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In all poetry essays you will be expected to explain your understanding of an aspects of a poem or poems and discuss the ways the poets choices of language and structure create and shape meaning Marks are awarded according to your ability in three key areas INTERPRETATION LANGUAGE STRUCTURE Understanding the various layers of meaning in a poem Understanding how language creates and shapes meaning Understanding how meaning is developed across a whole poem How to tackle the essay question Read it slowly and with care Highlight its key words If not obvious decide which poems would best help you answer the question Read the poems carefully but in a natural lively or dramatic way - not dull and flat This will help you find the correct tone of voice that will let you discover poets attitude towards his or her subject matter Notice any changes in tone of voice that occur during the poem work out why this happens - it suggests a change in attitude Look out especially for the use of an ironic tone of voice when one thing is said but altogether another is hinted at Read through the whole poem once again and work out its big picture that is what it is about and why it was written along with the circumstances that surrounded its creation Many poems can be understood more easily if you recognise that the meaning they contain often relies on the use of oppositions or contrasts these are also called binaries or binary oppositions If you do think that meaning is being created or ideas reinforced by contrasts or oppositions work out how and why this is being done Often metaphors and similes can suggest an image or idea and deepen our understanding the message the poet is trying to communicate In this way the opposition is often not expressed literally but hinted at obliquely through figurative language the repetition
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