Writing a response

When writing an essay about your interpretation of, or response to, a poem, you should consider the points below.

Essay-writing tips

  • Write a plan first, noting what you'll include in each paragraph.
  • Begin with a brief overview of the poem.
  • Go on to mention themes, form, structure, rhythm and language.
  • Mention a range of views or perspectives.
  • Compare the poem to another one.
  • Mention any relevant details about the context of the poem.
  • Conclude with a firm judgement about the poem.
  • Support all you say with details or quotes from the poem.

Key words

A good approach to begin with is to highlight any key words which stand out for you. Make sure you use these key words in your essay.

Example question

Compare and contrast how the writers of Kamikaze and The Émigrée deal with memories and the past.


  1. Overview: both poems deal with the theme of remembering. Rumens presents the reader with a city remembered from childhood, and Garland tells the story of a mother remembering her shamed kamikaze pilot father (point of comparison). Both poems are about outcasts (comparison).
  2. Form and structure of both poems: simple, plain English with no strong rhyme or rhythm and the reader is getting something clear, truthful and not artificial – something authentic (comparison)
  3. Language: both writers use repeated references to colour, light and shade to make the memories they describe vivid. Both mention taste sensations (comparison)
  4. Technique: Garland makes sparing use of metaphor/simile. Rumens repeatedly uses metaphor throughout – her whole poem can be viewed as an extended metaphor and the city a symbol of past childhood memories. Rumens also uses personification and a play on the word ‘plane’ to suggest her city is a fictional place (points of contrast).
  5. Conclusion: Garland’s poem – which mingles past and present tense – suggests its speaker has come to terms with her memories of the past and how she treated her father. By contrast, Rumens’ poem – written in present tense – suggests we cannot escape our memories - they are constantly with us.

Some other essay questions to think about:

  • How does Carol Rumens express strong feelings in her poem The Émigrée?
  • How does Carol Rumens’ use of language express the themes of her poem The Émigrée?
  • How does Carol Rumens make the city such an intriguing place in her poem The Émigrée?

Explore the study guide for 'Kamikaze'.

More on planning an essay.