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When you read a poem, and read it again, the words do not merely remain "words" but unfold as meanings. Once you start analyzing the poem more closely, the meaning acquires new shades of interpretation. The experience is similar to appreciating a flower in its various elements: color, shape, size, fragrance, pattern of petals, and so on. These are much like the elements that you analyze in a poem: theme, structure, imagery, tone, rhyme, and so on. A poem too, like a flower, exudes an aroma, as long as you know how to extract this aroma.
Doing a close analysis of a poem helps you extract this aroma. This is a craft that this lesson will help you learn. An effective close analysis of a poem is a combination of attention and experience - it's your own passionate engagement with the qualities that make the poem resonant or compelling, along with your persistent close reading to understand its theme and structure. It's an acquired talent, so you'll have to learn it.
This lesson will help you improve your close analysis of poetry. As you move on with the lesson, you will learn how to accomplish more effective ways of writing a close analysis of a poem through illustrative examples and guided practice.
Read more about what makes a good close analysis of poetry and the various elements of the analysis:
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Section 2 - Elements of Close Analysis of Poetry
Screen 2 - Elements of Close Analysis (Probably Half layout)
To start with, let's recall the various elements of poetry that you need to consider while writing a close analysis of a poem:
The central theme
The language, rhythm, and tone
The imagery, metaphors, allegory, simile, and other poetic devices
You may refer to an overview of Poetry Explication:
Next, let's focus on the various elements of an effective close analysis of a poem:
a close observation of the poetic form
a detailed explication of the poem's theme
a close understanding of the meaning
an integration of the observations of form with the conclusions about the meaning
Read on to know more about close reading Poetry (Refer Example 2 on Page 4 of 6) http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic649329.files/BG%20Writing%20English.pdf
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Section 3 - Identifying Problems in a Close Analysis of a Poem
Screen 3 - Sample Close Analysis of a Poem (Probably One-third layout)
Now that you just saw the various elements of an effective close analysis, have a look at a sample close analysis of a poem to identify its problems. Once you've identified the problems, you'll be able to think out the solutions.
Close read the poem: "Fireflies in the Garden" (http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=171622) by Robert Frost and then read the sample close analysis.
Well, is it a good, comprehensive, and effective close analysis of the poem? Does it do full justice to the poem, or is there a scope for improvement? If so, then what are the aspects that need a revisit?
Take a pause and examine the analysis from two angles: (1) how clear it is as a piece of writing, and (2) how well it succeeds at doing a close analysis of the poem. Reflect on the various ways by which you think you can improve upon this close analysis, both in terms of improving the overall writing quality, and sharpening the focus of the analysis.
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Screen 4 - Activity: Identify the Defects in the Sample Close Analysis (Probably Two-third layout)
Now, recall your prior knowledge of the various elements that you must look for in a close analysis, and briefly write down your primary observations about the sample close analysis you just read, identifying the problems or shortcomings in its:
Supportive evidence for thesis
Paragraph and Sentence Structure
For reference, take a look at yet another guide to analyzing a poem:
In your activity sheet, include at least one evidence from the essay to support your observations about each point. Over the screens that follow, you will get to see each of these problems being identified. You can then compare them with what you wrote to see if you're on the right track.
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Screen 5 - Thesis Statement (Probably Half layout)
First of all, what is your take on the thesis? Does the essay have a clear central thesis?
Well, look at how the sample analysis starts off rather vaguely with a random statement instead of a clear thesis: "The poet has a matter-of-fact tone to convey something he assumes the reader to know âˆ’ the fact that fireflies can only live three weeks before dying, but the actual stars live forever." This offers no effective argument or clause about the poem. The sentence that follows, namely: "The stars on earth are the temporary fireflies that look like imitations of the heavenly stars." offers a partial observation without connecting it to the central theme of the poem. There is no logical argument that has been put across. So, there is no effective central thesis statement.
Absence of a sound thesis is the crumbling point for a close analysis, because the key to a good analysis lies in its thesis statement.
