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A Step By Step Guide To Writing Essays On Poems.

3387 words - 14 pages

In all poetry essays, you will be expected to explain your understanding of an aspects of a poem or poems and discuss the ways the poet's choices of language and structure create and shape meaning. Marks are awarded according to your ability in three key areas:INTERPRETATIONLANGUAGESTRUCTUREUnderstanding the various layers of meaning in a poemUnderstanding how language creates and shapes meaningUnderstanding how meaning is developed across a whole poemHow to tackle the essay question...Read it slowly and with care.Highlight its key words.If not obvious, decide which poem(s) would best help you answer the question.Read the poem(s) carefully but in a natural, lively or dramatic way - not dull and flat!This will help you find the correct tone of voice that will let you discover poet's attitude towards his or her subject matter.Notice any changes in tone of voice that occur during the poem; work out why this happens - it suggests a change in attitude.Look out especially for the use of an ironic tone of voice, when one thing is said but altogether another is hinted at.Read through the whole poem once again and work out its big picture: that is what it is about and why it was written, along with the circumstances that surrounded its creation.Many poems can be understood more easily if you recognise that the meaning they contain often relies on the use of oppositions or contrasts (these are also called binaries or binary oppositions).If you do think that meaning is being created or ideas reinforced by contrasts or oppositions, work out how and why this is being done. Often metaphors and similes can suggest an image or idea and deepen our understanding the message the poet is trying to communicate. In this way, the opposition is often not expressed literally, but hinted at obliquely through figurative language; the repetition of sounds in words might also be used to emphasise certain ideas and images.Four key questions to ask of your poem(s)...Who is 'speaking'? That is who 'tells' the poem and what sort of 'person' this is (Care! This 'poetic voice' is not necessarily the poet's - the poet might have created a persona).What about? - that is, the story of the poem?What kind of voice is it and how can you tell? What kind of person does it belong to? What qualities does it have? What effect does it create? How has this voice been created and why?In what situation is the voice speaking? (that is, the context or circumstance in which the poem 'exists')?Who is it speaking to, where and when? Is there an 'invisible' audience for the poem? Is it just you, the reader? Is the poem an interior monologue with a single voice telling of 'inner thoughts'? Or does it seem to be one half of a conversation of some kind?some poems allow you to imagine them as a conversation with a friend - like two friends talking! Thinking of a poem like this can reveal a lot and demystify the idea that poems must be very 'special' and difficult. Some are - but many are not.If you are...

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