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

What makes the poem Tissue engaging and appealing to the reader?


  1. Introduction: extended metaphor of paper – examine how the poet refers to the lasting significance of human life but also to its fragility.
  2. Paper used for pages of religious texts: explore the suggestion that religion itself is fragile.
  3. Imagined uses of paper: imagined paper buildings – examine how the speaker says buildings would be fragile if made from tissue paper.
  4. Concrete examples: look at how paper is used by grocers and architects – the fragile nature of these and how money and buildings are also transient.
  5. Conclusion: tissue paper is like skin and both are fragile.

Some other essay questions to think about:

  • How does Imtiaz Dharker present the theme of power in this poem?
  • How does Dharker explore the fragility of human life in this poem? Compare her approach to that of another poet, such as Percy Bysshe Shelley.

More about planning an essay.