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AS and A Level: War Poetry
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Writing about World War One poetry
- 1 Although it is easy to try and position poems as either ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ war this is quite a simplistic division. Many poems have an ambiguous attitude, perhaps demonstrating a variety of thoughts and ideas. Be sure to assess possibilities of different perspectives within poems as well as between them.
- 2 It can be useful to analyse World War One poetry in comparison to other war poems written both before and after.
- 3 Studying the female voice offers a different perspective on the war.
- 4 Some contextual knowledge of the time and of the poets is helpful, although this information should only be used if directly relevant to the question and if it enhances poetic analysis and contributes to meaningful discussion.
- 5 With any poetry it is unwise to try and guess at how the poets were ‘feeling’ about their experiences. Keep focused on the poems themselves.
When analysing poetry you might like to consider some of the following
- 1 The perspective, tone and register of narrator is a good place to start analysis. Remember that these can differ within poems. Be sure also to distinguish between the poet and the narrative voice.
- 2 Titles, openings and endings can be a good way to start your analysis.
- 3 Look for patterns and oppositions (or lack of) that emerge.
- 4 Consider effects of other poetic techniques such as: use of imagery, semantic fields, phonological devices etc.
- 5 Consider the effects of structure and form; it is important to recognise the insights this analysis can provide.
Writing essays on World War One poetry
- 1 All essays should be well planned with clear points which enable a progressive structure.
- 2 Introductions should clearly address the question, perhaps determining position of argument/discussion to follow.
- 3 Each paragraph should ideally begin with a topic sentence which addresses the question, evidence from the poem/s to support the point (with quotes embedded), and detailed analysis using appropriate technical terminology. Remember that feature spotting does not demonstrate any useful knowledge and understanding of a poem.
- 4 If relevant, contextual references to World War One or the poets can inform and develop points and comparative points with other war poems (from before and after) are often insightful.
- 5 A concise conclusion should make a final summary that directly addresses the question. Ensure all essays are proof-read to avoid errors.