It is one thing writing a descriptive thesis about a single subject, focusing on the ins and outs of the poem, its structure, its language and its style, but it is quite another to write a college essay in which you compare two or more poems.
Fortunately for you, we are here to explain to you how to outline your comparative discussion and how writing about poetic contrast during an exam is often easier than having to come up with numerous statements and ideas to write about just one single text.
For instance, we don't need to point out the fact that having multiple poems means that there is a higher number of points to discuss in your narrative composition. So, the pure fact that you are comparing two texts means that you can dedicate a whole paragraph, if not more, to simply pointing out the clear differences in the structure and flow of two poems!
Furthermore, if you are being asked to compare and contrast texts, it usually means that there are significant differences or at least an alternative point of view to pick up on. Whether these be in reference to the era during which they were written, the writing style that the poet has chosen to use, or the different angles adopted to emphasize the same theme or message, the chances are that you will find loads of avenues to explore in your descriptive essay.
Finally, by focusing your attention on comparison and contrast, you can develop a much better understanding and a deeper appreciation of each citation.
For those on their way to completing their A Level exams and in need of some extra help and reassurance when it comes to their literature assessment, here are some tips on how to write an A-Level poetry essay.
How To Write A Poetry Essay A Level Style
Coming Up With Ideas For Your Research Paper
By the end of your A Level poetry course, you'll likely be familiar with a range of poets, poems and poetry styles but you may be surprised to know that the final exam often asks you to look at and contrasting two or more unseen poems.
Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that you will be faced with poems that you have never laid eyes on before, by poets you've never even heard of. All it means is that neither you or your teacher will know which revised poems might come up in the assessment. It may well be that a poem you did not study crops up, but by an author who you are quite familiar with.
Not having seen a particular poem before, far from what many people think, is not a disadvantage in a timed exam. In fact, some might say that it works in their favour.
Being faced with a whole new set of words and stanzas to analyse is quite refreshing and if you apply all of the things you have learned over your GCSE and A Level course then you should have absolutely no problem finding leads to follow or points to argue.
Remember that, even if you aren't very informed about the poet or the era during which they lived, you can often decipher hidden messages that might indicate when they were writing and what they were writing in response to. For example, if you find that a poem uses lots of words that are linked to battle, this evidence might be used to prove that the poem was written during the period of a war. Even though you may not know exactly which war, this still gives you something analytical to offer the examiner and a subject to use in your persuasive essay. Even if it is wrong, it may be an important element that the poet was trying to put in there.
In order to get this first impression that you can then report on in your text, be sure to read all of the texts thoroughly before starting to plan and write your essay. Your introductory paragraph, or thesis statement, might include a brief summary of each poem and set out a few observations that you'd like to look at in more detail further into your poetic analysis.
Remember that this will be a timed assessment so you only have so many minutes in which to read, plan, and write your essay. As such, don't give yourself too much to cover and find that you have to rush your conclusion to bring the comparison to an end (or worse, that you end up with an unfinished essay). Pick out a few points that are relevant to the question being asked and focus on expanding on them as much as possible during your critique.
Don't forget, if you want the examiner to see that you've noticed other things in the poems, then you can always refer to them briefly whilst backing up one of your other arguments.
Finally, remember to not only focus on the historical context or themes of the poem but to also demonstrate your understanding of intellectual poetry techniques. So, as well as exploring the ideas, attitude, and tone of the poems, be sure to look out for structure, form, and literary techniques used by the poet.
Structuring Your Timed Essay
When it comes to writing a paper, the main thing to remember is that you need to have an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion, just like any other term paper you have written in the past. Yet one thing that may not have crossed your mind as being imperative is to write an equal amount on each of the poems that you are discussing. Ultimately, without dedicating the same amount of time to each text, there is no way you can analyse the poems effectively in the comparative way the examiner wants.
Imagine if you wrote an essay where you discussed one poem for four paragraphs and then referred to the second poem in one single paragraph, the flow of the analysis would be completely off-balance and the examiner would only really be able to mark you on your direct analysis of the one poem that has taken centre-stage.
If you can, jot down a table or checklist of similarities and differences during your planning phase and then roughly set out the essay paragraph by paragraph to ensure that it looks even. Not only will this be a helpful guide as you start writing, it will also keep you on track. You don't necessarily have to keep the analysis paper in chronological order.
Structuring an essay is actually much easier than people think. What the examiner wants to see is that you can clearly explain a point, justify it and then ask questions about why that is important to the overall text. So, for example, just like the essay as a whole, each point you make should ideally be made up of an introduction, middle section, and a conclusion.
The BBC Bitesize website likens this process with a sandwich, suggesting that the two pieces of bread are the intro and conclusion and the layers of filling are made up of each individual point you make in response to that argument. Others also talk about the technique being like a hamburger.
Remember, a plain beef burger with no sauce or fillings makes for quite a dry hamburger, and it's much the same with your essay.
Poem Analysis Essay Tips
- Check What The Examiner Expects Of You
Before you start writing any kind of poetry analysis, you should always be certain of what is expected of you. To find out what the English examiner is looking for in a good thesis, visit your exam board's website and look for the Mark Scheme, Examiner's Notes and any other documents you can find and cross-reference these with the specimen question papers to get a good idea on what you should be doing when your final exam comes around. Although your English Instructor will no doubt offer you guidance and set useful homework and classroom tasks, don't underestimate the benefit of doing past papers. As such, do as many of the available specimen papers that you can and don't just settle for doing the bare minimum! We don't recommend using an essay writing service for your coursework or as an exemplary revision resource because you simply can't guarantee that they are genuine, professional writers nor can you be certain that work hasn't been plagiarized. Be confident and stick to your own work!
- Practice Putting Poetry Into Your Own Words
Putting a poem into your own words not only shows that you understand what the poem is about, it also helps you to gain a better understanding and a deeper appreciation of the message trying to be conveyed by the poet. Some poems, specifically those written centuries ago, are quite hard to read aloud so why not add an informal annotation underneath each line to make the wording a bit easier to decipher as you go back and forth between the poems during the exam?
- Proofreading Is Key
Remember to leave yourself enough time at the end of a timed exam to read through your work, check for any obvious spelling mistakes, and to ensure it is coherent. It can be quite easy to get ahead of yourself when you are faced with a deadline so taking time to check over the wording on your literary essay can actually help you to strengthen your response. Depending on the requirements, you may like to use some of this time adding a bibliography, checking things like capitalization and looking out for repetition.
- Remember To Reference Any QuotationsYou may have written down some distinctive quotes on your revision cards, or you may simply want to paraphrase what a poet or critic has said from memory, but either way, it is important that you do so properly. Any words that aren't your own should be referenced using quotation marks (if a direct quote) or by making it clear that a particular sentence is an opinion of another individual.
- Brush Up On Your Poetry Terms
You simply can't expect to rack up those top marks if you don't have the knowledge and expertise to back up your ideas. Showing that you know a wide range of literary terms and poetry techniques will help to impress the examiner.That said, it is just as important to understand what the terms mean as it is to know their names. The examiner won't be fooled if you simply reel off a list of terms, saying that they are included in the poem but without explaining where each one crops up and why. Some of the terms you might like to read up on are: