Analysis Sample Paper:

English 113

Poetry Paper

Option One:

Theodore Roethke's poem "My Papa's Waltz" (671) is often read by students in two distinct ways.  One is to see the poem as a childhood memory of a father who has had too much to drink dancing with his child just before bed time.  The other is to see the waltz as a metaphor for child abuse. 

For this paper, explain how you would support the first reading, drawing on as many pertinent details of the poem as possible as you explain the poem stanza by stanza.  Be sure to explain as much as you can about the speaker, setting, and dramatic action, and support your claims.  Then explain how you would support the second reading in the same fashion as you did the first.  (Optional: you may introduce and support a third reading).  Finally, explain which reading is the better (best) reading.  Either way, be careful to support all your claims with details from the poem

Option Two:

Sharon Olds poem "Sex without Love" (559) is often read by students in two distinct ways.  One is to see the speaker attacking the notion that there can be sex without love.  The other is to see the poem as ironic, that there's really nothing alarming about sex without love, that the truth "is the / single body alone in the universe / against its own best time" (22-24). 

For this paper, explain how you would support the first reading, drawing on as many pertinent details of the poem as possible as you explain the poem line by line.  Be careful to pay attention to the use of imagery in the poem and the meanings of the word "love" as it is used in the poem.  Then explain how you would support the second reading in the same fashion as you did the first. (Optional: you may introduce and support a third reading).  Finally, explain which reading is the better (best) reading.  Either way, be careful to support all your claims with details from the poem

Organization: To make it easier for you to write and for me to grade, you should consider the following organization for your paper:

I           Introduction (state the problem and parameters of the paper)

II         Explanation of first reading (with support)

III        Explanation of second reading (with support)

(Optional: Explanation of third reading with support)

IV        Explanation of which is the better reading (with support)

V         Conclusion

Note: a better reading is the one that accounts for more of the poem in a consistent manner than the other. Take this into account when you justify which is the better reading.

Note: When quoting lines from a poem, indicate line breaks with a slash, and place line number(s) in parenthesis after the quoted material.  For example, the truth "is the / single body alone in the universe / against its own best time" (22-24). 

• Assignment created by Don Judd