Tag Archives: studied poetry

Introductions & Conclusions

Think of your introduction as a road map. You have been given a destination (the question) and there are lots of perfectly acceptable ways of getting there. In your introduction you lay out clearly what directions you’ll take in your essay. Your conclusion is where you look back on the highlights of your journey and recap on what you have learnt along the way!

INTRODUCTION: MAKE SURE TO USE THE WORDS FROM THE Q – but don’t begin by simply parroting back the question word for word. There is nothing worse than the predictable “I agree 100% that…..”. You could begin with a quote and/or with a dramatic statement and you must engage with the question asked.

Each introduction needs the following:

  • Thesis (main idea) = eg. Plath’s poetry is filled with the fears we all share.
  • Main topics to be discussed = (1), (2), (3)
  • Answer the Question = PR – my personal response (sentences using “I” or “me”)

Imagine the question is “Plath’s poetry offers us a frightening yet fascinating insight into her personal demons

Sample introduction:

(Thesis) Plath’s poetry captures the fear in the heart of us all. Fear of failure, fear of unhappiness, fear of hitting the bottom and being unable to claw our way back to sanity. (1) In the poems “Morning Song” and “Child”, Plath is afraid that despite her best intentions she is will not be a good mother to her children. (2) In “Mirror” and “Elm” she fears that her depression & disappointment with life will destroy her. (3) In “Pheasant” and “The Arrival of the Beebox” she worries that power corrupts people in frightening ways. (PR) I found this exploration of human fears and insecurities in her poetry both fascinating & disturbing.

CONCLUSION: MAKE SURE TO USE THE WORDS FROM THE QUESTION but don’t simply repeat what you said in the introduction and don’t introduce new ideas.

Each conclusion must:

  • Link the last paragraph to the first.
  • Repeat the thesis (main idea) but rephrase it.
  • Taking each idea in turn (1. motherhood, 2. depression, 3. power) say what you learned from studying each issue & this poet in general. By doing this you will be showing how you have proved your thesis/answered the Q

 Sample conclusion:

(Thesis) Thus we see that Plath’s poetry begins in fear and ends in fear. Yet studying her poetry and getting an insight into her personal demons was for me an uplifting as well as a depressing experience. (1)I personally admired her determination to provide only the best for her children and learnt that parenting can involve many difficult challenges. (2)I found her exploration of the loss of youth in Mirror and the loss of love & sanity in Elm truly disturbing, but in a positive way these poems encouraged me to avoid putting pressure on myself to be ‘perfect’ in appearance and behaviour. (3) Finally, Plath’s poetry challenged me to avoid exploiting the power I have over nature and to have a greater respect for the environment. Accompanying Plath on her journey to the bottom was not easy but I learnt a lot about life on the way and I would strongly recommend her poetry despite it’s difficult subject matter.

Some obvious things that need to be said:

Don’t put in the bits in bold/brackets – I’m just putting them in to make it really obvious what each sentence is doing.

This is a good introduction and conclusion FOR THIS PARTICULAR ESSAY TITLE. But don’t be rubbing your hands together in glee, saying ‘yey, I’ll just learn off this introduction and conclusion and write them if Plath comes up‘ – you can’t write a definitive introduction and conclusion in advance because you don’t know what the question will be until you open the exam paper. And you MUST answer the question. And there’s also the not so small matter of plagiarism to consider!

Studied poetry: mistakes.

  1. Ignoring the question: if you are asked for a personal response to a poet’s work, every paragraph must contain at least two sentences which include the word “I”. If you are given a statement to discuss, keep using the words from the question (and synonyms) and showing how what you’re discussing is relevant to the question asked. Don’t just rewrite the question at the end of every paragraph and hope this will do – it won’t!

  2. Writing the name of the poem incorrectly (or worse getting the name of the poem wrong!). When you write the name of a poem, use capital letters and quotation marks eg “The War Horse”, “A Constable Calls”

  1. Lack of quotes! The sure sign of a bluffer. Quotes provide proof that you

    (a)know the poems and (b) can back up any statements you make with concrete evidence.

  1. Quotes at the beginning of sentences/paragraphs. Never write down the quote and then comment on it. This suggests you’re just throwing the quote on the page and then making up something to say about it. Bad idea! The rule is statement FOLLOWED by quote. This way you show you are in control of what you want to say.
  1. Telling the STORY of the poem – sum up what the poem is about in ONE or two sentences. Leave it at that. Your job is to analyse the way the ideas are expressed (techniques), the feelings the poem contains & creates in you, the way ideas recur and develop from poem to poem. Comment on the ideas rather than just saying what ideas the poem contains.

  1. Lack of personal response! You need to show that studying this poet has changed your perspective on life, taught you something valuable, opened your eyes to an issue you had previously ignored, provoked an emotional response, connected to something in your own life. Your job is to convince the reader that this poet is worth a closer look. However, don’t ramble off on a tangent about yourself (there was this one time, at band camp… yawn!). Ultimately you are offering a detailed analysis of the poetry, not a diary of your life. A good rule of thumb is to confine personal response to two sentences per paragraph.

  1. Long rambling sentences, paragraphs that sprawl to over a page, pointless repetition. Try to form the sentence in your head before you write it down. DO NOT vomit onto the page. If you can say what you need to say neatly and concisely in 2 sentences instead of 6 – DO. Try to avoid saying the same thing a couple of different ways. Make your point and move on. The examiner is looking for economy of language: each sentence is crammed with information; no idea or quote is ever repeated; essay is carefully structured into neat paragraphs; linking phrases are used to create flow from idea to idea and from paragraph to paragraph.
  1. Poem by poem analysis which doesn’t establish links between them – you are giving an overview of the poet’s work, showing how the poems fit together, analysing common themes or recurring techniques. Do not just write three mini essays on individual poems. Link them! Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence. This topic sentence can be thematic, stylistic or tonal.

e.g. THEMATIC = “Boland explores historical events from a deeply personal and individual viewpoint”

e.g. STYLISTIC = “Eavan Boland makes wonderful use of contrast in many of her poems, to bring each issue she deals with into sharper focus”

e.g. TONAL = “Boland masterfully evokes the depth of human suffering in her poems”