Analytical Essay

Analytical Essay

3-5 pages, 12-pt font, 1-inch margins. Typed, printed out, and stapled or e-mailed to me before class on October 30.

In this essay you will be answering this basic question: Where do my poems come from and where will they go?

To answer this question you should trace your own development as a poet. By reflecting on your own development as a poet and analyzing your own poems you will hopefully find clues that will lead you to the answer to the basic question.

To analyze your poems you should be clear about several basic questions for each poem:

  • To whom (the addressee, including the class position of the addressee)?
  • How (method and form)?
  • For whose benefit (on whose behalf, including the class position of the beneficiary)?
  • What (summary)?

Much of the course material and several of the classroom activities have been built around answering these questions. Your second in-class writing assignment asked you to consider poetic traditions (in English or another language) that you have been exposed to. Your third in-class writing assignment asked you to identify an addressee (to whom and for whom?) for your first poem. In the interpretation for your first poem, you should have answered the question of “what.” Your fourth in-class writing assignment asked you to differentiate your method for writing the first poem (how?) from your method for writing the second poem, and your fifth in-class writing assignment asked you to plan the steps that you would take in writing your third poem.

Here is a basic structure for your essay. There are five parts, and each part should consist of one or more paragraphs. Do not number the parts of your essay; instead, use paragraph breaks as you move from one topic to another and establish flow between paragraphs with transitions.

I. Introduction

II. Poem 1

III. Poem 2

IV. Poem 3

V. Conclusion

Here is additional guidance for each part.

Part I. Introduction

Hopefully you can develop material from your second in-class writing assignment, the one about your previous experience with poetry and the different poetic traditions you have become familiar with, into your introduction. Your thesis will be a one-sentence description of what you have kept from tradition and how your poems break from or add to tradition. In other words, you are not simply writing the same poem over and over again. Your thesis is about how your poems are progressing from where they came from.

Part II. Poem 1 (refer to the basic analytical questions)

Hopefully the interpretation from Poem 1, the third in-class writing assignment, and the fourth in-class writing assignment will give you a foundation for your discussion of Poem 1. Additionally, think about how you wrote the poem (not just what you wrote). For example, if you modified a portion of your Telling Your Story assignment to write the poem, you could discuss how you added new material to your poem and how you altered the form of the writing (for example, by using line breaks and omitting function words).

In your description of method you should identify steps that you took in order to write the poem. Here are possible topics to consider under “method/form”

  • Errors you corrected
    • Random line breaks as opposed to verse
    • Lack of characterization (poem does not stand on its own)
    • Too many function words (wordy, not enough emphasis on images and actions)
  • Rules that you followed or rules that you decided to break as you made decisions about the poem
  • The starting point (an image?)
  • Adjustments as you wrote the first draft of the poem
  • Advice (feedback? something recalled from a previous class? YouTube?)
  • Revisions

Part III. Poem 2 (refer to the basic analytical questions)

The interpretation for this poem should be helpful for you. With regard to your analysis of method, the assignment description should give you one of your points: You started the poem with a collective line or image, and you developed the poem from there with regard to your own experience. You should also pay attention to the poems of your group members, the poems of your classmates presented to the whole class, and the poems from previous versions of this class. Regard those poems as sources for ideas about how to write your own poems. You might, for instance, compare and contrast your Poem 2 with one or more of the Poem 2’s of members of your group.

The transition between Poem 1 and Poem 2 will probably refer to a major difference between the two poems.

Part IV. Poem 3 (refer to the basic analytical questions)

This essay serves as your interpretation for Poem 3. The assignment description for Poem 3 might be useful for you to develop this paragraph.

For most of you, the description of method will provide the bulk of the material for this part of your essay. Here are some steps that you can consider as you describe your method for writing the poem:

  • Reading (and rereading) the assignment description
  • Your contribution towards deciding the group concept
  • Brainstorming and identifying an experience that inspires the poem
  • Creating an outline (the summary itself should be in a paragraph separate from method)
  • Writing the first line or selecting the first line
  • Applying rules (deleting unnecessary words, adjusting lines, using more precise words, hinting at the location)
  • Reading the poem out loud and describing edits based on sound.

Your description of method for this poem should be the most developed because you will have practiced writing about method.


At the beginning of your conclusion, try to identify a direction in which your poems are moving. This should somewhat restate the thesis at the end of the introduction. You might also consider poems you would write in the future, how you would like your poems remembered, or poems you would like others to write.

Hopefully your analytical essay will be helpful for the person in your video group who will be drafting your group’s video description.