The Difference between an Essay and a Poem

Unlike a poem, it's highly unlikely anyone will ever want to set one of your essays to music. While some poems may set out to accomplish the same goals as an essay, such as presenting an argument or telling a story, the structure, common techniques, and basic rules required for an essay are quite different than a poem.

Essay vs. Poem

No matter what type of essay you're asked to write, such as argumentative, expository, descriptive, or narrative, there are usually structuring requirements that must be applied. An introductory paragraph that presents your ideas, a body that lays out each of those ideas clearly, and a summary paragraph that presents some type of conclusion are the common requirements for most traditional essays.

Poems, on the other hand, can vary widely in structure. Haikus, sonnets, limericks, and ballads are all forms of poetry and each is defined by its unique and specific structure. Poems can rhyme or not rhyme, be freeform or limited to a certain number of syllables, and they can fill a book or be written in 14 lines of iambic pentameter.

Techniques for writing a good essay include presenting ordered points that relate back to a single thesis statement, writing interesting and relevant topic sentences to present ideas for each paragraph, and presenting excellent supportive references from outside sources.

Poems, on the other hand, use alliteration, creative similes and metaphors, onomatopoeia, assonance, and rhyming lines. However, many poems include none of these. Unlike essays, there are no universal techniques used in good poetry. Creativity wins the day over following hard and fast rules.

Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation

Anyone who has ever submitted an essay assignment knows that grammar, spelling, and punctuation are key in a good essay. Every sentence should end with the proper punctuation mark, creative spelling is frowned upon, and an essay writer should proofread to ensure subject/verb agreement, sentence structure, and use of proper English.

In poetry, rules like these are often tossed out the window. Entire poems can be written with nary a punctuation mark in sight, and the creative use of language is encouraged.

In short, poems allow for a lot more creative freedom and can include a wide range of possible structures and techniques. An essay makes logical points that should be clear to anyone who reads it. Even the best poems, however, sometimes make sense to no one other than their authors.

Poetry Comparison Essay

essay difference poetry

Poetry Comparison

Two poems that I could easily contrast against one another are Thomas Campion, “There Is A Garden In Her Face” and William Shakespeare, Sonnet 130. The two poems both discuss the topic of the poet's’ love interest; in contrary to one another, Shakespeare’s approach is more realistic, whereas, Campion’s approach may seem more pleasant to hear its ideas are unrealistic. Campion states, “There is a garden in her face,” to describe his love’s immeasurable beauty and glow. Throughout the remainder of

between these poets it can leave you thinking. Which is a good thing, it can help you explore why it made you feel the way it did, or at least that was the case for me. The poems these authors created have outlived them, and will continue to because poetry is an outlet, whether being read or created. Being able to relate to a poem is a great thing I believe. These connections showed in the poem prove that you can find similarities where you don’t expect it. Both of these poets are similar, because

My Poetry Comparison

In my poetry comparison essay I have gone through a number of different changes throughout my essay. One of these changes I the manner of how I use language throughout my essay. For example, previously I used the lines such as “pilgrims and poetry readers are similar because of the trails they faced,” now, after revising my essay the same line reads as such, “Pilgrims and poetry readers share a similar bond as both at one point or another must face hardship.” Another example of something I changed

Vonnegut Poetry Comparison

Over the years, the wars throughout history have provided magical but traumatic contributions to art forms of all types. From the writings of Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five", to the poetry of Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen, they have influenced many of the modern forms of art that we see and study today. These works have been deconstructed and analysed in many different ways, but the work of Brooke and Owen continue to be controversial due to the subject matter. Commonly, popular poets and

Essay On Poetry Comparison

Poetry Comparison Essay War can be seen in different ways. On one hand it can be seen as an amazing feat that brave, courageous soldiers fought for their beliefs and country. But on the other, it is a remorseful, callous slaughter. These two sides are perfectly expressed in the two poems: Sons of Britain, by William Watson, and Dulce Decorum Est, by Wilfred Owen. Watson’s takes the approach that war is honourable and Owen’s takes the opposite. Beginning with Sons of Britain the reader can see that

A Comparison of Poetry Essay

A Comparison of Poetry In this essay two poems will be juxtaposed. One of the poems is called "My parents kept me from children who were rough". This poem was written by Stephen Spender. Stephen Spender was greatly admired for his work and was knighted in 1983. He lived in the 20th century and died 22 years after W H Auden in 1995 .The second poem chosen is called "Funeral Blues and was written by W H Auden. W H Auden was a greatly respected homosexual poet who lived

