4 page (minimum!) poetry explication based on the poem and poet you selected and researched from Bettering American Poetry – Volume 2. You should read the two Word documents, “Poetry Explication” and “Poetry Explication – Guide to Getting Started – Part II.
Write a poetry explication of the poem or poems you have selected, based on the two hand-outs (also attached), answering most of the questions within in an ordered fashion for your essay. Include information you discovered about or by the poet, especially as related to the issues that person is concerned with or focused on in his or her life. If their profession or experiences somehow inform the work, feel free to bring that in as well. Be sure to correctly CITE your sources in MLA format whenever you quote, paraphrase, or summarize from the work or research.
Your explication should be at least 4 pages typed in 12 point font, Times New Roman, double spaced. DO NOT put your font in bold, do not try to make a larger header, do not add space between your paragraphs, etc. In other words, you need to analyze the poem without trying to “take up space” in your essay by using large quotes or adding a lot of white space. If you follow the two handouts closely, you should have no trouble writing four pages. And again, you may include info about the poet (or words by the poet from interviews, etc) that seem to inform or indicate influence in the poem. Pro-tip: Many of the poets have interviews at the VIDA Review – http://www.vidaweb.org/category/bettering-american-poetry/
include work cited page not part of the 4-page minimum
MLA CITATION OF POEMS
To indicate short quotations (fewer than four typed lines of prose or three lines of verse) in your text, enclose the quotation within double quotation marks. Provide the author and specific page citation (in the case of verse, provide line numbers) in the text, and include a complete reference on the Works Cited page.
In-Text Quotation of Poems and Plays in MLA Style – DETAILED
* Titles of essays, articles, books, and poems – italicize or use quotation marks? Read the difference here – http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/punctuation/titles-using-italics-and-quotation-marks.html
* Refer to an author or artist in your essay first by the person’s full name, then subsequently by the person’s last name. For example, you would mention “Sylvia Plath” initially, then refer to her throughout your essay as “Plath”. See the first entry here – https://www2.bc.edu/~wilsonc/tenc.html
MLA WORKS CITED PAGE – https://youtu.be/4Vo8_Jw71JI
IN-TEXT CITATIONS – https://youtu.be/HTaUHS1mnv
CITATIONS FOR SOURCES WITHOUT PAGE NUMBERS
When an electronic source lacks page numbers, you should try to include information that will help readers find the passage being cited. When an electronic document has numbered paragraphs, use the abbreviation “para.” followed by the paragraph number (Hall, 2001, para. 5). If the paragraphs are not numbered and the document includes headings, provide the appropriate heading and specify the paragraph under that heading.
MLA ESSAY FORMATTING – https://youtu.be/24Y31UrG2q4
* Formatting quotes in your essay (MLA style) – https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/03/
* THESIS STATEMENTS IN LITERARY ANALYSIS PAPERS
For quotations that are more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, place quotations in a free-standing block of text and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented ½ inch from the left margin; maintain double-spacing. Only indent the first line of the quotation by an additional quarter inch if you are citing multiple paragraphs. Your parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark. When quoting verse, maintain original line breaks. (You should maintain double-spacing throughout your essay.)
For example, when citing more than four lines of prose, follow the below example:
Nelly Dean treats Heathcliff poorly and dehumanizes him throughout her narration:
They entirely refused to have it in bed with them, or even in their room, and I had no more sense, so, I put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it would be gone on the morrow. By chance, or else attracted by hearing his voice, it crept to Mr. Earnshaw’s door, and there he found it on quitting his chamber. Inquiries were made as to how it got there; I was obliged to confess, and in recompense for my cowardice and inhumanity was sent out of the house. (Bronte 78)
Remember that explication means to unfold.
Assignment: The pleasure experienced in listening to or reading poetry comes from the interrelationship of all the literary techniques that the poet uses to present the sense, or meaning, of the poem: choice of speaker, sound, imagery, and figurative language. Write an essay that analyzes the connection between the techniques of your selected poem and its meaning, as you received it.
Poem form/structure: _______________________ _____narrative, _____ dramatic, or _____ lyric _____free verse, _____ blank verse, or _____ regular verse
Step #1: Begin by first jotting down your responses to the poem. At this point, concentrate on the poem’s emotional effect on you.
