prepare for an analysis essay poem

The purpose of this activity is to choose a poem to write an Analysis Essay on, post the evidence you find in the poem that supports an argumentative thesis about a theme in it, and brainstorm about your poem with your peers on the discussion board. It would be good to review the definition and example of an Analysis Essay in Unit 2 and to review New Critical elements such as repetition, metaphor, alliteration, etc. in order to be sure that you have the tools for this analysis at your disposal.


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1. Read these poems and choose one to write an analysis essay about: (Note: You will need to read all of these poems in order to respond helpfully to others who may choose them).

Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost

Black Boys Play the Classics” by Toi Derricotte

somewhere I have travelled” by E.E. Cummings

Wild Nights—Wild Nights!” by Emily Dickinson

My Son the Man” by Sharon Olds

My Husband’s Back” by Susan Minot

Legal Alien” by Pat Mora

On Death, without Exaggeration” by Wislawa Szymborska

On the Pulse of Morning” by Maya Angelou

Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes

All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan

You are welcome, even encouraged, to explore your poem’s background and meaning through research. Some of the poems are explicated (analyzed and developed in detail) on sites such as

Please remember, however:

  1. Unique interpretations with strong evidence and explanations are also welcome
  2. You will need to cite and provide a Works Cited entry for any ideas you take from other sources, and
  3. In your final paper you must state an argumentative thesis based on poetic elements and not just a series of ideas or facts about the poem.

2. Write three “prewriting” paragraphs about the poem you have chosen. Begin each paragraph with a main idea sentence, and use transitions between points so that your reader can easily follow your logic.

1) A brainstorming paragraph that answers these questions:

      • Why were you drawn to this poem? What did you like about it?
      • What thesis about a theme do you see for an essay about this poem? Remember that your thesis is grounded in the literary/poetic elements that support a theme in your poem. You may have more than one idea about a thesis on a theme. Review what a theme and a thesis are in Unit 2.

2) An evidence paragraph that includes the following:

      • Include the poetic elements/terms a New Critic looks for to derive meaning from the structure of a poem. Review these poetic elements/terms in Learning Activities 3.3 and 3.6, and also in this link: Literary Terms .
      • Match the lines or phrases of your poem to the elements you will use and write them together in this paragraph.
      • Use MLA format (backslashes) to write the lines you have matched.

3) A conferencing paragraph in which you ask at least two questions about your ideas and fully explain why you have these questions. Any aspects of the poem (lines not understood, etc.) or essay writing (theme, thesis, structure, etc.) are appropriate.

3. Post your three prewriting paragraphs

*Remember that in the model analysis essay on “My Papa’s Waltz,” the thesis states that specific poetic elements show “the waltz” to be a dark event, thus supporting a theme that sometimes there are signs of trouble in a relationship in what might otherwise be considered a very enjoyable, lighthearted activity such as a waltz.