Poetry- Past and Present

Unit One


Many of you are familiar with the phrase “History repeats itself.” There is a similar truth in poetry (as well as most of the genres). New forms may bloom, but all come from the same roots.

Poetry is one of the oldest genres in human culture. Some elements are still evident but new elements have arisen over time. We will examine those changes in the context of social, historical, cultural, and structural norms over the centuries using central themes such as love and loss.

In order to provide background for looking at contemporary forms of poetry, we will discuss and analyze a variety of more traditional poems covering a wide range of time. This will give our look at current trends some context.

We will also apply some of the elements covered in class by writing some poems. Don't worry, I will only be grading them for technical craft not artistry.

The first unit will start with the basics of poetry analysis such as figures of speech, structure, rhyme scheme, etc. Many of the terms will be useful when we get to other units. As we look at the evolution of poetry from its early forms to the poems of today, we will also examine how cultural norms have changed and how the restraints of content, poetic structure, and social agenda has changed with it.

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SWA 1- Poetry explication (1.5-2 pages MLA format)

  • In order to prepare for your first major writing assignment, SWA 1 will serve as a practice. You will analyze the theme of a poem from our book in Ch. 33 (985--993 except "Mending Wall") or a song from the current Billboard Top Ten from any genre of your choosing. This will involve identifying the theme and stating how the poet achieves that theme through the use of various poetic devices. You will need to quote the selection as well in order to provide support for your claims.

SWA 2- Poetry comparison (In-class writing)

  • By this point in the semester, we have looked at several poems with themes similar to “There will be bad days.” Choose any one of the poems from the book that address the main theme in Koyczan’s poem. This will be a compare and contrast essay, which is covered in Ch. 3 (38) of Compact Literature. This is very similar to what you will be writing for MWA with less content requirements.
"Tony Steinberg: Brave Seventh-Grade Viking Warrior," by TAYLOR MALI


Major Writing Assignment 1- Comparative Analysis of Theme in Genre Types

MWA 1 will be a comparative analysis of two poems or songs from among the poems/poets covered in class or from contemporary poets/songwriters.

The selections will represent the evolution or lack thereof of a particular theme/subject and analyze the similarities and changes in each work in relation to historical literary context.

As we have discussed in class there is not much that appears to be new to say on some subjects. There are millions of works on love, yet love is still one of the most dominant themes in many literary genres. Themes that are evident in the near and distant past are still a part of the works of today. This paper will compare the evolution of a common or even trite theme over the course of time in a poem and song. The time frame separating the two works should be at least 50 years. The analysis should address how the basic devices like diction (Wordle) imagery, tone, etc. help the author create and solidify his or her theme as well as the following:

  • How has the composer attempted to” reinvent” the theme?
  • Why has he or she made changes? (Consider the rhetorical situation)
  • How has the genre and its medium impacted the changes?

In order to make this assignment more academic than simple opinion, you will need to use at least two secondary sources to help with your analysis of theme. It will be harder to drum up criticism relating to contemporary music but it is out there. Criticism for poetry should be easier to find.

MWA 1 Specifications

Page length

  • The draft must be a minimum of 3.5 pages typed.
  • Drafts that do not meet the minimum will not be evaluated and will be given an automatic grade of F (50). Do not try to get around this requirement by making the margins, spacing and font larger. Please also note that this is a minimum length requirement.
  • The Works Cited page is not part of the minimum page requirement.

Format: Margins, Spacing and indentation, Font, Pagination, Heading, Title

  • 1” all around
  • Double space throughout
  • ½ inch indentation of the first line of a paragraph
  • Times New Roman 12 pt font
  • Identification of your last name and page number in top right margin, ½ inch from the top margin.
  • See your Little DK Handbook for instructions on how the heading should be formatted.

You will need to include your name, my name, the course name, and the date. An example essay in MLA format is in the Little DK starts on pages 126-135.

The title of the essay must not be:

  • Underlined
  • In quotes
  • Boldface
  • In a larger font
  • Surrounded by extra space

Late penalties

  • Please see the syllabus for late penalties.

Use of 1st and 2nd person pronouns

  • Never use “you” or “your” unless in a direct quotation. Its use is informal and indefinite.
  • Avoid using “I” as well. There is usually a better way to write the sentence.

Works Cited

Works Cited is required.


  • This assignment is available for revision if submitted on time and it meets the minimum page requirements


  • Wordle (on-line) of two selections
  • Graphic Organizer in D2L