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Essays On Poetry Revision

The most important part of any English essay is the planning: you need to make sure that you know what you are writing about before you start. With a poetry comparison essay, you will usually be looking for similarities and differences in the poems. For a coursework essay, you can take your time over this, and the same skills can be used to do the same thing efficiently in an exam. 

Step 1: READ!! Read the poems, and then read them again, and probably again just to be sure.

Step 2: After reading through both poems thoroughly, you can make notes for each poem according to STRIP factors: Structure, Tone, Rhythm/Rhyme, Imagery and Person. "Person" can refer to both the people reading the poem, and the 'speaker' or the voice telling the poem, so you could make notes on each one individually if relevant.

Step 3: The next step is to put all of these ideas into a plan, which compares the use of these STRIP factors. Usually GCSE questions are based on the themes, so you will be focusing on how the STRIP factors are used to create  (or challenge!) the theme shared by the two poems. Comparing your notes, you are aiming to find a similarilty and a difference in the language - that is, imagery, tone, and person; as well as a similarity and a difference in structure - which includes the 'structure' part of STRIP as well as rhythm and rhyme. 

Once all that planning is done and dusted, you can write the essay! 

Part 1: Introduction: The introduction should be short and clearly explain which poems you will be writing about, and what it is in each poem that you will be discussing. 

Part 2: Body: This is where all those similarities and differences go: it will depend on the poems, but usually it is best to alternate similarlity and difference. This will mean you have four paragraphs, which could go like this:

Similarity (Language)

Difference (Language)

Similarity (Structure)

Difference (Structure)

Part 3: Conclusion: After these four paragraphs, you can write your conclusion, which should be a few sentances long, and explicitly answer both the question and the introduction. 

And you're done! 

You will be asked to compare two or more poems in your exam. You will usually be given some of the poems which you must write about, and you might need to choose other poems to compare them with.

You could be asked to write about the presentation of themes, people or places and the importance of language.

Writing a good comparative essay

All essay questions expect you to comment on the areas covered in Writing about poetry. This means you must write about the use of language, the effect of language and form, and how it makes you feel.

A good comparative essay is like a multi-layered sandwich:

  • BREAD - A new point.

  • FILLING A - How one of your chosen poems illustrates this point.

  • FILLING B - How your other chosen poem illustrates this point.

  • BREAD - Your conclusion about this point.

This is what the examiners call cross-referencing [cross-referencing: A technique in essay writing that compares points from two or more texts to formulate part of an argument. These texts might hold similar views or opposing ones. ] - you talk about both poems all the way through your answer.

What the examiner will look for

When marking your essay, the examiner will look to see whether you have appreciated and explored the:

  • ideas
  • attitudes and tone
  • structure and form
  • techniques used by the poets

When answering an exam question, keep these five criteria in mind.

Back to Writing and comparing poetry index

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