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 C Day-Lewis present feelings of loss in this poem?


  1. Introduction: explain who the speaker is and the context of the poem.
  2. Time: reference to ‘eighteen years’ shows the age of child and also time during which speaker has had to come to terms with feelings.
  3. Simile: examine the similes used to show the separation – ‘satellite’ and ‘seed’.
  4. Vocabulary: the poet uses words that have connotations of pain and difficulty.
  5. Images of changing nature: leaves in first stanza are changing – images of birds leaving nest – seeds leaving parent stem – four stanzas represent four seasons.
  6. Faith: refers to God in final stanza – speculation whether this is how love is really shown.
  7. Conclusion: feelings of loss shown through whole of poem.

Some other essay questions to think about:

  • How does C Day-Lewis present nature in the poem Walking Away?
  • How does C Day-Lewis present relationships in this poem? Compare his approach to that of another poet, such as Maura Dooley.

More about planning an essay.