How to write a close reading essay on a poem

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How to write a close reading essay on a poem

There is no single way to do a close reading of a poem. The goal, however, is constant: Keep in mind that whenever you interpret a poem, it has to be backed up by reference to the poem itself.

A Practical Introduction and Guide to Explication

For a more extensive list, consult either of these sites: The title might not make much sense until you start to understand the poem. Does the title immediately influence what you are about to read, or does it, at the moment you begin your first reading, remain mysterious or vague?

After you have thought about the poem, how do you think the title relates to it? Which words stand out, and why? Consider how words may carry more than one meaning. A dictionary is obviously useful, especially one based on historical principles, since it will point to how the meanings of words may have changed over time.

Words often gather or evolve in meaning when repeated. These often add up so that a clearer sense of the poem emerges. Do you notice lots of material or immaterial things nouns or lots of action verbs? Is the poem concrete, about specific things and places, or is the poem more abstract, about concepts or ideas?

Is the poem full of movement, or does it seem to stay still and look at one thing? Do certain words seem to clash with each other, and what effect does this have? Think in terms of oppositions, tensions, conflicts, and binaries.

Consider word choice, or diction: Is the word choice distinctive? How would you describe the level of language and vocabulary register: Is the tone serious, ironic, amorous, argumentative, distant, intimate, somber, abrupt, playful, cheerful, despondent, conversational, yearning, etc.

Focus on how the words are ordered. Look for patterns; in drawing attention to themselves, they require your attention: Is the word order or sentence structure syntax unusual in any way, and what is the effect of this? Are there any noticeable patterns in the ordering of words?

If so, how do the patterns contribute to meaning? Do the lines have strong end-stops, or do they break across lines enjamb? Do the lines end with a final stress or rhyme?

Does each line tend to be a self-contained, grammatical unit, or does it vary? What effect does this have?

Step 1: Close Reading

Are there lots of long, complete sentences simple or complex? Does the poem stop and start, or does it move or flow continuously? What is the effect of this? Punctuation organizes and creates relationship between words, phrases, clauses, and sentences.

how to write a close reading essay on a poem

In poetry, where lines are often seen as units of meaning, the importance of punctuation is sometimes magnified, though often overlooked.The Reading Process. The first step to writing about the poem, obviously, is reading it – but not just like you would read a news article or a post from one of your favorite blogs.

This kind of reading is focused and attentive, hence the term “close” reading. You’re not just reading for information as you would when you read a textbook; rather, you’re trying to find a deeper meaning than the literal one on the surface. To "explicate" comes from a Latin word meaning to unfold.

The purpose of an explication or close reading is to unfold the significance of a poem. Explication pays close attention to the parts of a poem in order to support a larger argument about its overall impact.

Close reading is deep analysis of how a literary text works; it is both a reading process and something you include in a literary analysis paper, though in a refined form. Fiction writers and poets build texts out of many central components, including subject, form, and specific word choices.

INTRODUCTION: There is no single way to do a close reading of a poem. Sometimes an impression is a way in; sometimes the “voice†in the poem stands out; sometimes it is a matter of knowing the genre of the poem; sometimes groupings of key words, phrases, or images seem to be its most.

Close reading sometimes feels like over-analyzing, but don't worry. Close reading is a process of finding as much information as you can in order form to as many questions as you can.

When it is time to write your paper and formalize your close reading, you will sort through your work to figure out what is most convincing and helpful to the argument you hope to make and, conversely, what seems like a stretch. To begin your close reading, ask yourself several specific questions about the passage.

The following questions are not a formula, but a starting point for your own thoughts.

how to write a close reading essay on a poem

When you arrive at some answers, you are ready to organize and write.

Literary Analysis Papers: A Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis