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Paper Assignment #1:
Poetry Explication


An explication is a close reading of a single poem or passage of poetry. A good explication requires you to be familiar with basic literary terms related to poetry, because an explication of a poem tells us about the theme and meaning of the poem primarily in terms of how the poem works—often through some of the terms we have talked about like rhythm, connotation, denotation, symbol, and imagery. A nice online summary, with some ideas to help you get started, can be found at



1. Choose a poem of more than 12 lines and less than 70 lines. You must choose a poem from our anthology that we did not read in class.

Special Note: You may NOT choose Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” for this paper.

2. Do NOT consult nor rely on outside sources (reference books, websites, etc.) for this paper.

3. Apply basic literary terms and concepts related to poetry while explicating the poem.

4. Student papers should be a minimum of 1,000 words long.

5. All papers are expected to be in MLA format with a Works Cited Page. If you have forgotten MLA paper and citation formatting, you can find information in a writing handbook or at the Purdue OWL:


6. The final draft of this paper must be submitted to Turnitin.com by 11:59 p.m. on November 15th.


• Review the material on “Writing about Literature” in our book on pages 2269-81. This covers some of the elements expected in your essay.

• In your introduction, use your thesis or central idea to express a specific argument about the poem, which your essay will fill out with specific details.

• Explicate the poem in relation to your central argument. You choose your own order of discussion, depending on your topics. You must, however, keep stressing your central argument with each new topic. You should refer to significant techniques or poetic devices that the poet employs in his/her poem. Discuss those poetic devices and techniques, and explain how they affect the poem’s meaning in relation to your thesis/analysis.

• Every poem has some stylistic elements that you can discuss, so that is expected. If there’s a difficult or unusual word in the poem, look it up so you know what it means. Always remember that you need to explain how and why the poetic devices affect meaning. Don’t just summarize and restate the poem in your explication. Be precise and be detailed!

• 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 (not an exhaustive one), there will be parts of the poem that you will not have discussed. You might then mention what could be gained from a lengthier examination of various parts of the poem (do NOT begin such a task yourself in your concluding paragraph). Try and leave the reader with an impression of your interpretation of the work you chose.

**Please note: This is NOT a research paper. You should NOT consult nor rely on any outside sources for this interpretive exercise. Your task is to explicate the poem on its own, relying on the poetry terminology detailed in the course handout and your interpretive skills. Students who attempt to rely on the analysis of others rather than their own individual interpretation will have their grade reduced accordingly.

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