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

How does Keats highlight the human senses in his poem To Autumn?

Considerations

  1. Overview: context - highly personal account inspired by personal experience. Each stanza centres on different sense – touch, sight and hearing.
  2. Touch – stanza 1: linked to early autumn/morning. Rich sensuous vocabulary about ripeness and abundance is used.
  3. Sight – stanza 2: linked to mid-autumn/afternoon. Key words include: ‘seen’, ‘seeks’, ‘look’ and ‘watchest’, all to do with sight.
  4. Hearing – stanza 3: linked to late autumn/evening; ‘songs’, ‘music’ and ‘choir’ all human sounds. The last few lines are all about the noises of creatures.
  5. Conclusion: Romantic poets recognised the power of the senses and this poem fully demonstrates that idea.

Some other essay questions to think about:

  • Apart from describing a particular time of year what else does Keats have to say in this poem?
  • Keats carefully develops a sense of time and place for his readers. Show how he does this in To Autumn and compare his methods with those used by another poet.

More about planning an essay.