Module 3 – Reading, Responding, and Writing about Poetry
Essay Assignment #3: Poetry Literary Analysis
Assignment: Over the course of the semester, you have written several literary analyses of
several primary texts. For this essay, you will write a paper in which you analyze a very specific
element of one of the poems from our textbook that has not been discussed thoroughly in class.
This is a short research paper assignment so you will support your analysis with at least 1-2
appropriate external scholarly* sources to inform and provide supporting evidence of your
thesis/main claim of your chosen work. Your essay must have a clearly stated interpretation of
the poem as its thesis, and detailed analyses of the text, theme, tone, and structure (literary
elements). The final paper should be 3-4 pages long (about 950-1000 words) in MLA format
(typed, double-spaced, with 1” margins, and a 12-point Times New Roman font. Any use of
sources must be documented in impeccable MLA format—parenthetical citation and works cited
The key to this assignment is to create a very narrow thesis or main claim – perhaps based on
theme, tone, structure, pattern, imagery, etc. Please come talk to me if you need some help
getting started. The steps described below are a recommendation on how to proceed to prepare
for and write your essay. Read them carefully and note that you won’t actually be writing your
essay until part 3 of Step IV.
Step I: Description
1. Paraphrase—What does the poem say? Summarize the poem in your own words, in detail.
Formulate an initial idea of what you think the poem means, but allow yourself the flexibility to
change your mind.
2. Language— Identify, underline, circle, count, tabulate and examine the following aspects of
the language of the poem.
• Word choices, denotation, connotation, ambiguity
• Repetition, types/categories of words, parts of speech
• Key words in the poem, connotation, denotation, allusion
• Variations in grammar and/or syntax
• Figures of speech: metaphor, simile, allegory, symbol, etc.
• Images, use of imagery
3. Use of Sound—Read the poem aloud; sing it; repeat lines; get a feel for how the words feel in
your mouth; savor the poem. Identify the uses of the following:
• Alliteration, Consonance, Assonance
• Meter (if any), Cadence, Rhythm
• Rhyme scheme (or lack of)
4. External Structure
• Open and closed lines, enjambment
• Line length (in syllables, accents, metrical feet, number of words or characters,
and so on), line shape, etc.
• Stanzas, Strophes, Stanza types.
• Poetic Types: Sonnet, Villanelle, Haiku, Sestina, Ode, Elegy, etc.
• Formatting: punctuation, spelling, capitalization, font sizes & variation, etc.
• Use of space on the page, unusual spacing, etc.
• Note any unusual graphical elements used in the poem.
5. Internal Structure
• Speaker, Tone, Irony
• Spatial and temporal setting
• Discursive structure
6. Other elements
Step II: Analysis
Once you have described the poem thoroughly, you should think about what these elements
contribute to the poem.
1. What is the poet doing with each element described in Step I?
2. Which elements are significant to understanding the poem? Why or why not?
3. What patterns can you identify in the poem? Where is there variation? Do the patterns
and/or variations signal something important in the poem?
4. Are there any convergences of elements? What do they highlight?
Step III: Research
1. Research any allusions, references, vocabulary, or relevant contexts that help you
understand the poem.
2. Research the poetic form, type, or poetic tradition. How is the poem using or challenging
3. Study the poet, reading other poems by him/her to get a sense for common themes,
symbols, and poetics (his/her approach to poetry).
4. Research poetic, historical, and cultural contexts relevant to the poem. Start by
identifying the year the poem was published, the nationality, ethnicity, and gender of the
5. Avoid researching other analyses and/or interpretations of the poem. Since it is the very
same type of thing you are doing, you may find that you are convinced by their
interpretation, and that you feel that you have nothing new to contribute. If you then start
adopting the ideas, and support, you are no longer writing about your own ideas, so even
if you document the use of ideas in the essay to avoid plagiarism, you may end up
repeating someone else’s ideas, which is also bad. This kind of research is most useful
after you have written at least a draft of your essay, so your ideas have already been
formulated, then you can engage the other essays you find and/or use them to support
Step IV: Interpretation
This last step is actually an ongoing process. As you read, describe and analyze the poem, your
interpretation will be taking shape, solidifying with the evidence you observe in the text.
Remember, that just because a poem can have multiple readings, doesn’t mean that all readings
1. Go back over your analyses and descriptions and try to see what it all means. What does
each element contribute to your understanding of the poem? What do you think the poem
2. Formulate your interpretation as a thesis statement, and select analytical elements that
support your thesis.
3. Write your essay, in which you try to convince your readers of your interpretation of the
poem. To be persuasive, you must provide details from Steps I, II, and III that support
your reading of the poem.
• Rough Draft Due: Thurs., 4/13
• Smarthinking Submittal Due: No later than Sun., 4/16 – Choose “Essay
Center>Main Idea/Thesis & Content Development”; you must forward your
tutoring response to Instructor email
• Final Draft Due: Sat., 4/20- Submit via Turnitin (Blackboard)
This assignment is worth 200 points and will be graded per the specific skills that we have
practiced over the course of this semester, plus the skills you previously learned in English
Your essay will be evaluated in the following areas, with areas 1-3 carrying most of the weight
of the grade:
1. Assignment (fulfilling requirements, quality of thesis, and depth of analysis),
2. Organization (clarity of thesis, thorough paragraphing, overall organization),
3. Development (relevance of claims, adequacy of support, and textual evidence),
4. Sentence Structure, Word Choice, and Grammar (weaknesses will be identified in these
areas, but they will not affect grade significantly unless they get in the way of
understanding the essay).
An essay that satisfies all the requirements of the assignment with a clear sense of organization
and adequate development earns a “C” in this class. An essay that achieves the goals at an above
average level of proficiency, with only minor problems in one or two areas earns a “B.” The “A”
is reserved for nearly flawless, elegant essays that excel in all the criteria described above.
Essays that do not fulfill the minimum requirements for the assignment earn a “D.” Only essays
that are not turned in or are plagiarized earn an “F” in this class, and may result in a failing grade
in the course.
(Done Paper) English 1302 Module 3 – Reading, Responding, and Writing about Poetry Essay Assignment #3: Poetry Literary Analysis
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