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Screen 6 - Supportive Evidence for Thesis (Probably One-third layout)
Now, do you think the statements in the essay have been enforced with enough supportive evidence from the poem? Well, as you see, the sample analysis is rather weak on this front. Let's see how.
There is not a single quote from the poem to substantiate any of the points in the essay. The first sentence of the second paragraph is the only place where you get to see a phrase from the poem: "star-like start". But it doesn't connect in any way to the statements that follow in the paragraph; neither does it create any logical transition from the paragraph that precedes it. The very next sentence: "The initial part of the poem is rhymed as a set to show that there are stars in the sky and on earth." sounds rather abrupt and out of place.
Further, the essay mentions: "The rhyme is essential for understanding the poem's shift in meaning." But there is not a single example from the poem to help the reader see how the rhyme indicates the shift in meaning. So, in effect, the body of the essay builds no support.
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Screen 7 - Paragraph and Sentence Structure (Probably One-third layout)
Lastly, you'll see how the essay walks rather weakly with the way the sentences and paragraphs have been structured in it. Overall, the sentences do not make much impact and they lack in clarity. For example, the sentence in the third paragraph: "Two seemingly unrelated objects are the basis of the thematic significance of the poem and are what Frost makes a connection between." lacks in clarity and is rather weak in construction.
The sentence that occurs suddenly in the middle of the second paragraph: "The initial part of the poem is rhymed as a set to show that there are stars in the sky and on earth" has no connection with the "star-like start" that the previous sentence mentions. Obviously, it shows that the ideas do not flow from sentence to sentence.
The paragraphs are not quite coherent, and there is adequate scope for improvement. Both the second and the third paragraph start abruptly without any logical transition from the preceding paragraphs. In all, as a read, the essay lacks in coherence and effectiveness.
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Section 4 - Improving Your Analysis of a Poem
Screen 8 - Ways of Improving the Initial Close Analysis (Probably One-third layout)
Now that you've already identified the problems in the sample close analysis, let's move to finding solutions to these problems, or improving the close analysis with the necessary revisions.
Before you start, have a quick read at yet another take on how to write a poetry analysis:
As you've seen, the given close analysis needs to be improved in two ways: (1) to include general elements of good writing, so as to make it more effective with better clarity and coherence, and: (2) to revise some elements that are specific to close analysis of the poem, for example, to include an appropriate thesis with adequate supporting evidence.
Before you proceed to view how the sample close analysis can be improved, in your activity sheet, revise the same essay with the following modifications:
Create an effective introduction with a clear thesis.
Provide supportive evidence from the poem to support the thesis.
Revise the sentences and paragraphs for better clarity, coherence, and effectiveness.
Write a strong and effective conclusion.
Once you're done, have a look at the revised essay. In the subsequent screens, you'll see how the revised essay includes all the above qualities.
Screen 9 - Create an Effective Introduction (Probably One-third layout)
As you know, the introduction of a close analysis must capture the poem's central idea. It must make an impact on the reader with a clear and effective thesis statement, and briefly capture the significant aspects of the poem. Any significant aspect of the analysis must be brought out in the introduction so as to prepare the reader for the overall theme of the essay.
You may watch these videos to get some more idea about the Introduction of an essay.
How to write an Introduction Paragraph for your essay:
How to write an Introduction for an Essay:
Now, see how the introduction has been revised:
Robert Frost's "Fireflies in the Garden" brings out the striking contrast between the 'genuine' (symbolized by the "real stars" in the sky) and the 'imitation of the genuine' (symbolized by the "emulating flies") to significantly suggest the chasm between Appearance and Reality, or between Transience and Immortality.
It offers a clear thesis and even connects it to the specifics of the text. Such an introduction clearly indicates the direction in which the essay will follow, and lays a strong grounding for the close analysis.
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Screen 10 - Provide Supporting Evidence for Thesis (Probably Half layout)
A thesis, no matter however strong, must gain ample support through the close analysis. Else, its significance is lost.
As evident, the close analysis now creates a strong support to its thesis by providing ample and appropriate evidences from the poem. This lacked in by far in the initial draft.
