Our time is limited, so we are going straight to the draft. However, you should still do an outline for yourself. You will likely be using more quotes and smaller quotes. If you do several words from one line separately, you only need to do an in-text citation for one of them. If you mention the line number in the signal phrase, like I do below, you don’t even have to do an in-text citation. Remember to start small with single words and then work your way out to phrases and lines. Also, remember that your controlling idea should be about the element. Don’t use the meaning of the entire poem as the controlling idea. That works less here than even with short fiction, and it did not work well with short fiction. The meaning of the poem is less important than how it works, the things the author does in the poem. That is the point of poetry, to paint a picture with words. It is not about the destination but the journey. The contemporary poet Billy Collins is a creative writing teacher as well as a poet, and he often writes about his classes and students. He did a really nice job of writing about the idea that I am talking about here. Read the poem below and apply that idea to the way you read and write about poetry:
Introduction to Poetry
BY BILLY COLLINS (Links to an external site.)I ask them to take a poemand hold it up to the lightlike a color slideor press an ear against its hive.I say drop a mouse into a poemand watch him probe his way out,or walk inside the poem’s roomand feel the walls for a light switch.I want them to waterskiacross the surface of a poemwaving at the author’s name on the shore.But all they want to dois tie the poem to a chair with ropeand torture a confession out of it.They begin beating it with a hoseto find out what it really means.Don’t use “enhanced interrogation” on your poem. Enjoy the poem. Allow it to breathe. Collins chose a great metaphor for student analysis of poetry. Despite what you see on television shows like 24, studies have found that torture does not work. The reason for this is that the person being tortured wants the torture to stop. Therefore, they don’t tell the truth; they say what they think the torturer wants to hear. In the same way, if you decide a poem means something, you will find a way to make it mean that. However, it may not be the truth. A poem may mean what you decide it does to a degree, but, undoubtedly, the poem will mean more than that as well. Like I said, poetry, because of how few words is used, is always packed with meaning. Each word is packed with meaning. Every single word is a choice by the author. Examine those choices. Expand the meaning of the poem to the point that a single idea or particular meaning cannot encompass the poem. Don’t read your own ideas into it, but, even more importantly, don’t choke the meaning out of it that is there. Even if the author does it subconsciously, you can find a world of meaning in each choice the author makes, the way the poem sounds, the way the poem looks, the way the poem creates images, the connotations, the denotations. Why does Collins use so many words with scientific connotations? That is an example of a good question that you could seek to answer. Why does collins use implied metaphors? What are the implied metaphors? For instance, when he says he wants to “hold it up to the light” in line two, he is talking about the poem when he says “it,” but that is only the named literal object. What is the implied figurative object? He continues with the simile “like a color slide,” but that doesn’t mean he is saying that it is a color slide, only like one. So, what is it figuratively? It is almost like he is making an imaginative 3D visual representation of the poem. Figuring out what the implied figurative object is may lead to interesting analytical pathways. Leave no stone unturned when analyzing and writing about your poem.