Author Erwin Cabucos proposes a good way to write your poem analytical essay. How should you construct your introduction, body and conclusion?
Now that you have read the poem, made some notes on the meanings and annotated evidence of poetic techniques, you might be wondering, how do I put these things together in an essay presentation? How do I actually write my poem analytical essay?
Introductory paragraph. Your first paragraph should introduce how the poem was put together. Who wrote the poem? Where, when and why was it published? What era or time was it set and what situation in society might have influenced in the writing of the poem? These background facts are important because it will give hints into the meaning and intent of the poem. For example, ‘who wrote the poem’ may indicate the concerns and preoccupation of the poem. If the poet is passionate about existential questions, you may discover that the poem may deal with the meaning and purpose of life. If the poet is gay or lesbian, you may discover that the poem may be concerned about gay rights and call for acceptance of homosexuality. If the poet is an Aboriginal activist, you may also feel passion for justice and racial equality in the poem.
Likewise, if the poem is set in world war times, it may have distinct comments about the purpose, effects or ethics of war. If the poem is based in the timeless topic of love or happiness or relationship or growth or death or beauty or memory or childhood, etc., the poem will certainly have a specific proposition or message about it. And this particular message will become a fertile subject of your essay – your thesis. Your introduction should then state the main point or thesis of your essay: you can analyse, discuss, explore, argue for, explain, or evaluate this thesis (depending on the purpose of your assignment) by providing justifications in your body paragraphs. Often, your assessment question becomes the basis of your thesis.
Try turning that assessment task question into a statement and you may notice that your thesis becomes crystal clear. An example of a thesis is: Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum est’ is a protest poem that graphically illustrates the horror and agony of war as opposed to the glorious description by those who did not fight in it. After stating your thesis, preview your body paragraphs by providing brief statements that support or justify your thesis. These brief statements become the topic sentences of your body paragraphs. These brief sentences maybe made up of specific poetic techniques that support your thesis. They may also be made up of purposes of the poem, the different readings of the poem or the different intended audiences of the poem. Thi will all depend upon what is being asked by your teacher or task assessment question. You want to get a good mark from writing this poem, don’t you? So, strongly consider what is being asked by the assessment question.
Body paragraphs. Your next paragraphs should focus on providing support, justifications and evidence of your thesis. In other words, you are now going to give details that will make your thesis completely believable and convincing. These details may include: identifications of realities and experiences, including peoples, events and places mentioned in the poem that may refer to, compare, contrast, remind of or allude to the message of the poem. What item can be used as a symbols or metonymy for a particular thought, perspective or reality? What place or action is being used as representation for a particular thought or opinion? What specific words, vocabulary, expression or idioms in the poem that are used as imagery, motif, metaphor, simile, or personification that solidify or concretise your thesis?
Analysing the meaning of the poem is like solving a puzzle. You must understand that writing a poem is engaging in a difficult task of synthesising the big idea into verses of the most economical, shortened, suitable and exact words. The grandest idea is beautifully compacted into a work of well-chosen, meaningful expression, shining with wits, conceits and wisdom. As much as we are in awe of the beauty of such exacted craft, writing an analytical essay about a poem is an act of intelligence on its own – exercising your detective and communicative abilities to explain the wonder of that craft.
Write your sentences by identifying the evidence from the poem and explain what does that evidence do to the hypothesis. Then elaborate how the meaning of the poem becomes clear and significant by having that evidence. What are the evidence? Practically, the following can be used as evidence: any word in the poem: descriptive, emotive, historical, informative, referential, satirical, ironic, etc. can be used as evidence. Any line or stanza in the poem that shows a perspective, an image, an emotion or a story can be used as evidence. Any mood that your observe in the poem: sad, happy, anger, melancholic, reminiscent, hopeful, sorrowful, regretful, wishful, etc can be used as evidence for your thesis. Any sound in the poem: rhyme, alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia, metered or unmetered can be used as evidence towards your thesis. Basically, all poetic techniques that you are aware of, including the shape of the poem, eg. tail-like, plant-line, winding road-like, bomb-like, etc. can be used as evidence to support your thesis.
Moreover, poems use personas or speakers to talk to the reader. You will notice this voice as you read the poem; they talk to you. This persona may not be the author. It is a character created by the author to elucidate its conceit or wisdom in the poem. Be vigilant. Use all your knowledge about the construction of the poem to deconstruct the meaning of the work.
So, ask your yourself, how does this evidence support my thesis? Does it echo, reinforce, highlight, concretise, cement, solidify, strengthen, justify and uphold your thesis? Does it compare, contrast, negate, challenge, question, offer alternative, conflict with, disprove, invalidate, void or satirise your thesis? Does it illustrate or contextualise your thesis? Remember, whatever evidence you use and however your evidence is useful to your thesis, give reference. What line number or stanza number does that evidence come from?
Use cohesive techniques in your paragraph. Use connectives at the beginning of your topic sentence: ‘to begin with’, ‘furthermore’, ‘moreover’, ‘finally’ or ‘to conclude’. These cohesive techniques will show logic in sequence and organisation of your thoughts. In writing your body paragraphs, use the formula of PEEEEL (point, evidence, example, explanation, elaboration and link.) in order to show clarity in your organisation and communication. ‘Point’ refers to that sentence at the beginning of your paragraph that opens the content of your paragraph; it’s a point because it points towards the thesis. The point is, your paragraph should link to your thesis. ‘Link’, therefore, should tie up with your thesis. Your ‘point’ and ‘link’ sentences, together, should support your thesis.
Poetry is part of society. They are literary works that mirror, reflect, affirm, validate, challenge, teach, satirise or make fun of social values, beliefs and assumptions. It is through these channels that we come to understand the preoccupations and perspectives of the poem: does it condemn the evil of war, doubt the invasive nature of technology, abhor any kind of prejudice, endorse homosexual tendencies, celebrate love, propose a way to achieve happiness or campaign for a social action against global warming. A good poem has social, cultural or political significance. Literature is linked to society.
The conclusion should reiterate the introduction, restate the thesis, summarise the main points as required by the assessment task. Leave the reader with a lasting statement that is congruent with your thesis. Do not discuss anymore. This ends your essay.
How to reference this work?
Cabucos, E. (2020), ‘How to write a poem analysis?’, in sayseducation.com. Downloaded on today’s date.