Poetry Explication

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Unit 2: Poetry Explication
Purpose: To further our study of literature, we come across different types of poetry. Of course, we are no strangers to this form of writing, stereotypically classified as short, pretty and often rhyming. Many of us have learned to read by hearing the sounds and rhythms of poetry. Many of us may have written our own lines or received verse as a gift from somebody (think Valentine’s Day!). We may have even studied it closely in high school or college. From these experiences, many will admit that poetry, though beautiful, is often difficult to understand. Since it reflects such an integral part of the writer’s consciousness and mentality, it is often perplexing (like a puzzle we are trying to figure out). This is why our next assignment is meant to be both challenging and interesting. I ask that you make a smart selection of a poem (by smart, I mean to consider a few technicalities such as length, time, and purpose), and explicate it. Explication is a type of analysis, in which you must do a close reading of your chosen poem and show how the poem’s literary techniques contribute to the development of its theme. If done correctly, explications help us understand and appreciate poetry on a deeper level.
Texts: Select one poem from our unit. They are too many to list, but please consult pages 363-625. You must present your poem, in its entirety before beginning your explication.
Assignment: Write a poetry explication using one poem from our unit.
Please follow the steps below (which can also be found in the chart explication chart I provided in class – on the modules page-) in order to complete a successful explication:
Choose a strong poem and read it at least three times (preferable out loud)
Paraphrase the poem line-by-line. This is a translation of each line completely in your own words
Determine the context of the poem. To figure out the context, answer questions relating to: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Determine the theme or overall message of the poem. If you think there is more than one, then choose the one you wish to focus on.
List all the literary techniques you can find. This includes: diction, persona, allusion, denotation, connotation, imagery, tone, figurative language, sound, rhythm, and structure.
Narrow down these literary techniques to fit: your chosen theme (which techniques are most relevant to the theme) and how.
Writing an Explication:
Please note: an explication is a line-by-line explanation of a poem from beginning to end. “Explain” is the key This is different from a thesis-support paper because it doesn’t follow a logical structure (thesis + supporting reasons); instead, it has a chronological structure that unfolds or reveals the meaning(s) of a poem as it develops from beginning to end.
Guidelines and Structure of Writing an Explication:
You want to start by simply presenting your interpretation of the poem’s overall meaning and start explicating immediately. Don’t worry about writing a formal introduction with a thesis; remember, this is not a formal thesis-based essay, but rather, an explication.
The first line or lines of the explication should describe the situation of the speaker and declare the central subject of the poem, identify the most significant conflict(s) or tension(s) surrounding this subject, and present your interpretation of the overall message or theme of the poem.
Next, you should continue to explicate the poem’s central meaning line by line, expanding the discussion of the meaning and conflict in terms of the elements of poetry that we have discussed in this unit: diction, imagery, speaker and tone, figurative language, symbolism, allusion, sound and rhythm. That is, you should explain the overall meaning of the poem by focusing on how the poet has used these elements of poetry to construct this meaning.
Each “section” of the poem (stanza or grouping of text) can be explicated in a separate paragraph in the explication. If the poem has no stanzas, you are to determine (decide) which lines constitute a “section” or “grouping” of the poem and structure your explication accordingly.
The end of the explication should discuss any or all of the below:
Any final thoughts on the overall meaning of the poem
The value of experiencing the poem
Your personal connection to the poem
Finally, because this is not a formal essay, there is no page requirement for this explication. I am simply looking for a deep, thorough analysis and understanding of the poem. Each explication, however, should contain, at least 4 paragraphs:
Introduction to overall meaning/theme of the poem
Line by line explication of one stanza/grouping of text
Line by line explication of another stanza/grouping of the text
If your poem has more than two stanzas/groupings, I expect more paragraphs with a “line by line” explication.
Conclusion on overall meaning and writer’s connection to the poem.

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