Professor Roe English 102/Spring 2002
Essay #2: Writing About Poetry
Rough Draft Option Due:
Final Draft Due:
Directions: In four pages of typewritten, double-spaced writing, you will be doing ONE of the following. Note that if you do either (1) or (2), you will actually be writing either three or two shorter essays, respectively, which will total four pages. Also note that since this is your second paper, you will be using more than just the primary texts—the poems—to quote from. In this paper, you will either have to consult books or academic journals (possibly on-line) to see what other critics have had to say about your poems, and you will have to consider whether you agree or disagree with their assessments. However many poems you deal with, you will consult at least ONE outside source—one per poem. Thus, if you are looking at two poems, you will extract quotes directly from the poems for your support AND you will also cite at least two other sources. Here are your choices:
(1) You will be explicating, or explaining, THREE shorter poems of your choice. You may choose from any of the poems in your text—either ones we have discussed in class or ones you have read on your own. In an explication essay, a writer explains the entire poem and how any symbols or words or rhythms or allusions work toward conveying that meaning. This may mean intelligent speculation or interpretation on your part—interpreting symbols, irony, the use of language and tone, etc.—just as much as you need in order to explain what the poem is saying. Remember that the secondary source that you find will probably provide an explication; you might consult that FIRST and build your own explication off of that, agreeing or disagreeing with it. Make sure, though, that you are NOT just rehashing someone else’s explication. You have to have your own insights too.
(2) You will be analyzing TWO poems in terms of ONE characteristic or element, such as theme, irony, tone, humor, imagery, rhythm, or symbol. For example, for one of the poems you might analyze the irony in William Blake’s “The Chimney Sweeper,” and for the other you might look at the lofty tone in Whitman’s “To a Locomotive in Winter.”
(3) You will compare and/or contrast TWO poems. To write a comparison of two poems, you place them side by side and point out their likenesses; to write a contrast, you point out their differences. If you want to be daring (and earn some brownie point in my [grade] book), you can try to both compare and contrast elements of the poems, bringing attention to both but focusing on what side seems stronger. Ask yourself: Are the poems overall more alike or unalike? You might try comparing two poems by the same poet in order to look at style; or you might contrast the themes and/or tones of two poems which share the same subject; or you might contrast the use of figures of speech/imagery in two poems, looking at one that has clear, concrete language versus one that has highly figurative, abstract, sensory language.