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What is a poetry essay and how to write it?

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Illustration showing  poetry written in calligraphy

Writing about poetry is a challenging task that requires the application of different strategies and techniques. For example, when writing an essay on poetry, you need to look into the author’s style, the “mood” of the poem, and the author’s intentions. Moreover, to write about a poem, you have to know about the existing types of poetry because you simply cannot analyze a particular literary piece without a theoretical background. Therefore, let’s dive into the world of poetry types, analysis, and writing tips and get you ready for the submission of an A+ essay on poetry.

Types of poetry

These are actually about 50 poetry types that are characterized by their own distinctive features, and it is necessary to differentiate between them when analyzing. However, let’s consider the six most popular ones:

  • Acrostic. The characteristic feature of this type is that certain (usually, initial or end) letters of every line should be combined to read a certain word or phrase.
  • Ballad. This type can be described as the one that tells a particular story; very often, this is a poetic story of love and passion or of loss and sadness.
  • Blank Verse. This type of poem is characterized by a distinctive structure that has no rhyme but has a rhythm (usually, iambic pentameter).
  • Epigram. This is a satirical and humorous, usually short (about four or five lines), verse. Sometimes it is written in a one-line form.
  • Lyric poem. It is usually very emotional in nature, as authors express all their feelings in such poems.

The features of a poetry comparison essay

The main purpose of this poetic assignment obviously is to compare two different poems. A student may be asked to contrast two verses of the same poet to find differences and similarities and analyze the author’s style, figures of speech he or she used, and special atmosphere of both pieces.

On the other hand, you may be asked to compare two or more verses of different authors to determine some distinctive features of their work. As a rule, a student should get acquainted with the poems to be analyzed, understand what the author(s) sought to convey, and, if necessary, check what the renowned critics have to say about each piece.

The features of a poetry analysis essay

An analysis essay about poetry is usually focused on one particular poem, which a student is expected to critique. The assignment requires an in-depth examination of the literary piece from the chosen perspective. You should understand the poem, find poetic devices that were used, and analyze the meaning and structure of the whole piece. The major goal of this type of essay is to help a student understand what a poet tried to convey when writing a piece and even find some hidden meanings behind certain verses.

The features of a poetry explication essay

An explication essay is considered to be more complex than other types as it requires you to analyze the combination of known and unknown in the poem. The main idea of explication is to prove to your readers that form and meaning are inseparable. To produce a good explication essay, you have to ‘scrutiny’ the poem. You should understand its melody, emotional load, and mood. Also, it’s necessary to describe the author’s intentions, the process of creation of the piece, and its main features.

How to write a poetry essay: a step-by-step guide

Poetry papers are among the most common assignments in literature classes, so learning how to write them properly is a must. Luckily, we have created a set of comprehensive guidelines that will help you master this type of work pretty fast:

Choose a poem to your taste.

If the choice of the poem is left to your discretion, make sure it is not limited by a specific period or genre. It would be best to pick something that invokes an emotional response in you, as poems of such kind are usually easier to work with.

Look for any additional information and critique.

Try to find some facts about the author, his or her life, problems, significant events, views, and beliefs in order to understand what additional meaning some of the words or lines in the poem could carry.

Check the requirements.

Your poetry analysis assignment may include very precise instructions regarding the points you need to address, the style or the outline you need to use, and the formatting that has to be followed. It is crucial to read them before moving any further and note down the major requirements that influence how and what you should write.

Pick the criteria.

As the major part of the essay is the analysis itself, you need to decide what exactly you will analyze. It is important to pick the criteria; ask the professor how many of them you are allowed to use or determine it yourself, relying on the given word limit.

Poetry essay outline

Outlining any kind of academic paper is essential. All you need to do is to remember the three most important parts that are crucial to include:

  • Introduction. Start by presenting the title of the poem and its author as well as providing necessary background information. Then, formulate a strong thesis statement so that the reader understands why you have chosen this particular piece and assessed it the way you did.
  • Body. Pay special attention to this section, as this is the most extensive and important one. Here, you have to analyze the poem using the criteria you have chosen.
  • Conclusion. Finish your paper with final words that would call the reader for further reflection on the topic. Include a brief summary of the main points, explain the result of your analysis, and include one or several discussion questions.

Suggestions for poetry essay topics

When you have a poetry analysis or a poem writing paper to prepare, you may have a hard time coming up with a specific topic to concentrate on. We have prepared several ideas of general topics that you may use for inspiration:

  • How do the final lines relate to the main part of the poem?
  • In what way is the theme of love and death reflected in the poem?
  • Poetic creativity and novelty in the works of the author
  • What role does the image of rain play in revealing the main idea of the poem?
  • Love lyrics and pictures of nature: how do they complete each other?
  • How and why does the author use allusions?
  • Symbolism and realism in the poem under analysis
  • Love for freedom in the works of George Gordon Byron
  • How is the poetry of John Keats different from that of his contemporaries?

If you were asked to analyze a specific poem, and have already chosen the points you are going to discuss, you may simply use the title and the points to formulate a topic for your essay.

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