No poetry can be indistinguishable because poetry relies on the writer’s, perceptions and feelings behind the poetry. In the poem “Morning song” by Sylvia Plath and “Time for Renewal” by Anchal Grover are two very different poems, but very similar way of tones In the poems, not only the themes and structure are different, but also the point of view the poem has written in, are very diverse. However, they used very similar characteristics and punctuation to describe the concept of the poem. In both

Welsh Poetry Comparison and Analysis

Welsh Poetry Comparison and Analysis This essay will consider two poems, both written by Welsh authors. The first poem to be discussed will be Dylan Thomas' Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night. Following this, the emphasis will progress to Owen Sheers' poem, When You Died, where ongoing comparisons between the two poems will be made. The content of this essay will discuss the themes and ideas present in both poems, and the devices and techniques used to illustrate them. One of the distinct

Comparison Of Love Poetry: Essay

Comparison Of Love Poetry: Rememberby Christina Rossetti, How Do I Love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and When We Two Parted by Lord Byron The three poems, Remember by Christina Rossetti; How Do I love Thee? by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and When We Two Parted by Lord Byron, each explore love and loss in their own unique ways. Remember is, as expected from the title, a solemn lament which is a farewell sonnet to her treasured one. How Do I Love Thee? is again a sonnet of love but

Comparison of Donne and Jennings Poetry

Consider the ways in which Donne and Jennings use form, structure and language to present their thoughts and ideas. You should make relevant references to your wider reading in the poetry of love. The poem the ‘The Anniversary’ By John Donne, is a metaphysical poem about the sun itself growing older each year, this process reminds Donne that him and his lover are closer to their end. The second poem is called ‘One Flesh’, and is written by Elizabeth Jennings. In the course of this poem Jennings

Poetry Comparison Of Daoism And Confucianism

philosophical reflection in Song poems, generally, is how the poets detach themselves from public affairs, and complete the self-realization through everyday experience. By doing so, the intrinsic beauty and wisdom within everyday life will be reflected in poetry. Using Su Shi’s two poems as samples, I will interpret this basic process as the circulation between Daoism and Confucianism. And the transcendence will be marked as the end of this process of circulation, where the syncretism of Daoism and Confucianism

Isolation In Poetry Comparison Essay

Two poems can share a similar theme of loneliness, but can have different purposes to portray psychical versus emotional isolation. In Emily Dickinson's poem, "I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, she describes being buried alive at her own funeral to support a social isolation. While in Robert Frost's poem, "Desert Places", he describes the winter scenery to show how he is psychically isolated from society. Even though these poems share a similar theme, the narrators create lonesome feelings from their

A Comparison and Contrast Between the Two Poems, Poetry and Modern Poetry

“I, too, dislike it: There are things that are important beyond all this fiddle.” Poetry has been around for a long time. As the years go by poetry adapts to the time period. However, the authors have different views. Majority of them will read and enjoy all types of poem, but they have their own opinions. The new, has to be truly unique to the author and to the time period. Shakespeare still had plays that we study, but it is hard to comprehend the message behind the words. Worlds change and the

Wilfred Owen Comparison Of War Poetry

described. Owen’s poetry differs drastically from that of other war poets of his time, as his aim was to communicate the inhumanity of war by telling the truth of the brutal and agonizing experience in the trenches, instead of glorifying war in attempts to gather more recruits. His poems Anthem for Doomed Youth, The Sentry, The Last Laugh and Dulce et Decorum Est all contain the same angry outcry against war, and make their point by using complex and innovative forms of poetry, showing the desulte

Rupert Brooke And Ww1 Poetry Comparison

World War One poets Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen both use poetry to examine their differing perspectives surrounding the idea of heroism in war. Brooke’s The Soldier depicts an idealistic, patriotic view towards fighting for his country, whereas Owen’s Dulce et Decorum est demonstrates a realistic view of the senseless horrors of war. Both poets utilise similar poetic techniques of imagery and sound devices to express their contradictory views of the atrocious events of the greatest war that the

