For this paper you are asked to show what you have learned so far

For this paper you are asked to show what you have learned so far about reading, interpreting, and writing about poetry. You will compare two poems, following the directions below for selecting the poems and writing the essay.

The subject of this essay is “the art of poetry.” You will select one poem from the Album “The Art of (Reading) Poetry,” which contains poems that are about what makes poetry and the experience of reading poetry special; you will also select a poem from the Album of Adrienne Rich’s poetry OR the Album of Pat Mora’s poetry. Your main task will be to support a claim about how the poem you chose from Rich or Mora compares with the ideas about what poetry is like in the poem you chose from “The Art of (Reading) Poetry.”



1) Read the following poems from the Album “The Art of (Reading) Poetry” (699-706 of Norton Anthology):Archibald Macleish, “Ars Poetica”

    • Czeslaw Milosz, “Ars Poetcia?”
    • Elizabeth Alexander, “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe”
    • Marianne Moore, “Poetry”
    • Julia Alvarez, “Poetry Makes Nothing Happen?”
    • Billy Collins, “Introduction to Poetry”

2) Read the poems in the Albums “The Author’s Work as Context: Adrienne Rich” (page 911) and “Pat Mora: An Album” (page 971).

3) Select one poem from “The Art of (Reading) Poetry” and one poem from “The Author’s Work as Context: Adrienne Rich” or “Pat Mora: An Album.” Choose two poems that you think will go well together.

4) Take notes about why you think the two poems go well together. In your notes, consider

  • What does the poem from “The Art of (Reading) Poetry” say about the nature of poetry and the experience of reading it? What are its main ideas?
  • How well does the poem from “The Art of (Reading) Poetry” reflect its own main ideas? In other words, is this poem special in the ways that it says poetry should be special? Does it have the characteristics of poetry that it says poetry should have? Is your experience of reading the poem what it says the experience of reading poetry should be? Why or why not?
  • What are the main ideas expressed in the poem you chose by Rich or Mora? How well do the main ideas expressed in this poem compare with the topics, themes, or ideas the art-of-poetry poem suggests poetry should cover?
  • How well does the poem by Rich or Mora that you chose reflect the ideas about poetry expressed in the poem you chose from “The Art of (Reading) Poetry”? In other words, does Rich’s or Mora’s poem have the characteristics that the poem about the art of poetry says poems should have? Is your experience of reading Mora’s or Rich’s poem what the art-of-poetry poem says the experience should be? Why or why not?
  • How do the two poems compare? Do they use similar techniques to have effects on their readers? In other words, do they use similar diction, figures of speech, ways of characterizing their speakers, or rhythm? How are these techniques related to your experience of reading the poems and how well they fit the ideas about poetry in the art-of-poetry poem?

5) Develop a main point, or a thesis statement, for your paper. This thesis should focus on how the poem by Rich or Mora that you chose compares with the ideas about what poetry is like in the poem you chose from “The Art of (Reading) Poetry.”

6) Develop supporting paragraphs that use analysis of specific quotations and details from the poem and explain those specific quotations and details. Review the lecture “The Essential Moves of Literary Analysis” within Topic 3: Writing about Literature. This lecture provides a paragraph structure that works well to keep your paragraphs focused and show how everything in the paragraph relates to your paragraph’s main claim.

Be sure to review the course materials we have studied about the conventions for writing about literature, and poetry specifically.

Successful essays will

  1. Introduce the two poems and the focus of the essay in the introduction.
  2. Employ a clear thesis statement that summarizes your interpretation
  3. Address an audience of reader that are familiar with the poems but unfamiliar with your interpretation of them (in other words, you need not summarize the poems).
  4. Follows the conventions for writing about poetry.
  5. Organize the paper and each paragraph effectively, given the purpose and audience.
  6. Foreground your ideas and interpretation as main points (topic sentences about the interpretation).
  7. Show your critical thinking about the poems by supporting your ideas and paragraphs with
  • Textual evidence in the form of quotations from the poem to support interpretations, and
  • Explication (explanation of your reasoning—how you understand and interpret the evidence).
  • Use Standard Edited American English.
  • Follow MLA formatting conventions.
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