‘Section C Poetry Comparison’ – The Task



Essay Title:      Compare and contrast the different moods, themes and ideas created in the ‘childhood’ poems from Section C of the anthology.”



The Task:


Stage 1

Produce a detailed plan of your coursework essay

1.5 weeks

Stage 2

Produce the first draft of your essay

1 week’s homework

Stage 3

Mark a partner’s essay and give them feedback

1 homework and 1 lesson

Stage 4

Redraft your essay into a final second draft

1 week’s homework



Things to remember:

Focus on the Question!

·         You must talk about mood – i.e. the feelings, emotions and atmosphere evoked by the poets

·         You must also talk about themes and ideas – i.e. the messages / comments on the human condition / observations of life made by the poets

·         You must talk about three poems in depth and make ‘references’ to three others. A ‘reference’ means spend one or two sentences talking about that poem.

·         Remember that each poem raises more than one theme and that the mood is not necessarily the same all the way through the poem. Noticing these different themes and how the mood changes and progresses as we move through the poem is one of the ways in which you can get a good mark.

·         Remember also that you don’t have to find links or connections that run between all six poems. That would be virtually impossible. Instead you can focus on different connections between different groups of poems. So poem 1 might link with poem 2 in a certain way while poem 2 links with poem 3 in a completely different way and you don’t have to worry about finding a link between poem 1 and 3 if one isn’t there. Don’t feel that you have to force a link when there isn’t one.


Quotations, quotations, quotations!

·         To get a good grade on this piece of coursework you must really focus on the moods, themes and ideas that the poets have created. Importantly, however, you shouldn’t just describe these moods and themes, you must take care to really analyse in detail how the poets have created them and really made us feel the feelings / consider the ideas that they wish to convey. You will need to pick out lots of quotations and explain exactly how they support your points.

·         By analyse I mean showing how specific, small, precise elements of the text work to create a certain effect. There will often be a key word that really does the work in quotation – point out the power of that one word and examine it’s connotations

·         The smaller and more precise your quotations, the better!

·         Bear in mind that some quotations may be ambiguous. That is, they may be interpreted in a number of ways depending on how you look at them. In this case the best thing to do is not to force a quotation to mean one thing when it really means two. Instead, you should point out that two possible interpretations exist, give reasons to support both interpretations and then choose the one you think is true, again giving reasons why you think the evidence for that interpretation is stronger.


Variety of features!

·         You need to pick out specific small quotations and comment on the effect they have. You should consider:

·         You should point out how all of these different features work together to create an overall effect

·         Remember to use the correct technical term to refer to each feature


Cultural Context

·         You need to show an awareness of the relevant cultural context surrounding the poems. This is particularly relevant when considering the two African Poems ‘Mother in a Refugee Camp’ and ‘Once Upon a Time’ but there is often some cultural, social, historical or personal context that it is important to understand if you are to fully grasp each poem.

·         The simplest way to include contextual information is in a big lump at the start of your essay in the introduction. However, the best way to use contextual information is to include it in the main body of your essay when it becomes relevant.



·         The best essays will not just point out which different themes and moods have been created. In addition, A and A* candidates will begin to consider how effectively / successfully / powerfully these ideas or feelings have been evoked. This requires you to have a personal opinion about the poems, although you should avoid using the word ‘I’ or obvious phrases like ‘In my opinion’. Instead just talk about your opinions as if they were fact. An example of a well balanced and personal evaluation would be: ‘While Achebe does successfully evoke sympathy for the mother and her child who have suffered horribly as a result of the Nigerian Civil war, MacNeice’s ‘Prayer Before Birth’ is a far more powerful poem as the unborn persona’s final plea to ‘kill me’ is a shocking criticism of the horrific nature of the adult world that the baby fears will taint and corrupt it.’