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Writing Assignment


Select an author mentioned in any of the poetry chapters that we have read this semester and write a literary analysis of one or two of their poems.  Focus on one to three literary elements (language, tone, point of view, form, imagery, figures of speech…) and explain how these elements connects to a larger theme of the poem.


Some possible suggestions for topics:


Discuss how a poem uses word choice to convey meaning.  (Example: How does Sherman Alexie’s use of word choice help readers understand the theme of “Evolution?”)

Examine the imagery of a poem, explaining how the images convey the poem’s theme.  (Example: How does the imagery in Langston Hughes’ “Negro” contribute to the poem’s themes of racial identity and exploitation?)

Analyze the speaker of a poem, discussing how the speaker’s persona contributes to the theme(s) of the poem.  (Example:  How does the speaker’s persona in Poe’s “The Raven” affect the poem itself?)

Compare and contrast a specific stylistic technique (speaker, tone, word choice…) in two poems, highlighting the significance of the similarities and differences.  (Example:  What is the significance of the similarities and differences in tone in Williams’ “Red Wheelbarrow” and Bermann’s “An Apology”?)

Comparing one author’s poems: “Author X uses poetic devices A, B, and C, in ‘Poem 1’ and ‘Poem 2’ to express the theme of ________”.

Comparing two authors’ poems: “Author X’s poem A and Author Y’s poem B use poetic devices A, B, and C to express the theme of ________”.


As always, the goal of literary analysis is to provide insight into the meaning of the poem(s), helping readers understand the point.  Essentially, what’s the significance of the arguments you’re making?  How do they help the reader understand the poem(s) better?


If you would like to analyze a different poem (i.e. one that is not listed on the syllabus) from any of the poets we have discussed this semester, you may do so, but you must tell me in advance which poem(s) you intend to examine.


All essays must provide textual evidence from the poem in the form of direct quotes, which must be properly cited according to MLA style (refer to your textbook for more on MLA documentation).




Plot summary is not analysis, and should be avoided.  You should only discuss plot details to support specific claims you’re making about the literary texts.  You may assume that your readers have read the specific texts you are discussing.



2-3 pages (500-750 words)


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