Writing about poetry

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  • 1. Writing About Poetry
  • 2. What is Explication?
    • Explication is an analysis which describes possible meanings and relationships of the words, images, and other small units that make up a poem.
  • 3. How do I prepare for writing an explication about poetry?
    • Read the poem silently
    • Read the poem aloud
    • Repeat as necessary
    • Consider the poem as a dramatic situation with a speaker or character that is speaking to an audience
    • Identify the voice(s), the conflicts or ideas, and the language used in the poem
  • 4. CONSIDER WHO, WHAT, WHEN WHERE , AND WHY OF THE POEM…
  • 5. What?
    • What is being dramatized?
    • What conflicts or themes does the poem present, address, or question?
    • What questions do you have about the poem?
    • What happens in the poem? Consider the plot or basic design of the action. How are the dramatized conflicts or themes introduced, sustained, resolved, etc.?
  • 6. Who?
    • Who is the speaker? Define and describe the speaker and his/her/its voice.
    • Who is the audience?
    • Who are the characters involved?
  • 7. When?
    • When does the action occur?
    • “ When” refers to time of day, time of year, date, era, etc.
    • When does the speaker’s tone change? (if it does)
    • When does the poem change speakers? (if it does)
  • 8. Where?
    • Where is the speaker?
    • Where is the action?
    • “ Where” can refer to a general or a specific place.
  • 9. Why?
    • Why does the speaker feel compelled to speak at this moment?
    • Why are the speaker’s feelings/actions important to the plot of the poem?
    • “ Why” also refers to the speaker’s motivation throughout the poem.
  • 10.
    • To analyze the design of the poem, focus on the poem’s parts; in other words, how the poem dramatizes conflicts or ideas in language. Develop an understanding of the poem’s structure and gather supporting evidence for our interpretations.
    Consider the Form of the Poem
  • 11. Form
    • Does the poem represent a particular form (sonnet, sestina, etc.)?
    • Does the poem present any unique variations from the traditional structure of that form?
    • How does the form of the poem affect the interpretations readers might have?
  • 12. Rhetoric
    • How does the speaker make particular statements?
    • Does the rhetoric seem odd in any way? Why? How?
    • Consider the verbs in the poem. What do they reveal about the speaker?
  • 13. Syntax
    • Consider the subjects, verbs and objects of each statement and what these elements reveal about the speaker.
    • Do any statements have convoluted or vague syntax? How does this relate to the poem’s interpretation?
  • 14. Vocabulary
    • Why does the poet choose one word over another in each line?
    • Do any of the words have multiple meanings or archaic meanings that add other meaning to the line?
    • Use a dictionary as a resource! The Oxford English Dictionary is an excellent resource for archaic meanings, especially.
  • 15.
    • As you analyze the design line by line, look for certain patterns to develop which provide insight into the dramatic situation, the speaker’s state of mind, or the poet’s use of details.
    Consider the Pattern of the Poem
  • 16. Rhetorical Patterns
    • Look for statements that follow the same format.
    • Look for similar sentence structure: questions, inverted sentences, words/phrases that are parallel
  • 17. Rhyme
    • Consider the significance of the end words joined by sound.
    • Consider the significance of words that may contain slant rhyme (refer to Glossary of Literary Elements on the Moodle)
    • In a poem with no rhymes, consider the importance of the end words.
  • 18. Patterns of Sound
    • Alliteration
    • Assonance
    • Onamontopeia
    • Other ways the speaker uses sound effect or clusters significant words
  • 19. Visual Patterns
    • How does the poem look on the page?
    • Consider the form and/or subject of the poem in relation to how it looks on the page.
  • 20. Rhythm and Meter
    • Consider how rhythm and meter influence our perception of the speaker and his/her/its language.
    • Rhythm literally refers to how the poem sounds when read aloud.
    • Meter refers to the recurrence of regular beat in a line of poetry.