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 Owen Sheers present relationships in this poem?


  1. Introduction: Suggests that relationships can be difficult at times, but ultimately love keeps people together.
  2. Use of weather and landscape to reflect mood: two days of rain suggests arguments between the lovers – waterlogged ground suggests difficulties in their communication.
  3. Use of swans as metaphor: the swans distract the couple from their concerns – the grace and beauty of the birds throws the couple’s conflict into a new light.
  4. Use of light and darkness: as the couple move towards reconciliation, images of light are used.
  5. Language of pairs: words like ‘halved’, ‘pair’ and ‘two’ emphasise the importance of togetherness to the speaker.
  6. Structure reflects reconciliation: final stanza is two lines, signifying the way the couple settle back into their relationship.
  7. Conclusion: poet describes a simple moment of change in a relationship, showing how nature helps a couple to get over their difficulties.

More about planning an essay.