Step #2: Now consider the meaning (main idea, message, moral, theme) of the poem.
Step #3: Who is the speaker (or persona) of the poem? Describe the kind of person who appears to speak in the poem.
Step #4: What is the dramatic situation in the poem? In other words, what is going on in the poem? What is the occasion?
Step #5: What sound devices are used in the poem? These may include rhyme, rhythm, onomatopoeia, alliteration, consonance, assonance, etc.
Step #6: What are the dominant images, and/or sensory references (i.e. sounds, smells, tastes, etc)? Consider not only which senses are appealed to, but also whether the images can be grouped in some way.
Step #7: What kinds of figurative language appear? This might include metaphor, simile, personification, allusion, and so on.
Step #8: Is there any other specific technique that influences the poem’s meaning? Repetition? Line breaks? Heavy use of a particular image? Symbolism?
Step #9: What is the tone of the poem?
Step #10: Is the title significant? What does the title do to set the tone? The stage? The ultimate feeling about the poem?
Step #11: Complete this plan page:
Introduction: General discussion of the poem’s effect on the reader. The last sentence of the first paragraph should be your thesis statement stating the specific techniques used in your poem to convey the meaning of the poem.
Body Paragraphs: Each body paragraph should discuss each one of the points you have noted. You will support your selection by showing specifically how a passage created/revealed meaning. Each body paragraph may include two integrated quotes from the poem.
Body Paragraph #1 (Topic Sentence):
Partial quotes to be used:
Body Paragraph #2 (Topic Sentence):
Partial quotes to be used:
Body Paragraph #3 (Topic Sentence):
Partial quotes to be used:
AND SO ON, until you have adequately interpreted and explained the poem, according to how you read it. Trust your instincts and your own perceptions/readings of the poem. Use excerpts from the poem to support your interpretations!
Conclusion: Your conclusion should include a restatement of your thesis in different words. You should broaden your discussion to include at least one of the following ideas:
* your opinion of the poem
* what you learned from reading the poem
* connecting the poem you discussed to another literary work, for writers influence writers
* connecting the poem to your own life if it is really important, but do not spend a long time doing so!!! The weight of your work should be on analyzing and interpreting the poem.
What this handout is about
A poetry explication is a relatively short analysis, which describes the possible meanings and relationships of the words, images, and other small units that make up a poem. Writing an explication is an effective way for a reader to connect a poem’s plot and conflicts with its structural features. This handout reviews some of the important techniques of approaching and writing a poetry explication and includes parts of two sample explications.
Preparing to write the explication
Read the poem silently, then read it aloud (if not in a testing situation). Repeat as necessary.
Consider the poem as a dramatic situation in which a speaker addresses an audience or another character. In this way, begin your analysis by identifying and describing the speaking voice or voices, the conflicts or ideas, and the language used in the poem.
The large issues
Determine the basic design of the poem by considering the who, what, when, where, and why of the dramatic situation.
What is being dramatized? What conflicts or themes does the poem present, address, or question?
Who is the speaker? Define and describe the speaker and his/her voice. What does the speaker say? Who is the audience? Are other characters involved?
What happens in the poem? Consider the plot or basic design of the action. How are the dramatized conflicts or themes introduced, sustained, resolved, etc.?
When does the action occur? What is the date and/or time of day?
Where is the speaker? Describe the physical location of the dramatic moment.
Why does the speaker feel compelled to speak at this moment? What is his/her motivation?
To analyze the design of the poem, we must focus on the poem’s parts, namely how the poem dramatizes conflicts or ideas in language. By concentrating on the parts, we develop our understanding of the poem’s structure, and we gather to support and evidence for our interpretations. Some of the details we should consider include the following:
Form: Does the poem represent a particular form (sonnet, sestina, etc.)? Does the poem present any unique variations from the traditional structure of that form?
Rhetoric: How does the speaker make particular statements? Does the rhetoric seem odd in any way? Why? Consider the predicates and what they reveal about the speaker.
Syntax: Consider the subjects, verbs, and objects of each statement and what these elements reveal about the speaker. Do any statements have convoluted or vague syntax?
Vocabulary: Why does the poet choose one word over another in each line? Do any of the words have multiple or archaic meanings that add other meanings to the line? Use the Oxford English Dictionary as a resource.