Essay on A Comparison of World War I Poetry

Literature and poetry are a reflection of society. The words are reflected in numerous feelings that we can almost touch and can be deeply felt in its reach. Most poets expressed their perception and emotion through their writings. Unfortunately the art and poetry describes one of the worst things that human can do to one another. The legalized murder called "war." Hence, this type of self-reflection called "poetry" has help create new fundamental ideas and values towards our society. In this essay

Ap Language And Poetry Comparison Essay

In the poems “Pamphillia to Amphilanthus” and “I… and Your Eyes,” there are similarities and differences. The poems are both about love. The poems have different perspectives on how they view love. The poems have the same subject, but in contrast have differences of how the subject is viewed. The poems’ styles and theme also have differences and similarities. Love is perceived differently in each poem. Moreover, the poems share the same theme, love, but they are thought of differently. In “Pamphillia

William Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 : A Comparison Of Beauty In Poetry

beauty changes throughout time. In the Restoration, William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18: Shall I compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?” and Ben Jonson’s A Celebration of Charis in Ten Lyric Pieces feature speakers that attempt to control beauty through their poetry. In the Romantic period, reflecting movements against the Industrial Revolution, William Wordsworth’s “She Dwelt among the Untrodden Ways” and Lord Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty” try to understand the motif through (the common Romantic sentiment of)

Comparison Of Poetry In The Planned Child, By Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds is one of the most famous poets in out nation, including the Pulitzer Prize for her works. She is one of the most dominant and well known poets amongst the poet society. Olds’s was born on November 19 1942 in San Francisco, California , her father was an abusive drunk , while her mom was very submissive to her husband and was controlled by him. Olds’s is well known for her poems such as “The Unborn”, “The End”, “The Victims” and “Sex Without Love”. “Olds’s attended Stanford University

Pre –1914 Poetry Comparison on Love Essay

In this compare and contrast essay I will compare four poems in detail and mention two in the passing to find similarities and differences. The poems and sonnets I have chosen to compare are ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and ‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning and Sonnet 18 and Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare The two Robert Browning poems, ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and ‘My Last Duchess’ were written in the infamous Victorian Era whereas the two Shakespearean Sonnets were written in the Elizabethan Era. The

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How to Write a Compare & Contrast Essay in Poetry: the Guide to Successful Writing

Compare and contrast essays are the mainstay of any poetry course. One of the best ways to better understand the characteristics of individual poems, poets and schools of poetic writing is to compare them to each other and find out what they have in common and what sets each of them apart from others. When you analyze something in isolation, your options are limited. When you get to compare it to other things belonging to the same category, everything from stylistic devices to underlying symbolism becomes much more obvious – which is exactly the reason why professors are so fond of giving their students this sort of assignments.

All in all, if you want to get good grades in your poetry course, you will have to learn how to write compare and contrast essays at some point. You can do so by practicing a lot in your free time (and it is probably the best way to acquire solid skills). Not everyone, however, has the kind of time necessary to learn this way. If you cannot afford to spend day in and day out writing essays, this guide will serve as a good enough alternative – follow it step by step, and compare & contrast essays will not present much difficulty in future.

How to Write a Compare & Contrast Essay in Poetry: Coming up with a Topic

Just like with most other writing assignments, the success of your compare and contrast essay in poetry very much depends on what topic you choose. Of course, with enough skill it is possible to write about almost any subject, but some things are better suited to be the subject of comparative analysis than others.

1. Make Sure the Subjects of Comparison Are Similar Enough

If you want your analysis to be meaningful, you have to make sure the items you compare are similar enough or at least belong to the same general category of things. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it does not make much sense to look for differences in things that do not have anything in common in the first place. This is why it is a good strategy to first look for similarities and only then focus on the differences. For example:

2. Study the Guidelines

Although usually students get to choose the subjects of their compare and contrast essays on their own, normally you cannot just choose anything you want to write about. Before you start choosing the topic, read the guidelines carefully and make sure you understand everything: what you can select from, which topics are to be avoided and so on. If you have any doubts, clarify them with your professor.

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3. Consider the Word Count

With the right approach, comparative literary analysis is a task you can continue indefinitely, finding new and new grounds for comparison. From historical background to the use of stylistic devices, from word choice to the specifics of formatting – you can analyze anything at great length. However, an essay is a relatively short assignment, which means that you should choose a narrower application of your efforts and stick to it. Consider the word limit of your essay and guesstimate how you can delineate the topic in a way that will allow you to both write a text of sufficient length and pay enough attention to each criterion of comparison.

