It is one thing writing a descriptive thesis about a single subject, focusing on the ins and outs of the poem, its structure, its language and its style, but it is quite another to write a college essay in which you compare two or more poems.
Fortunately for you, we are here to explain to you how to outline your comparative discussion and how writing about poetic contrast during an exam is often easier than having to come up with numerous statements and ideas to write about just one single text.
For instance, we don’t need to point out the fact that having multiple poems means that there is a higher number of points to discuss in your narrative composition. So, the pure fact that you are comparing two texts means that you can dedicate a whole paragraph, if not more, to simply pointing out the clear differences in the structure and flow of two poems!
Furthermore, if you are being asked to compare and contrast texts, it usually means that there are significant differences or at least an alternative point of view to pick up on. Whether these be in reference to the era during which they were written, the writing style that the poet has chosen to use, or the different angles adopted to emphasize the same theme or message, the chances are that you will find loads of avenues to explore in your descriptive essay.
Finally, by focusing your attention on comparison and contrast, you can develop a much better understanding and a deeper appreciation of each citation.
It may take contrasting one poem with another to truly understand and appreciate the message being conveyed. Photo on VisualHunt.com
For those on their way to completing their A Level exams and in need of some extra help and reassurance when it comes to their literature assessment, here are some tips on how to write an A-Level poetry essay.
By the end of your A Level course, you’ll likely be familiar with a range of poets, poems and poetry styles but you may be surprised to know that the final exam often asks you to look at and contrasting two or more unseen poems.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be faced with poems that you have never laid eyes on before, by poets you’ve never even heard of. All it means is that neither you or your teacher will know which poems might come up in the assessment. It may well be that a poem you did not study crops up, but by an author who you are quite familiar with.
Not having seen a particular poem before, far from what many people think, is not a disadvantage in a timed exam. In fact, some might say that it works in their favour.
Being faced with a whole new set of words and stanzas to analyse is quite refreshing and if you apply all of the things you have learned over your GCSE and A Level course then you should have absolutely no problem finding leads to follow or points to argue.
Remember that, even if you aren’t very informed about the poet or the era during which they lived, you can often decipher hidden messages that might indicate when they were writing and what they were writing in response to. For example, if you find that a poem uses lots of words that are linked to battle, this evidence might be used to prove that the poem was written during the period of a war. Even though you may not know exactly which war, this still gives you something analytical to offer the examiner and a subject to use in your persuasive essay. Even if it is wrong, it may be an important element that the poet was trying to put in there.
In order to get this first impression that you can then report on in your text, be sure to read all of the texts thoroughly before starting to plan and write your essay. Your introductory paragraph, or thesis statement, might include a brief summary of each poem and set out a few observations that you’d like to look at in more detail further into your analysis.
Remember that this will be a timed assessment so you only have so many minutes in which to read, plan, and write your essay. As such, don’t give yourself too much to cover and find that you have to rush your conclusion to bring the comparison to an end (or worse, that you end up with an unfinished essay). Pick out a few points that are relevant to the question being asked and focus on expanding on them as much as possible during your critique.
Don’t forget, if you want the examiner to see that you’ve noticed other things in the poems, then you can always refer to them briefly whilst backing up one of your other arguments.
Finally, remember to not only focus on the historical context or themes of the poem but to also demonstrate your understanding of intellectual poetry techniques. So, as well as exploring the ideas, attitude, and tone of the poems, be sure to look out for structure, form, and literary techniques used by the poet.
Remember, don’t just focus on historical content and obvious themes in your essay. Photo on Visual hunt
When it comes to writing a paper, the main thing to remember is that you need to have an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion, just like any other term paper you have written in the past. Yet one thing that may not have crossed your mind as being imperative is to write an equal amount on each of the poems that you are discussing. Ultimately, without dedicating the same amount of time to each text, there is no way you can analyse the poems effectively in the comparative way the examiner wants.
Imagine if you wrote an essay where you discussed one poem for four paragraphs and then referred to the second poem in one single paragraph, the flow of the analysis would be completely off-balance and the examiner would only really be able to mark you on your direct analysis of the one poem that has taken centre-stage.
If you can, jot down a table or checklist of similarities and differences during your planning phase and then roughly set out the essay paragraph by paragraph to ensure that it looks even. Not only will this be a helpful guide as you start writing, it will also keep you on track. You don’t necessarily have to keep the analysis paper in chronological order.
Structuring an essay is actually much easier than people think. What the examiner wants to see is that you can clearly explain a point, justify it and then ask questions about why that is important to the overall text. So, for example, just like the essay as a whole, each point you make should ideally be made up of an introduction, middle section, and a conclusion.
The BBC Bitesize website likens this process with a sandwich, suggesting that the two pieces of bread are the intro and conclusion and the layers of filling are made up of each individual point you make in response to that argument. Others also talk about the technique being like a hamburger.
Remember, a plain beef burger with no sauce or fillings makes for quite a dry hamburger, and it’s much the same with your essay.
Proofreading is so important as silly errors can jeopardize how a point comes across! Photo credit: b r e n t on Visualhunt / CC BY