As you analyze the design line by line, look for certain patterns to develop which provide insight into the dramatic situation, the speaker’s state of mind, or the poet’s use of details. Some of the most common patterns include the following:
Rhetorical Patterns: Look for statements that follow the same format.
Rhyme: Consider the significance of the end words joined by sound; in a poem with no rhymes, consider the importance of the end words.
Patterns of Sound: Alliteration and assonance create sound effects and often cluster significant words.
Visual Patterns: How does the poem look on the page?
Rhythm and Meter: Consider how rhythm and meter influence our perception of the speaker and his/her language.
I got rhythm
Rhythm refers particularly to the way a line is voiced, i.e., how one speaks the line. Often, when a reader reads a line of verse, choices of stress and unstress may need to be made.
Writing the explication
The explication should follow the same format as the preparation: begin with the large issues and basic design of the poem and work through each line to the more specific details and patterns.
The first paragraph
The first paragraph should present the large issues; it should inform the reader which conflicts are dramatized and should describe the dramatic situation of the speaker. The explication does not require a formal introductory paragraph; the writer should simply start explicating immediately. According to UNC’s Professor William Harmon, the foolproof way to begin any explication is with the following sentence: “This poem dramatizes the conflict between …” Such a beginning ensures that you will introduce the major conflict or theme in the poem and organize your explication accordingly.
Here is an example. A student’s explication of Wordsworth’s “Composed upon Westminster Bridge” might begin in the following way:
This poem dramatizes the conflict between appearance and reality, particularly as this conflict relates to what the speaker seems to say and what he really says. From Westminster Bridge, the speaker looks at London at sunrise, and he explains that all people should be struck by such a beautiful scene. The speaker notes that the city is silent, and he points to several specific objects, naming them only in general terms: “Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples” (6). After describing the “glittering” aspect of these objects, he asserts that these city places are just as beautiful in the morning as country places like “valley, rock, or hill” (8,10). Finally, after describing his deep feeling of calmness, the speaker notes how the “houses seem asleep” and that “all that mighty heart is lying still” (13, 14). In this way, the speaker seems to say simply that London looks beautiful in the morning.
The next paragraphs
The next paragraphs should expand the discussion of the conflict by focusing on details of form, rhetoric, syntax, and vocabulary. In these paragraphs, the writer should explain the poem line by line in terms of these details, and he or she should incorporate important elements of rhyme, rhythm, and meter during this discussion.
The student’s explication continues with a topic sentence that directs the discussion of the first five lines:
However, the poem begins with several oddities that suggest the speaker is saying more than what he seems to say initially. For example, the poem is an Italian sonnet and follows the abbaabbacdcdcd rhyme scheme. The fact that the poet chooses to write a sonnet about London in an Italian form suggests that what he says may not be actually praising the city. Also, the rhetoric of the first two lines seems awkward compared to a normal speaking voice: “Earth has not anything to show fairer. / Dull would he be of soul who could pass by” (1-2). The odd syntax continues when the poet personifies the city: “This City now doth, like a garment, wear / The beauty of the morning” (4-5). Here, the city wears the morning’s beauty, so it is not the city but the morning that is beautiful …
The explication has no formal concluding paragraph; do not simply restate the main points of the introduction! The end of the explication should focus on sound effects or visual patterns as the final element of asserting an explanation. Or, as does the undergraduate here, the writer may choose simply to stop writing when he or she reaches the end of the poem:
The poem ends with a vague statement: “And all that mighty heart is lying still!” In this line, the city’s heart could be dead, or it could be simply deceiving the one observing the scene. In this way, the poet reinforces the conflict between the appearance of the city in the morning and what such a scene and his words actually reveal.
Tips to keep in mind
Refer to the speaking voice in the poem as the “speaker” or “persona.” For example, do not write, “In this poem, Wordsworth says that London is beautiful in the morning.” However, you can write, “In this poem, Wordsworth presents a speaker who…” We cannot absolutely identify Wordsworth with the speaker of the poem, so it is more accurate to talk about “the speaker” or “the poet” in an explication.
Use the present tense when writing the explication. The poem, as a work of literature, continues to exist!
The breaks in the poem’s sections are called, “stanzas” – not “paragraphs”!
To avoid unnecessary uses of the verb “to be” in your compositions, the following list suggests some verbs you can use when writing the explication:
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