Writing a response

When you have settled on a suitable poem, you should note down a variety of links between the poems. The key thing to do when comparing poems is to note the points where they are similar and the points where they differ.

When writing an essay comparing your two poems you should consider the points below.

Essay-writing tips

A good approach to begin with is to highlight any key terms which stand out for you.

In the sample question the key term you must think about is ‘identity as story’.

Make sure you use the key term or terms frequently throughout your essay.

Begin by introducing both poems, giving a brief overview of their main subject or message. You MUST refer to the key term in your introduction.

You will be expected to compare and contrast the poets’ use of features such as theme, form, structure, rhythm, language and figures of speech.

Make sure you are comparing and contrasting the poems throughout.

Your essay should be peppered with comparing words and phrases such as "similarly...", "in contrast to this…" and "this can also be seen in…".

Mention any relevant details about the context of the poem.

You will not get marks for context which is not linked directly to the question. For example, don’t simply write down everything you know about the poet if it is not relevant to the question.

Support all you say with details or quotes from the poem.

This may mean quoting a full line at times, but could also involve detailed analysis of one significant word.

If you were to compare Belfast Confetti with The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost for example, you could use some of the following points:

  • Both poems reflect the poets’ background and are anchored in place. The setting of Belfast Confetti is Northern Ireland during the Troubles whilst The Road Not Taken has the backdrop of New England, America.
  • Both poems are contemplating life experiences as a journey.
  • Belfast Confetti creates a sense of place through the use of proper nouns such as “Balaklava” and “Crimea Street”. However, The Road Not Taken utilises visual imagery and descriptive detail such as “a yellow wood”.
  • The Road Not Taken uses its narrative structure to create identity whilst Belfast Confetti uses punctuation in an attempt to explain identity.

When writing about these similarities and differences, you should discuss the methods used by the poets.

Look at the earlier sections on themes, language, form and structure to get ideas.

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