Poetry Explication Assignment | Top Universities

An Explication is a complete and detailed analysis of a work of literature, often proceeding word-by-word or line-by-line through the work. For this paper, you will be writing an explication of a poem. You may choose any of the poems listed in this module.

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Technical Requirements for Explication:

  • The paper must be typed and double-spaced, conforming to proper manuscript MLA format. Please review the MLA documentation module for more information on MLA format.
  • The final draft of the paper must be at least two (2) pages.
  • This is not a research essay; therefore, you will not (and should not) use outside sources.

In the Explication you will be presenting your “reading” of the poem you have chosen. Such a reading will require you to understand all aspects of the poem and to have a grasp of the meaning of individual parts of the poem in relation to the entire work. You are not, however, striving to be exhaustive in your “explanation” of the poem, but rather you should strive to be selective in considering only those details that are significant to your own thematic understanding of the poem.

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General Questions to Consider for Poetry Explication

 These questions will assist you to experience the poem more critically.

You do NOT need to address all of the following questions.

  1. What does the title contribute to the reader’s understanding of the poem?
  2. Who is the speaker? Where is the speaker when the poem is happening?
  3. What is the situation? What has happened in the past, or what is happening in the present, that has brought about the speech/poem?
  4. Is there a specific setting of time and place?
  5. Is the speaker addressing anyone in particular?
  6. How do you respond to the speaker? Favorably? Negatively? Are there any special circumstances that inform what the speaker says?
  7. What is the theme/meaning of the poem? Is the theme of the poem presented directly or indirectly? What details make possible the formulation of the main idea?
  8. Do any allusions enrich the poem’s meaning? What references need explaining? How does an explanation assist in the understanding of the poem?

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  1. What difficult, special, or unusual words does the poem contain? How does the diction reveal meaning? Are any words repeated? If so, do any words carry evocative connotative meanings? Are there any puns or other forms of verbal wit?
  2. Do any objects, persons, places, events, or actions have allegorical or symbolic meanings? What other details in the poem support your interpretation?
  3. Is irony used? Are there any examples of situational irony, verbal irony, or dramatic irony? Is understatement or paradox used?
  4. What is the tone of the poem? Is the tone consistent?
  5. Does the poem use onomatopoeia, assonance, consonance, or alliteration? How do these sounds affect you?
  6. What sounds are repeated? If there are rhymes, what is their effect? Do they seem forced or natural? Is there a rhyme scheme? Do the rhymes contribute to the poem’s meaning?
  7. Did you enjoy the poem? What, specifically, pleased or displeased you about what was expressed and how it was expressed?

Some thoughts on organizing your paper:

An explication demonstrates your ability to (1) follow the essential details of the poem, (2) understand the issues and the meaning the poem reveals, (3) explain some of the relationships of content and technique, and (4) note and discuss especially important or unique aspects of the poem.

  • In your introduction, use your thesis or central idea to express a general view of the poem, which your essay will fill out with specific details.
  • In the body of your essay, first explain the poem’s content–not with a paraphrase, but with a description of the poem’s major organizing elements. So, if the speaker of the poems is “inside” the poem as a first-person involved “I,” you do not need to reproduce this voice yourself in your description. Instead, describe the poem in your own words, with whatever brief introductory phrases you find necessary.

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  • Next, explicate the poem in relation to your central idea. You choose your own order of discussion, depending on your topics. You must, however, keep stressing your central idea with each new topic. For example, you may wish to follow your description by discussing the poem’s meaning, or even by presenting two or more possible interpretations. You might also wish to refer to significant techniques. In other words, discuss those aspects of the meaning and technique that bear on your thesis/analysis.
  • In your conclusion, you should repeat your main idea to reinforce your essay’s thematic structure. Since you’ve been working on a general explication), there will be parts of the poem that you will not have discussed.
  • Finally, leave the reader with a lasting impression of your “reading” of the poem. This is your chance to turn poet for a moment; as with a poem, occasionally the final image of an essay can have the greatest impact on a reader. Get English homework help today

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