4. Get Your Topic Approved by Your Professor

It does not matter how well you believe you understand the topic – do not commit to anything until your professors approves it. He/she knows more about this subject than you do and is likely to see potential pitfalls where you do not expect them to be. Here are a few examples of topics you can end up with:

How to Write a Compare & Contrast Essay in Poetry: Before the Writing

1. do background research.

Before you start planning and writing your essay, you have to be sure you understand what you are dealing with. Of course, theoretically you can write the entire analysis on your own and avoid using the research by other authors altogether. However, in poetry studies you are expected to know the background of what you research, and it includes analytical works by the writers who came before you. Knowing the existing body of research on your subject is helpful in two basic ways. Firstly, you can borrow and use the ideas you find there (after properly citing them, of course). Secondly, you know if somebody already made the allegations you are going to make so that you can avoid being accused of plagiarism. The easiest way to look for information is to use online academic databases and search engines ( Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic are the most common multidisciplinary ones. There are plenty of resources on poetry as well).

2. Make a List of Similarities and Differences

The first thing to do when comparing two poems is to prepare a list of all the obvious and subtle similarities they have. The combination thereof may even play a pivotal role in your analysis – for example, your comparison may be built around the fact that the two poems in question do not have anything in common at the first glance, but if you study them more attentively you can discover multiple underlying similarities. Some things to pay attention at this stage are:

Use a Venn diagram if it is easier for you to process visual information.

3. Write a Thesis Statement

A compare and contrast essay is not just a list of similarities and differences between the two pieces of poetry. Your comparative analysis should pursue a goal or to come to a conclusion – and it is expressed in a thesis statement . A thesis statement is the core idea of your essay in a condensed form – ideally, in a single mid-length sentence (up to 30-35 words). It should have the following features:

How to Write a Compare & Contrast Essay in Poetry: Writing Process

1. analyze the literary devices.

The analysis of literary devices is bread and butter of anybody trying to draw parallels and contrasts between poetic works. They are important in prose as well, but poetry is just as much about form as it is about content, which makes structural analysis all the more important. Even if two poems have little in common with each other, you can look for similarities in the types of literary devices they use and the ways they are applied.

2. Organize Your Comparison

When you compare two poetic works, you should give both of them relatively equal amount of attention (unless you deliberately use one of them as a context or a backdrop for the analysis of the other one). Inexperienced authors understand this as a requirement to jump back and forth between the two texts every couple of sentences, often turning their essays into confusing, incomprehensible mess as a result. An alternative is to follow a pre-determined structure: One Poem at a Time Give full analysis of one poem, then move on to the next. Thus, you will be able to concentrate on one thing at a time and study it in detail without getting distracted. However, it is easy to forgo comparison entirely and turn your essay into two independent analyses of two poems. Therefore, make sure you keep both of them in mind at all times and use structures like ‘Unlike A, B is…’, ‘Although A relies on assonance as much as B, it puts much greater emphasis on…’. One Element at a Time Switch between poems every paragraph. For example, the first paragraph discusses stylistic devices in poem A, the second paragraph covers them in poem B, the third paragraph speaks about the mood in poem A and so on. The advantage of this approach is that it is easy to structure for you and to follow for the reader.

3. Provide enough Evidence

Until you prove something, it remains your conjecture. When analyzing poetry, you should at least provide quotes from the poems and critical works by other writers. Other types of evidence (references to authors’ biographies, historical backgrounds, letters, etc.) can be used if necessary. Use at least one piece of evidence per paragraph.

How to Write a Compare & Contrast Essay in Poetry: After You Finish Writing

1. check if your essay still fits the topic.

It is not uncommon to steer away from your original topic in the process of writing an essay. E.g., you may start with a normal comparison but drift towards the analysis almost completely dedicated to one of the poems you compare. If you found yourself guilty of it, make the necessary corrections before proceeding to the next stage.

2. Use a Spellchecker

Do not trust Microsoft Word spellchecker – it only notices the most basic of mistakes. Use other, more specialized tools instead. However, trust them just a little bit more, because they are still very limited and cannot replace a real proofreader.

