Eng 102 Topic 3

Spring 2020

Chose any one poem from your syllabus and write a 3-5 page explication of it. Your essay should include an introduction, supporting body paragraphs, a conclusion, and a work cited page.

See some useful poetic terms here.

The extra-credit villanelle assignment is here.

Helpful Hints:

Essay #3 is a poetry explication, which is a detailed reading and analysis of a text. This means that you should take your reader through one poem and point out any images, figurative language, symbols, allusions, traditional (or non-traditional) forms, etc. More importantly, you should frame this debate with a synthesizing argument (or thesis) that links all of your observations into a coherent and unified point.

Prewriting: Use your notes from class and reading as a basis for your paper. Try writing an extended journal entry that not only records your impressions of the poem, but also begins to give a close reading of it. If your poem is short, try remarking about every word of it. Since you are still at the level of prewriting, don’t worry about every one of your points making complete sense. If there is a central metaphor, explore the ramifications of the comparison. (Example: Whitman compares the soul to a spider. What does one normally associate with spiders?) Wander as far from the poem as you want at this stage: it may lead you to an original idea.

Planning and Drafting: Your introduction is the most important part of your essay, so take some time to think about ways of making your introduction an interesting, unique, and engaging paragraph. Is there something about the poet’s life that you can discuss that can lead to your theme? What about the setting of the poem? Take time to introduce not only the poem, but also some of the ideas that the rest of your paper will explore in more detail. Then, of course, state in as precise terms as possible your main argument.

Next, make a rough outline of your body paragraphs. Will you have separate paragraphs for metaphor, imagery, form, etc.? Or will you mirror the structure of the poem and work through the poem line by line, stanza by stanza? This latter method is perfectly acceptable, but don’t fall into the habit of blandly restating the poem in prose (a mere summary). One way to avoid this is to write the topic sentences of all your paragraphs before you start writing the rest of the essay. This helps to keep your comments related to your own theme.

Finally, try to give some attention not only to the content, but to the form of the poem as well.


Documentation:  Titles of poems, like short stories, are usually put in quotation marks. Ex.: “Stopping by Woods on Snowy Evening.” Here is an example of a properly documented quotation: Keats claims to feel “like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes / He stared at the Pacific” (11-12). For quotations that are four lines or longer, indent twice and reproduce the lines exactly as they appear in the text. Like block quotations from prose works, these quotations do not need quotation marks.

This essay is due any time before May 5.