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 ‘death in conflict’.

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 or terms 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.

Remember to avoid simply identifying what techniques or approaches the poets use. Aim to show an understanding of how form, language and structure create meanings and effects.

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 so be judicious, 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 Anthem for Doomed Youth with Who's for the Game? by Jessie Pope for example, you could use some of the following points:

  • Both poems are written about World War One
  • Anthem for Doomed Youth highlights the brutality of war and is considered an anti-war poem. In contrast Who’s for the Game? is a call to war, suggesting that those who do not fight are missing something glorious and exciting.
  • Many of Owen’s poems were in direct response to propagandists like Jessie Pope. In fact he addresses her specifically in another of his poems, Dulce Et Decorum Est.
  • The tone of Owen’s poem is ironic and angry as he shows how war is nothing like the portrayal by people like Pope. The tone of her poem on the other hand is cheerful and jingoistic.
  • Pope’s light-hearted tone is created using short lines with a very regular rhyme scheme. This gives the poem an almost childish nursery rhyme quality. In contrast, Owen’s poem is slow-paced and poignant due to the sonnet form and the iambic pentameter used throughout.
  • Both poems use rhetorical questions to make readers reflect on the war. However, their purposes are very different. Pope wants to encourage readers to go to war, while Owen wants to reveal the reality of the trenches and the deaths of the soldiers.

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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