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1. Choose a poem of at least 7 lines but no more than 15, (or one stanza of similar length from a poem), in Chapter 22 “Poems for Further Reading” in Backpack Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing (5th edition) to annotate and explicate.
2. In Chapter 29 “Writing About Literature” in our textbook, pay close attention to pages 1090-91 with tips for how to annotate a text and examples.
3. Do not explicate a poem that has already been explicated in our textbook.
4. Type up your chosen poem or stanza in a separate document.
5. Print this document and annotate the poem using both the tips for writing an explication and annotation as your guide, and also the annotation of Robert Frost’s poem “Design”.
6. Research the poet and any literary criticism you might find on legitimate websites (Poetry Foundation.org is one) and/or the Poetry and Short Story Reference Center in MVC library databases.
7. Can’t find anything written about your poet or poem? Choose another poem, please, one that is suitable for this assignment.
8. Find, analyze, interpret, and evaluate these primary and secondary sources, incorporating them into your written work.
9. Develop a literary argument and write 3-page explication of your poem using appropriate documentation format without plagiarism. (See student model called “An Unfolding of Robert Frost’s “Design” on pp. 1118-22 in our textbook.)
10. Include 3 sources from the library’s databases that will add to our understanding of your explication. This may be author background, historic significance, a dictionary definition, or criticism of the poem.
11. Your detailed 3-page explication should be formatted in MLA style, include citations, and a works cited page (page 4 or 5).
12. Lastly, snap a photo of your annotation using your smartphone and upload it with your assignment. (The annotation is worth up to 20 points)
Explication and Annotation Models
For a model of a poetry explication, please read the student essay, “Faded Beauty: Bishop’s Use of Imagery in “The Fish” by Becki Woods on pg. 1122-6. The student sample has margin annotations that offer good examples of quoting, citations, and a Works Cited page. Notice that criticism from other others is included in the Works Cited and quotes from those works are quoted in Woods’s paper.
A good example of a poem’s annotation can be found on page 1118. The annotation has been done on Robert Frost’s “Design”. Please note that an annotation does not merely point out a metaphor or a simile, but rather looks at the “whole picture”. In other words, how does this simile and that metaphor and those sounds add up as a whole? How did the author make this poem work?
There is also a student model of a poetry annotation in this module.
* First, read about the poet and any online criticism of the poem. “Online criticism” does not mean SparkNotes or EssayWorld! and will be considered plagiarism. And, yes, Turnitin will flag as plagiarism! Look for legitimate online sources like Poetry Foundation, or the easiest way–use the MVC library’s Poetry and Short Story Reference Center database.
* No information about your selected poem? Choose another! As much as you like that poem, the assignment is also about learning critical thinking through analyzing texts and incorporating criticism with your own point of view.
* Your annotation should be more than a few notes. Extensive annotations will receive more points than those poems with only a few margin and line annotations. Please note that an explication is unified and not a random selection of symbols or metaphors. Your explication should deduce how the poet used the literary elements to create the poem. Just as a story contains specific literary elements that that work together, a poem uses literary elements in much the same way.
* While an “easy” poem might get the job done faster, it’s been my experience that students who select simpler poems can’t write three pages about them. They usually repeat themselves or submit a much too short explication. Choose a poem that makes you reach a little!