Assignment Sheet for English 1302 Poetry Explication Essay
Purpose: The purpose of this assignment is to demonstrate how the uses of particular elements in a poem help to develop a specific theme in the poem. Our book defines explication as “the patient unfolding of meanings in a work of literature.” Explication is an act of interpreting “details a casual reader might miss and illustrating how a work’s smaller parts contribute to the whole” (1114).
Task: The poem must be in Backpack Literature. Haiku are not allowed for this essay.
Do a close reading of the poem. Annotating the poem is recommended.
Focus on particular elements such as: diction, images, shifts, tone, figurative language or sound devices (Focus on things in the poem that need explaining!)
Your paper needs to lead to a discussion of theme.
Length: This paper should be at least 500 words.
Format: This paper should be in MLA Format. There will be a Works Cited page with the poem and any other sources used. This does not count in the 500 word minimum. Outside sources are not required for this essay.
-See Table of Contents for chapters on poetry (chapters 9-22, pages xiii-xxiv)
-See page 1119 for a sample explication essay.
-TPCAST worksheet to help break down the poem.
Due: Final Draft due Monday, May 2nd (Late papers cannot be accepted!)
Tips to Keep in Mind:
Refer to the speaking voice in the poem as the “speaker” or “the persona.” For example, do not write, “In this poem, Frost is uncaring about death.” However, you can write, “In this poem, Frost presents a speaker who…” We cannot absolutely identify Frost as the speaker of the poem, so it is more accurate to say “the speaker” in an explication.
Use the present tense when writing about poetry. The poem, as a work of literature, continues to exist!
Avoid repeating the same verbs like “says” and “states.” Here are some verbs:
dramatizes, emphasizes, presents, suggests, illustrates, asserts, characterizes, argues, underlines, stresses, asks, offers
4. Follow MLA guidelines for writing about poetry:
If you are quoting two to three lines of poetry, you will use a slash with one space on each side. Page numbers are not cited. Instead, the line number(s), enclosed in parentheses, go after the end quote and before any end punctuation. You will usually find the line numbers to the left of the poem.
Example: Lord Byron uses alliteration in the following lines, “Where thoughts serenely sweet express / How pure, how dear their dwelling-place” (11-12).
If you are quoting more than three lines of poetry, you will follow the rules for block quotes—indent each line by two tabs (one inch, ten spaces). The lines are not enclosed in quotes. The line number(s), enclosed in parentheses, go after any end punctuation. The lines, as always with MLA style, are double-spaced. Do not change any of the poem’s capitalization or punctuation. If a poem’s line goes further than the right margin of the page, continue it onto the next line and indent it three additional spaces.
Emily Dickinson writes about heroism:
We never know how high we are
Till we are called to rise;
And then, if we are true to plan,
Our statures touch the skies. (1-4)