Format: 3-5 pages minimum (typed or word processed), 1″ margins all around, double-spaced, Works Cited page where necessary. (For further format guidelines, see your course description under “Paper Requirements.”
Poetry paper topics can be tied to material from online discussions and should be critical analysis (explication) papers. Your goal should be to think of your paper as a kind of “argument” in which you offer an interpretation of and/or response to the poem (or poems) and discuss–through careful, detailed analysis of the poem’s language and form–how the poet has created the meaning and/or effects that have led you to your interpretation. The simple structure of an argument is to make claims, provide evidence for them from the poem’s detail and/or stylistic techniques, and discuss/explain/reason through why this evidence substantiates your interpretation of the poem.
Here’s another way to explain what I mean: show and tell. Your paper should deal directly, as much as possible, with the literary text in advancing your interpretation of its meaning. In other words, show your audience how the author writes the poem to create the meaning/response you’re getting. Simply put, how does the poem make its meaning? What evidence from that poem–in lines, phrases, structure, form, sound, imagery, etc.–can you provide for your reader to demonstrate what you’re telling that reader? This is what I mean by explication, by analysis.
Your essay can be focused in a couple of ways: detailed analysis/explication of 1 poem, analysis of that poem with relevant outside sources (issues, secondary criticism, other elements you’ve discovered about the poet or poem), or a comparison/contrast analysis of two poems (see example paper and see example papers in your textbook).
As you write, think of at least one member of your audience as someone who has not read the poem(s) you’re discussing; that is, don’t assume that because you, your teacher and your classmates have read the poem that you do not need to quote the poem as you analyze/discuss it. And, finally, think of your reader as responding at the end of your explication with “so what is the significance of what you’ve shown and told me here?”