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  1. 1. English Literature Unit 2: Unseen Poetry
  2. 2. • The Poetry examination is one hour and fifteen minutes long. • Section A is a question based on the Anthology Cluster you have studied. • Section B is a question based on an unseen poem. • You are advised to spend 30 minutes on the Unseen Poetry question. The following two assessment objectives are tested in Section B:
  3. 3. • AO1: Respond to texts critically and imaginatively; select and evaluate relevant textual detail to illustrate and support interpretations. • • This means it is a good idea to have your own personal and critical ideas about the poem and be able to think imaginatively about what the poet does with the imagery, the themes, the voice, the language etc. As it’s an unseen poem, it will have to be your own ideas – just make sure they’re credible and you can back them up. Obviously, you have to get good short quotations to prove those ideas you have about the poem!
  4. 4. • AO2: Explain how language, structure and form contribute to writers’ presentation of ideas, themes and settings. • This means you have to look in real detail at the words and techniques the poet uses to create the themes, the rhythm, the subject matter, the voice and the tone of the poem form. In addition, if you know what specific form of poem you are reading, you should make a point about how the poet uses that form – maybe it’s a sonnet, a villanelle, a dramatic monologue etc… • What poetic devices are utilised? Is there a rhyme scheme and has it been used for a reason? Imagery? Contrasts? Specific vocabulary etc..? How do they have on an impact? In addition, you must make a point about the structure of the poem. What happens where? It may be something about how each stanza starts. It could be about when the poem changes tone. It could be about how the poem builds. It could be about a point or a line that is repeated to have a deliberate structural effect. Make at least one point about structure!
  5. 5. Example Unseen Poem and Question: June 2011 ©AQA How do you think the speaker feels about the child and his experience of learning to read and how does the poet present the speaker’s feelings? Slow Reader He can make sculptures and fabulous machines, invent games, tell jokes, give solemn, adult advice – but he is slow to read. When I take him on my knee with his Ladybird book he gazes into the air, sighing and shaking his head like an old man who knows the mountains are impassable. He toys with words, letting them go cold as gristly meat, until I relent and let him wriggle free: a fish returning to its element, or a white-eyed colt – shying from the bit *– who sees that if he takes it in his mouth he’ll never run quite free again. VICKI FEAVER
  6. 6. How to tackle the question 1. Read the poem through twice, trying to get a feel for the rhythm and the effect of any repetition, rhyme, punctuation, alliteration etc 2. Work out what the poem is about and the poem’s voice (ie is it written in first, second, third person and who is it addressing?) 3. Identify the Purpose, Theme or Message 4. Explore the Emotions, Mood and Feelings 5. Identify the techniques the poet has used and how they create the emotions, moods or feelings (form, structure, language, imagery) 6. What are your thoughts feelings about the poem?
  7. 7. 7. Now annotate the poem to pick out the important bits . 8. Make a quick plan before you start – you only have about 5 minutes to plan, so keep it short. Focus on two to four key quotes from the poem. Remember you are aiming to write a lot about a little.
  8. 8. When answering the question, “saying a lot about a little” is needed. You should ideally select two to four quotations from the unseen poem, about which you can say several things. It is a proven way of gaining the higher marks on AO2. Below are two example paragraphs that use that principle. The AO1 objectives (Imaginative ideas, textual detail, Interpretations) have been highlighted in blue. The AO2 objective (Language, structure and Form) in red. Each paragraph addresses a different part of the overall question:
  9. 9. Q: How do you think the speaker feels about the child and his experience of learning to read and how does the poet present the speaker’s feelings? How do you think the speaker feels about the child and his experience of learning to read? At the start of the poem, the poet uses a list to show the child’s many other varied skills: “make sculptures…fabulous machines…invent games”. The specific use of dynamic verbs and positive adjectives in the list show that at the start of the poem, the poet believes in the child’s different abilities. By using the words “sculptures” and “invent”, which are words that conjure up complex adult and artistic endeavours, the poet clearly sees the child as incredibly capable. In addition, the use of “fabulous” helps to show that what he puts together is worthy of high praise. As mentioned, at the outset of the poem, the poet clearly values the child. The poet does this in order to strongly show in the rest of the poem that the process of reading is only one of many difficult experiences that children have to learn and they may struggle in spite of their other valuable skills.
  10. 10. How does the poet present the speaker’s feelings? The poet has the child allow the words to “go cold as gristly meat”. This simile is used to present a child who can hardly bare to read the words. The comparison to “gristly meat’ presents reading as an unpleasant experience for the boy, one that he has to constantly chew on. The use of “Gristly” also suggests that it is tough and, as gristle itself is not proper food, and has no proper nutritional value: there may be no point to actually going through the reading process for the boy. The adjective “cold” also combines with the “gristle” to make an even more potent visual image. There is no life in reading for the boy. It is presented as limp and dead in contrast to his other more exciting adventures.
  11. 11. ‘sighing and shaking his head’ ‘like an old man who knows the mountains are impassable.’ ‘a fish returning to its element’ ‘a white-eyed colt’ Use the same type of approach and practice “saying a lot about a little” with one of the following lines:
  12. 12. PRACTICE Q: What do you think the speaker hopes for the girl he is addressing? How does the poet express the speaker’s feelings? Born Yesterday By Philip Larkin (Available online) 30 mins