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Writing a good essay is like following a recipe; use it as a guide and throw in a bit of personality where you can!
Start with looking closely at the key question; you will need it for your introduction and paragraph signpost sentences. e.g. How does the poet use language in 'One flesh'? "HOW" means "what techniques are used?" and "what effect does it have?" Write an INTRODUCTION by changing this question into a statement: The poet uses language in 'One flesh' to convey her feelings about her parents' relationship. You can then narrow it down by listing which techniques you will be focusing on. Eg. "This is particularly evident in the use of simile, metaphor, and repetition."
PARAGRAPHING needs to be clear; make sure that each paragraph has a clear SIGNPOST SENTENCE which should include a KEY WORD or TECHNIQUE. This will form the focus of the paragraph. The paragraphs should always follow a PEE structure: POINT, EVIDENCE, EXPLANATION (this should include EXPLORATION of words (i.e. 'Zooming in') and the EFFECT on the reader.) e.g. If you are going to focus on the techniques SIMILE, METAPHOR, and REPETITION, these key words should be in your signpost sentence for each paragraph.
Paragraph one: One important language feature used in the poem is simile.
Paragraph two: Metaphor is also used...
Paragraph three: Finally, Jennings highlights her parents' fragmented relationship using repetition.
Next, the EVIDENCE. This should be embedded in a sentence. E.g. This is shown in the quotation "she like a girl dreaming of childhood". NO! This is not embedded very well. This is shown when the poet says that her mother is "like a girl dreaming of childhood". YES! This puts the evidence into context and makes it clear to whom it is referring.
Another example, this time for the metaphor paragraph, would be "The poet describes time as a "feather touching them gently". For the repetition paragraph, it could begin "The line "Strangely apart, yet strangely close together" is an example of repetition and..."
NEXT, the most important bit: EXPLANATION. This should be a three-pronged attack! EXPLAIN, EXPLORE, EFFECT. eg. The metaphor is used by Jennings to highlight the subtle way in which time passes. The noun "feather" has connotations of gentleness and lightness, implying that to her parents, time passing is an almost unnoticed entity, present but implicit. The reader will feel sympathy for the narrator's parents because they have grown old without realising; time crept up on them and now it seems too late to change their ways. eg. The repetition is effective because it illustrates the way in which the couple are together but have very little to connect them. The adverb "strangely" is repeated to emphasise the contradiction in their behaviour, that the absence of feelings towards each other is "strange" given their proximilty and the life that they have shared.
FINALLY, the conclusion. This should be in two parts: Summary Evaluation The summary should refer back to the question, reiterating it and reminding the examiner of the three key techniques that you focused on in your essay. The evaluation could include your impression of the poem, a favourite line, image or technique, and how effective you feel the poem is as a whole. What is its message? Does the poet achieve his/her objective?
NB: This framework can be expanded for a COMARATIVE essay, using COMPARATIVE CONNECTIVES and linking phrases such as "On the other hand", "Similarly", "However", While the poet in poem A uses metaphor, poet B uses oxymoron...".