Explication is the unraveling of a poem. Essentially, you need to identify the meaning of the poem. In your analysis, you should address the most important literary devices you see in the poem: simile, metaphor, allusion, symbolism, apostrophe, repetition, onomatopoeia, form (if applicable), and other techniques. How do these three contribute to the overall message of the poem?
An explication is a way for you to slow down and focus on the detail. Often, a poem that you find confusing will make sense once you take some time to examine it piece by piece.
Step 1: Read the poem silently and then read it aloud to familiarize yourself with the content of the poem. Read it again. And again.
Step 2: Read actively. That means read the poem again with a pencil. Write all over it! Look up unfamiliar words, circle rhyme, underline possible symbols, etc. Draw lines between related ideas or themes. Write your thoughts in the margins. Circle words that you think are important, thematic, or repetitive. Mark any words, lines, or stanzas in the poem that you may be having difficulty understanding.
Step 3: Paraphrase the poem. This should be one sentence that sums up the meaning of the poem. If you can’t paraphrase the poem, then you don’t truly understand it.
Step 4: Look for connections between your notes and the main meaning of the poem. This will help form the content of the explication.
Include the title of the poem (in quotation marks), author, dates, and brief background of the author, if necessary and relevant to your explication. You should also provide a brief summary of the plot and end with your thesis. The thesis should mention two to three techniques that the poet uses to convey his/her meaning. The thesis will include what you believe are essential elements of the poem AS WELL AS why these elements are important.
Systematically go through the poem showing the techniques stated in your thesis and showing how they relate to the poet’s argument. Each body paragraph should start with a topic sentence! Each body paragraph should only focus on one main idea that supports your thesis.
Brief quotes should be incorporated into your sentences to clarify your point. Make sure that you correctly integrate quotes into your own writing. Indicate line breaks with a “/” and stanza breaks with a “//”. To quote more than three lines, use a block quote. In either case, follow the quote with a parenthetical reference of the line number(s). And then, make sure that you follow the quote with an analysis of the quote. Be sure to use MLA format!
Here you pull the paper together and reaffirm your thesis. You could discuss how the poem relates to real life and/or use this paragraph to disagree with the poet’s argument if you wish. Is the poem effective at conveying the poet’s meaning? Why or why not? Remember, do NOT use the first person, as this is considered to be informal in academic writing.
Hook – The first 1-2 sentences of your essay. The hook should grab your reader’s attention by introducing the general topic of the essay. A hook can be anything from a quote, statistic, short story, joke, etc.
Background Info – The introduction of the essay needs to include specific background information. Include the title of the poem (in quotation marks), the poet’s name, a brief background of the poet (if it is relevant to your thesis), and then transition to your thesis.
Thesis – Here you should identify the theme (meaning) of the poem or its purpose. The thesis should also identify the two or three figurative/poetic devices that your body paragraphs are going to analyze.
You will have three (3) of these. Each should focus on a different figurative device.
Topic Sentence – The very first sentence of each body paragraph. This sentence needs to identify the ONE figurative/poetic device that the paragraph is going to analyze AND relate it back to the purpose/meaning of the poem that you identified in the thesis.
Analysis – For each body paragraph, focus on ONE literary/poetic device. You can, of course, use more than one example of this device. Analyze HOW and WHY this device helps create/convey the meaning of the song. Make sure you use evidence (i.e. quotes) from the poem to support your analysis.
Transition – The last 1-2 sentences of each body paragraph. The transition needs to sum up the main point of the body paragraph AND transition to your next topic sentence.
Sum up your main points
Restate your thesis
Discuss the overall meaning/message of the poem – exigency.
Do NOT use the first person. The use of the first person is considered to be informal in academic writing.
Refer to the speaking voice in the poem as “the speaker.” Unless you can actively and accurately identify the persona who is speaking.
Use the present tense when writing the explication. The poem, as a work of literature, continues to exist!
Most importantly, you should realize that a paper that you write about a poem or poems is an argument. You are writing about your reaction to the poem. Therefore, the explication is an argument – one that should be logically supported and organized.
Use evidence (i.e. quotes) from the poem. This adds a level of credibility to your argument.
“Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden – https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46461/those-winter-sundays?gclid=CjwKCAjw6djYBRB8EiwAoAF6odsi9IrVh5s0vC3EvKG_KpON_LjRiGhB-UMotNStMmNy2RnhyhQP3hoCNlkQAvD_BwE
“Funeral Blues” by WH Auden – https://allpoetry.com/Funeral-Blues
“The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop – https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/fish-2
“Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson – https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44982/richard-cory
“Barbie Doll” by Marge Piercy – https://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/marge-piercy/barbie-doll/
“Lady Lazarus” by Sylvia Plath – https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49000/lady-lazarus
“Quinceanera” by Judith Ortiz Cofer – https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57812/quincenanera
“Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas – https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/do-not-go-gentle-good-night
Again, if you have a different poem in mind (that was not covered in its own PowerPoint, feel free to email me for approval.
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