Can you recognize the work of the favorite writer from the opening lines? Learning how to write an analytical essay on a poem is a bit different from studying the ways to analyze other types of literature.
A poem does not affect its reader in quite the same way that a work of prose does. To be able to understand and write about the way a poem works, you need to spend some time thinking analytically about the poem before you start your draft. Then, when you begin to write, you are better able to select appropriate evidence and construct a convincing argument.
Professor Ivan Marki of the English Department encourages the four-stage approach explained below. It should help you become comfortable working with a poem. Paraphrase the poem Again, before you begin to organize your essay, make sure you understand the language of the poem.
Poetry, particularly from other time periods, often contains confusing syntax or vocabulary. Put into your own words those lines or phrases which are especially difficult.
Resist the temptation to brush over the lines or phrases which seem unintelligible; these can be the most crucial parts of the poem. The Oxford English Dictionary is a good resource for defining difficult vocabulary. How the Poem Works Analyze the poem Since your analysis should make up the bulk of your essay, approach it with care.
Knowing that you will not be able to address every aspect of the poem, select the elements which work together to create special effects. Look beyond the surface meaning of the words and start to think about how the techniques used in the poem add depth to its meaning. How do the elements work together?
Do they complement each other, do they create tension, or both?
Think in terms of cause and effect and look for relationships within the poem itself. For example, if you see a pattern of imagery which suggests something about the speaker, look at other areas of the poem for more evidence along the same lines. In poetry, form and content are inseparable, so you must not overlook the relationship between what the speaker says and how he or she says it.
Why do you think so? What evidence, from your analysis, supports your idea? The main argument of your paper should begin to take form as you struggle with this process.
You have great freedom in interpreting a poem, provided that your assertions are solidly linked to your evidence. Interpretation that does not align with your analysis will be invalid. In the words of M. Your selective analysis emerges from them in the form of an argument that is limited to a manageable set of ideas.
After you have thought through these stages and taken good notes, you should be ready to begin writing your essay. Constructing Your Paper Thesis Review your notes.
Look for patterns and themes. Formulate a thesis statement that will allow you to explain the relationships and the effects of elements in the poem. If you can, indicate in the thesis the areas or features of the poem important to your argument a pattern of imagery, for instance, or a series of crucial lines.
You do not need to go into elaborate detail in your thesis, but do show the relationship between the poem and your argument. Introduction Your first paragraph should make your reader comfortable with the poem by identifying the poet, offering a brief, general description of the poem and, most importantly, leading into the thesis and development of the argument by narrowing and limiting the subject.
It may be helpful to imagine the introduction as a funnel, initially appealing to your reader from a wide perspective and then swiftly directing him or her into the body of your essay. Avoid sweeping, abstract statements or statements which you cannot concretely link to your thesis.
The more quickly you get away from the general and focus on the specific, the sooner you will engage your reader. The Development of Your Argument The approach you undertake in your thesis determines the organization of the rest of the essay.
Some arguments lend themselves to a linear presentation. For example, if you choose to trace the development of the speaker according to the recurrence of an image throughout the poem, you might want to go through the poem chronologically to show how that image changes in significance from line to line or stanza to stanza.
You need not limit yourself to such a presentation, however. Many poems are difficult to explain chronologically; some poems are better suited to a non-linear argument which reflects cycles or other patterns in the poem. If you organize your argument according to the patterns you choose to address, your argument might move through the poem several times, according to the instances of the images and their contextual significance.
For example, one word may have a formal relationship to numerous other words in the poem. To discuss the significance of these relationships, you may find yourself jumping around the poem. Paragraphs Each paragraph should consist of a point which is credible, relevant to your thesis, and analytical.
Remember that you are arguing for a certain position and need to convince your reader of that position.Essay #1: Poetry Explication A poetry explication is a relatively short analysis that describes the possible meanings and relationships of the words, images, and other small units that make up a poem.
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