Friday, 18 January 2008

Some thoughts on how to write an introduction to a poetry question for the Edexcel Anthology

Take this example exam question from 2006.

'Even when poems appear to be about despair, they often manage to salvage something which provides comfort.'

Explore this view of poetry and the ways in which the poets' use of language in the anthology often appears to overcome very despairing and pessimistic feelings.

You should write about at least two poems, including "I Am" or "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" or both. You choice of poems must cover at least two groups.

Your should identify the key words from the stimulus statement: "despair", "salvage" and "comfort" and the question statement: "explore this view of poetry", "the ways in which poets' use of language often appears to overcome despairing and pessismistic feelings".

Rememember that you must write about poems from different groups of the Anthology.

For example,

The poems, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" and "I Am" both feature language of "pessimism" and "despair". However, these feelings are not "salvaged by something that provides comfort" in "Do Not Go Gentle . . ."; whereas in "I Am" the first person narrator seeks comfort in "God" and possibly death with, "The grass below - above the vaulted sky".

This, of course, is one of many possible introductions. (My students have work-shopped better ones which I will post next week!). It does, however, show the direction in which the argument will follow (important for AO4).You do not have to agree with the question - it is often fruitful to challenge the question fully or in part with the poems you select. Remember that there will always be an implied comparison between the poems' treatment of themes, language, presentation and ideas.

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About Me

I teach Film, Media and English Lit.