How to Write About Poetry

July 28th, 2012

Most students never really learn how to write about poetry. If you are one of those students, this article will help you with the MLA citations and what language to use when you write about poetry.

Students today don’t usually spend much time writing about poetry. Because of this, if they are assigned an essay about a poem, it can be extremely daunting. However, it does not have to be difficult. Writing about a poem is very similar to writing about a story or research you have compiled. If you can attack your essay like you would any other, you will be successful in writing about poetry.

Read the Poem Carefully

The first thing you have to do to write an essay about a poem is to read the poem very carefully. Most poetry is shorter than novels and short stories, so read the poem more than once. If you want, you may underline lines or words that jump out at you as important. This will help you if you need to go back to them when you are writing your paper. Each poem says something, so try to figure out what the poem is saying to you. What is the theme of the poem? What is the attitude of the speaker, or the narrator of the poem? How does the poem use words and sounds to convey its message? When you answer these questions, it can help you come up with a thesis for your essay.

Have a Thesis Statement

It is essential to have a thesis statement written before you start writing your essay. This is true for every essay you write, not just about poetry, but it is especially important if you are writing about a poem. Your thesis should make an argument about the text you are dealing with, in this case, the poem. You might want to argue that the poem is presenting a specific message, or that the words in the poem work together to create a certain tone. You may even want to argue that the poet wrote this particular poem because of a specific moment in history or a specific event in his or her life. The possibilities are endless here, and as long as you can use evidence from the poem and/or from your research about the poem or poet, your thesis is correct. However, you may want to check with your teacher or professor before proceeding from this point to be sure the thesis is what they are looking for.

Use Quotations as Evidence

Before you even start writing, read the poem again once you have your thesis. At this point, you will be able to read the poem with new eyes since you know what you will be writing about. Go through the poem with a fine-toothed comb and pick out everything that supports your thesis. When you find quotes you want to use, write them down in an outline of the main points of your essay. This will help keep you organized and will also keep your quotes in one place. When you write a quote down, be sure to cite it correctly. If your quote is less than three lines of the poem, put slashes between each line to denote a line break. If the quote is more than three lines of the poem, use an indented, blocked quote style. After each quote, you must include a parenthetical citation. In the case of poetry, these citations should be the line numbers of the quotations, not page numbers. Depending on the text of your essay, you may or may not want to include the poet’s name in your citation, as well. Once you have everything ready to go, you are all set to write your essay.

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