Poem Analysis

Option 1: An analysis of a group of poems
As with assignment 1, with this option you’ll follow Vendler’s modeling. Refer to chapter 12 in Poems,
Poets, Poetry. To that end, “in order to write in depth about [an] author’s practice,” you will “find a group
of poems about a single theme or a group of poems concerning a single problem” (341). Vendler models a
simple way to fruitfully begin your analysis on pages 364-8. Pay particular attention to how she plans to
handle discussing multiple poems. A few other guidelines:
Unlike the first essay, the poems for this essay do not have to be from the past 50 years.•
For this essay, you may begin the essay with useful questions or a useful thesis.•
As with assignment 1, you need to evoke the effects of the poems, but there may not be space to•
include the full text of all of the poems you use. Instead, you’ll likely need to evoke the poems’
effects by the excerpts you quote and how you do so.
You do not need to use outside sources beyond the poems, but if you do they must be cited correctly•
according to MLA guidelines.
As with assignment 1, the most important aspect of the essay is insightful analysis. Make some discoveries•
through your analysis of the poems, and use evidence (especially quotes) from the poems with detailed
explanations to support your claims.
As with assignment 1, the essay needs to be organized effectively on the sentence, paragraph, and essay•
And of course, as with assignment 1, be sure to edit for mechanical errors (grammar, correct citations, etc.).•
Option 2: A book review
As we discussed in class, the essential elements of a successful book review are as follows:
An overall, though perhaps informal, thesis (i.e. ‘Voigt’s Headwaters is a new kind of elegy’)•
A helpful summary description of the book that doesn’t give a play by play or pretend it is a•
Identification of main theme (or themes)•
Specifics that add up to the book’s meaning or significance (or themes)•
Identification of overall trends in the writing (how the poems talk to each other)•
Your own reading experience is used to assert why your interpretation matters•
Connections to other works (sometimes the poet’s earlier work, sometimes to other relevant•
poets), and cited appropriately for a book review (see the examples)
Specific, representative examples that illustrate the claims•
Tries to give a sense of the whole book while also not trying to cover everything•
Option 3: A personal narrative or braided essay that also explicates a poem (or poems)
All semester I’ve encouraged you to think about poems in connection with your life, your interests, or the
lives and interests of others. This option allows you to put that work to fuller use. Whichever approach (or
combination) you choose, the essay should do the following to be successful:
Like a poem, the essay should create an experience for the reader.•
The essay should include insight, discovery about the poem(s)/poet(s) and about the writer—and,•
if you want to perform at the highest levels, about human experience.
Use specifics that add up to meaning and/or significance.•
The essay should have a purposeful (and meaningful) organization (for instance, a braided essay•
divided into sections that culminate, or a narrative episode from the writer’s life, or etc.).
The essay needs to show us why the poem(s)/poet(s) matter to the writer (which even Ruefle does•
while telling us she won’t).
Specifics. And then more specifics. Pick those that will do substantive work in the essay.•
Might engage with the poem(s)/poet(s) history, but not necessarily. What matters is what makes•
the poem significant to you. If the history of the poem/poet is part of the significance to you, it
better be talked about. If not, don’t feel a need to.
Vehemently avoid cliché, expected conclusions, or easy sentimentality.•
You do not need to use outside sources beyond the poems, but if you do they must be cited•
correctly according to the conventions of the genre.

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