Write an essay employing formal and objective language, direct evidence, and inductive
reasoning that responds to one of the following topics. Each topic asks you to choose
one poem from the anthology and to analyze the poem’s form and content to form and
defend a claim about its meaning. Formalist readings are encouraged. Historical and
biographical readings will be considered off-topic, or indirect, or both. Understanding a
poem’s content often requires careful analysis; do not confuse summary and paraphrase
with analysis, and make sure that the paper analyzes both form and content to explain,
demonstrate and support the claim.
Use MLA format and documentation; see pages 825-828 and 620-648 in The
Little, Brown Handbook. Double-space and use conventional fonts and margins. Do not
use a title page. Your name and student number, the course instructor’s name, the
course and section number, the essay number and topic number, and the date should all
appear in the upper left hand corner of the first page. Your last name and the page
number should appear in the upper right hand corner. Give your essay a meaningful
and suggestive title that clearly identifies the text being discussed, and conclude your
essay with a works cited page.
The assignment asks you to think about the text and the topic independently.
You are permitted to use the readings listed on the syllabus (the OED; the LBH; the
Elements” essays, brief biographies, and glossaries from the course package), but
discouraged from consulting or referencing any other sources. Using other sources will
result in a -20% deduction per source.
Citation and Documentation must be complete; cite every direct and indirect
reference, including summary and paraphrase, and document every source that you cite.
Citing sources without documentation will result in a -20% deduction. Documenting
sources without citations will result in a -20% deduction. Failing to document or cite a
source that is directly or indirectly referenced in any way, including summary or
paraphrase, is plagiarism.
Only count the words in the essay itself when calculating the total number of
words composed, and respect the upper and lower limits of the assignment. Papers that
are either too long or too short will receive a -20% deduction.
1) Walt Whitman’s poetry is free from many of the formal conventions that many
people associate with poetry. As a result, Whitman has been called the first truly
American poet and the father of free verse. Analyze and discuss the relationship
between form and content in any one of Whitman’s poems. What is the poem
about, and what does the poem show or suggest about that topic?
2) Emily Dickinson’s poetry opened the conventional forms of poetry subtly – so
subtly that her poetry’s insightful expression was not acknowledged until decades
after her death. Analyze and discuss the relationship between form and
content in any one of Dickinson’s poems. What is the poem about, and what
does the poem show or suggest about that topic?
3) ‘ e.e. cummings’ poetry explores and explodes not only poetic conventions, but the
conventions of language itself. His poetry is notoriously playful, satirical, and
eccentric. Analyze and discuss the relationship between form and content in
any one of cummings’ poems. What is the poem about, and what does the poem
show or suggest about that topic?