unless otherwise agreed upon ). essay formatting H u m a n i t i e s
Essay 1: Poetry Explication
Your first major writing project for English 110 will give the opportunity to read poetry with our new methodology and analyze the development of an author’s ideas throughout a poem.
In the first weeks of class, we learned how to read poetry, how to write about it, and with your openness and attention, how to enjoy it. We will read poems as we look at how poets employ special tools (the elements of poetry) to explore different subjects and themes, in short, to say something. This something, you will find, can be something profound, surprising, heart-wrenching, and even life-altering.
For your first take-home assignment, choose one poem and focus on the specific elements of poetry in the poem. Strictly focus your analysis of the meaning of the words as they are on the page. Use the methods we have learned from our readings of Mark Yakich’s Poetry: A Survivor’s Guide.
Your Portfolio should include the following:
A 5-page explication of one poem from the poetry packets that we have not discussed in class (or, if you and I talk about it first, one of your own choosing). The explication will tie into Mark Yakich’s book with a quote or two of a relevant passage about the poet’s use of a) line, b) metaphor, c) symbolism, d) lyric, d) rhythm, or others we have covered in our reading.
The first few paragraphs of your essay should introduce the poem: (very briefly) its author and context, its mode (lyric, narrative, dramatic lyric, elegy, ars poetica, etc), and some of its major subjects (love, war, growing up, aging, etc.). At the conclusion of your introduction, make a central claim as to how the poet uses one of the tools of poetry Yakich describes in one of the chapters of his book to advance what you understand to be the poem’s theme (what it has to say about one of its major subjects).
Your 2nd paragraph should summarize what Yakich is getting in the chapter in his book that addresses the particular element of the poem you’re focusing on. Each subsequent paragraph should offer a close ANALYSIS of how the poet uses this means to achieve her or his end as you understand it. Quote and analyze, relating to what you observe in the poem to what you understand to be the poem’s meaning.
Avoid using the first-person for this piece; instead, focus your sentences with the author and/or the speaker of the poem as your subject as in, “Here, Dickinson uses metaphor, describing hope in terms of a bird, that “thing with feathers” and that “perches in the soul.” Or, “Wright’s speaker, snug in his hammock, watching the sun go down, reflects on his life.” Avoid: “I find Whitman’s repetition, or anaphora, to be moving and inspiring.”
Your essay should include brief quotations and specific evidence from the poem you are exploring. To avoid merely summarizing the poem, work hard to demonstrate how whatever you choose to quote illustrates what you perceive to be the theme of the poem. Allow that theme to develop/become more complex based on your analysis. In other words, derive what you feel the poem is saying from your close reading, apart from any meaning you might be tempted to apply to the poem or from broad generalizations, eg. “war is horrible,” or “new love is exciting,” or “depression sucks.”
Your essay should utilize a range of sentence combining strategies, including FANBOYS, subordination, noun phrase appositives, and verbals.
Your explication should be 5 full pages long, proofread, and formatted in MLA Style where need be.
Assignment Tips and Things to Avoid:
Essays should focus on the poem as opposed to the author of the poem. By this, I mean that you should avoid expanding on the poet’s biography or the historical context of the poem– you can include (not much more than) a sentence or two in the introduction or not at all unless that info is critical to what you have to say about the poem.
Avoid looking for “answers” to poems on the Internet. This is a subjective analysis of YOUR reading of a poem.
I strongly recommend that you come to see me during your writing process so we can discuss your essay.
The poem you write about should be from the class packet (unless otherwise agreed upon).
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