In Chapter 11 Helen Vendler introduces us to two groups of poems. The first showcases Walt Whitman’s poems about Abraham Lincoln. The second group features poems by Emily Dickinson which focus on time. Vendler also offers suggestions for writing about groups of poems.
For paper , you will analyze a group of poems together. You may narrow your choice by focusing on poems by one author or by focusing on one theme and then pooling ideas from multiple poems and different poets. You may use either example that appear in chapter 11 (Whitman or Dickinson) but you do not have to. If you preview upcoming chapters, you will see that additional ideas might come from the themes of “Constructing a Self” (chapter 6), “Social Identity” (chapter 7), and you may certainly pool from previously discussed themes (such as private life or public life, nature and time (chapter 1). Taking inspiration from “O, Bridgeport” you might study a group of poems that are “occasion poems” or poems of praise (odes). You might study a group of poems that have places (cities, countries) as their subject. An additional suggestion is to study poems of a particular type like sonnets or villanelles; perhaps ekphrastic poetry—poems inspired by art, such as “Smoke of Ambergris” from Reconnaissance.
Pool from a variety of poems. After reading a variety of poems, select a few (three might be enough) to concentrate on in your written analysis.
Synthesize the poems in a meaningful way and craft a thesis that shows how the poems you discuss work together, either by theme/subject/genre or as a means to understand the poet(s)’style and craft.
Develop your subtopics as a way to draw the reader’s attention to particular elements, strategies used by the poet(s), or distinguishing characteristics (similarities and differences) among of the poems.
Outline the essay before you begin to draft in full.
Keep track of all the poems, especially if you’re not using the textbook. All sources must be cited accurately in MLA format. Remember to use the slash (/) mark between lines and designate line numbers in the parenthetical citation.
Research and draw upon outside sources in meaningful ways. For example, a study of Walt Whitman’s Lincoln poems would benefit from critical perspectives from experts on Whitman’s style or might offer a historical perspective. Use any secondary source to supplement your own analysis and conclusions. You may use Vendler’s commentary as a source, and you may find poems outside the text.
A minimum of four sources (including poems) is required, and at least one secondary source should be incorporated [Honors students should engage more with secondary sources, at least two]. All citations must be in MLA format (in-text and Works Cited Page).
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