English assignment – explaining a poem

For this paper, you will be writing an explication of a poem 5 – 8 paragraphs. You may choose any of the poems we have read in this unit. A poetry explication is an explanation of what you believe the message of the poem is. Because you will be explaining your own personal interpretation of the poem, you will need to gather some evidence to support your ideas about the poem. The goal of an explication is to “illuminate” the meaning of the poem for other readers. First of all READ the poem. Read it several times. Read it aloud. Notice the way it looks on the page, the way the words sound when you read them aloud, and anything the words make you think about. You will probably have to look some words up in the dictionary—remember that the definition you know might not be the ONLY definition there is. Once you feel like you have formed some good initial ideas about the poem, you can begin to really examine the tools (literary devices) that the poet used to create the poem. Answer the following questions using your answers as a rough draft for your paper.

  • What does the title contribute to the reader’s understanding?
  • Who is speaking? What is the situation?
  • What difficult, special, unusual words does the poem contain?
  • What references need explaining?
  • How does the poem develop?  Personal statement or a story?
  • What is the main idea of the poem?
  • What kind of figurative language is the poem using? What about symbolism or literary allusions?

Outline Sample

  • To begin, you should have introductory paragraph that states your poem’s title, the author and provides a brief background on the poem. The last sentence in your first paragraph is your thesis statement and should tell your audience what the remainder of your essay is going to include. For example: This essay will examine (poem’s title) by (author’s name) and how the author examines (elements of poem you will analyze) to (effect on reader).
  • Then, please choose two or three of these questions below that will be your focus for two or three body paragraphs (one question/topic per paragraph) in your assignment.  Answer the question and provide support from the poem to prove your point. **As you craft your body paragraphs, be sure to use direct quotes from the text to explain your examples in the supporting paragraphs. **Then explain how this text contributes to the overall effect of the poem.
    • -What difficult, special, unusual words does the poem contain?
    • -What is the main idea or theme of the poem?
    • -What is the tone of the poem?
    • -How does the poem develop?  Personal statement or a story?
    • -Tell me about the setting and why it is important.
    • -What kind of figurative language is the poem using? What about symbolism or literary allusions?
  • Your last paragraph should conclude by wrapping up your entire piece and restate what your essay is about. Finally, tell your reader what we should take away after reading your analysis.
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