, that relate to the same subject? Does the poet favour short or long words? Here, it is very important to give short quotations from the poem and explain the effects the poet’s language choices have.

Form

The form of a poem should not be confused with the structure of the poem. It refers to the way in which the poem is crafted. Rhyme, metre and stanza organisation are all key here. Is the poem long or short? Are lines grouped into stanzas? Does the poet use rhyme? Are rhyming couplets employed? Is the rhyme regular or irregular? Is there a uniform number of beats in each line? Which words rhyme together? Students should brush up on the literary terms that are used to describe the formal elements of poetry so that they are able to cite aspects of the poem as evidence for their points and explain the effects produced.

Conclusion

Just as every essay should always have an introduction, a conclusion is also mandatory. Here, students should sum up the main points that have been made in the body of their essay. They might also like to close with a short discussion of which of the poem’s features most intrigued them and why.

Reading poems can be illuminating and thought provoking. Equally, writing an essay on poetry can prove a creative and engaging task. Crucially, the student should adopt an inquisitive and critical reading stance and pay attention to every choice the poet has made in the creation of their poem.

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Hello my dear friend I like to know exactly to write the peom assingment.
Serin Sangma - 10-Jul-17 @ 4:29 PM
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