The emotive effect of poetry

Home learning focus

To consider influence and inspiration and how this helps to create emotive poetry.

This lesson includes:

  • one video to help you investigate using poetry to present emotion

  • three activities


Watch the following clip to hear Andrew Forster talk about his famous poem 'Brothers', based on his relationship with his brother.
Listen as he discusses his reasons for writing the poem.

Take notes on the comments he makes about the emotional side of the poem, as he looks back on that day with his brother. How does the poem make you feel when you listen?

Hip-hop star Akala meets the poet Andrew Forster to discuss his poem 'Brothers'.

Writing effectively about emotion can be a challenge in any format. Knowing how to get the feelings on to a page is something that takes time and practice.

When poets are able to get their feelings on to the page, it can help them create a sense of meaning in their poetry.

By making an emotion something tangible or perceptible and/or linking it to something that you can sense, you may find it easier to get those thoughts on to the page.

You could try giving your emotion:

  • a smell

  • a sound

  • a texture

  • a visual representation


Activity 1

Listen to the reading of William Blake’s 'The Poison Tree'.

As you listen, write down the emotions you can hear being expressed.

What do you think the message of the poem is?

Part of activity 1 - listen to the reading of William Blake’s ‘The Poison Tree’.

Activity 2

The use of structure can also help a poet show emotion. When you analyse or write a poem it's important to consider its structure.

Find a copy of a poem that you are looking at in school or open this poem, Living Space by Imtiaz Dharker, and follow the steps below to create an emotion graph.

  1. Take a blank piece of paper and a ruler and draw the two axes of a graph.
  2. Count the syllables in each line of the poem.
  3. Along the bottom axis write the line numbers (line 1, line 2, line 3 etc.) on the side axis list the number of syllables (go up to the highest number of syllables you have found in the poem).
  4. Plot each of the numbers on your graph and connect the points with a line.
  5. Next to the points where you notice a change in the syllable count, look back at the poem. Comment on what you think this could suggest about the emotions being shown, and write this on your graph.

Top tip

  • Look closely at the words in each line you choose to focus on. Read the line, look at the syllable count, consider the emotion and make a clear comment.
  • Think of the graph as representing a heartbeat. When your heartbeat is high, what emotions could you be feeling?
  • When you heartbeat drops lower, what emotions might you be feeling?

Activity 3

Consider what inspires you to write. Create your own short piece of poetry on the theme of 'the power and influence of writing' using this short activity sheet from Teachit.

'With this pen' activity sheet

Where next?

In this lesson you have considered influence and inspiration and how it helps create emotive poetry.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you think about structure and patterns in poetry.

There's more to learn

Bitesize Daily lessons
KS3 English
Hetty Feather
11 - 14 English Language
Bitesize Support
Watch poets perform their poetry