Note how the second paragraph logically builds on what has been stated in the first paragraph by explicating the thesis in a strong grounding of the poem. It effectively illustrates how the thesis has been reinforced through relevant quotes from the poem.
In the fourth paragraph, the rhyming pattern of the poem has now been explained in detail with substantive evidence from the poem to concretely demonstrate how "the poem creates a deliberate transition in its rhyme to move from an observation to the truths about the observation."
Instruction to Graphics: Morph the fol. Images to create the word "support" on the background of the colored pyramid.
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Screen 11 - Revise Paragraphs and Sentences for Clarity and Coherence (Try for a One-Third layout)
A good analysis weaves its paragraphs and sentences into a cohesive, unified pattern. You've already seen how the initial draft lacked in terms of having well-structured sentences and paragraphs. Now, you'll see how the same analysis has been revised for more effectiveness.
But before you proceed, you may read how to create unity and flow in paragraphs:
how to provide transitions between paragraphs:
and, how to edit an essay for organized writing:
Also, you may check a video on editing:
Once you're done, note how the paragraphs in the revised essay have been modified for better clarity, coherence, and effectiveness. The introduction presents a clear thesis, which the next paragraph explicates with ample supportive evidence. Then comes the observation about the alliteration and rhyming of the poem and both these elements have been concretely explained to support this observation. The concluding paragraph ties up the main points and reinforces the thesis with added significance.
The sentences in the revised essay flow in smoothly from one to the other. Each sentence leads on to the next one and so, the next builds on the previous. Such a strong link reflects the logical structure of an effective close analysis.
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Screen 12 - Write an Effective Conclusion (Probably One-third layout)
The conclusion is one of the most fruitful ways to create the ultimate worth of a close analysis. Check this video on how to write the conclusion:
Also, check this video on how to analyze the conclusion for effectiveness:
Now, refer to the revised conclusion. Certainly, it echoes out the main idea of the essay as reinforcement. It adds value to the overall close analysis.
The earlier statement: "Human civilization progresses by imitation and role models help us to channelize our energies to achieve success." has now been removed, because it was a deviation from the focus of the poem.
The earlier statement: "Two seemingly unrelated objects are the basis of the thematic significance of the poem and are what Frost makes a connection between." has now been revised as: "The poet draws a comparison between two seemingly unrelated symbols, the stars and the fireflies, to drive home a deeper reflection on the chasm between Appearance and Reality, the Earthly and the Divine, the Mortal and the Immortal, the Temporal and the Eternal." This is so much stronger and more effective, isn't it? It's critical that you create such an effective conclusion while writing a close analysis on poetry.
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Screen 13 - Lesson Activity - Teacher Graded (Probably Half layout)
Now, it's time for you to write a close analysis. Read Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem: "Blue".
Then write a close analysis of this poem in about 150-200 words. You need to turn in both: (1) an initial draft of a close analysis of the poem; and then: (2) a revised version of the same analysis.
Do remember to include the following elements in your revised essay.
An engaging introduction with an effective thesis
Concrete evidence from the poem to support the thesis
Coherent sentences and paragraphs
An effective conclusion
This activity will be graded by the teacher. You need to submit both the initial and the revised drafts to the teacher.
For reference, you may take a second look at the guide to analyzing a poem:
Also, you may have a look at a video on how to write a five-paragraph essay:
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Section 5 - Summary
Screen 14 - Summary (Probably Half layout)
In all, this lesson helped you learn how to improve your close analysis of poetry. It reviewed a sample close analysis of a poem, and then revised it in the most effective ways.
You viewed both the "before" and "after" examples in the initial and the revised drafts of the close analysis to note significant improvement in the general writing style, as well as in the focus of the analysis. The problems that were found in the initial draft were rectified in the revised draft. For example, the introduction was revised to create a clear thesis, ample supportive evidence was added into the analysis, the sentences and paragraphs were edited for more clarity and coherence, and the conclusion was re-written for more effectiveness.
So, now that you've learnt the "craft" of writing an effective analysis, you will be able to make similar improvements in your own close analysis of poetry.