3. Use a Dictionary

Poetry (especially works by earlier authors) often uses uncommon words and expressions. When you analyze a work, you should make sure you understand what it speaks about. If you have a slightest doubt about the meaning of any word, look it up in a dictionary, especially if you use it in your own argument.

4. Check Your Essay for Larger Problems

Before you move on to proofreading, check if everything is all right with logic, style, focus, organization and the general flow of your essay. Read the text aloud, slowly and paying attention to every sentence. Give it to somebody else to read and ask if you managed to drive your point home effectively.

5. Check Spelling, Grammar and Sentence Structure

Read your essay several times over, with each pass paying attention to a single type of mistakes. This will prevent you from scattering your attention.

6. Recheck Your Essay for Consistency

Reread it once again, paying attention to the content and meaning. When making corrections on the level of individual words and sentences, it is possible to introduce changes that disrupt the general flow of text.

Of course, writing an in-depth comparative analysis of two or more poetic works is a difficult, complicated and sophisticated task. However, with a detailed plan in front of you, you do not need much in terms of experience to successfully deal with it.

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Comparing Two Poems: Essay Example

Poetry is a unique art form as it usually captures the feelings of a particular individual. Therefore, two poems with the same genre and similar themes can have substantial differences. On the other hand, verses that seem different can share striking resemblances. To compare and contrast two poems, this essay example will focus on the message they carry. “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” is a poem written by Langston Hughes during the Harlem Renaissance. It was 1921, and the young Hughes was just adding his voice to the plight of the African Americans at the time. “We Wear the Mask” is a piece by the famous author and activist Laurence Dunbar. The lyrical poem was written twenty-five years before Hughes published “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” By comparing two poems, this essay example will reveal both their similarities and differences. These two poems were written in the period between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement. This period was characterized by deep emotions concerning the struggles of the African Americans. Each of these poems represents the poets’ feelings towards the struggles of the African Americans. “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” chronicles the speaker’s historical journey from Africa to the West. The speaker refers to African Americans, their history, and their heritage. The poem captures this rich heritage albeit in a nostalgic manner. On the other hand, “We Wear the Mask” is a poem by one of the first African American writers to be accorded a national accolade for his work. Dunbar explores the coping mechanisms of the African Americans during their struggles. Both poems address issues that happen in the same period. Dunbar’s poem was published at the turn of the century shortly after slavery was outlawed. This period was expected to be a victorious time for African Americans and everyone assumed that they were happy. “We Wear the Mask” disputes this idea and presents an argument that happiness among the African American population was a façade. According to Dunbar, deep inside, African Americans have ‘torn and bleeding hearts’. The message in this poem is not direct and it is in line with the situation in the ground. When this poem was written, the fight for equal rights among African Americans had not started in earnest. Instead, the struggle for equal rights was just bubbling under the surface. Dunbar’s poem hints at this discontent by claiming that African Americans were just masking their feelings. Dunbar digs deeper into the issue by claiming that most of the population at the time was hiding behind religion to avoid confronting the issues of inequality. In addition, the speaker accuses the African American population of misleading the rest of the population about their actual feelings. Langston Hughes’ poem has a more melancholic tone. Hughes wrote “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” twenty-five years after Dunbar’s poem was written. Hughes’ poem uses a different approach to address the African American issues of the time. His poem highlights the pride of origin that African Americans have. The speaker in this poem speaks proudly about his rich history and heritage and how it is closely connected to some mighty rivers around the world. Unlike Dunbar, Hughes does not hide the message of his poem. This is mostly because there was no need for indirect messages after the Civil Rights Movement had already taken shape. Hughes took time out of the equal rights struggles of the African Americans to reflect on this population’s prolific heritage. By doing this, the poet was alluding to the fact that the Civil Rights Movement was a small hurdle for the population that had come so far. The message in Hughes’ poem is structurally different from that in Dunbar’s poem. Hughes is reassuring African Americans of their supremacy and the need to hold on to their mighty heritage while Dunbar is indirectly urging African Americans to do something about their veiled unhappiness. The mask that Dunbar talks about hides a prolific history and heritage about the African Americans. On the other hand, Hughes reiterates the need for African Americans to hold on to their rich heritage. Hughes’ poem is also meant to remind the world that African Americans have contributed towards major civilizations around the world. For instance, the speaker reminds the readers that African Americans were part of the civilization that brought the pyramids. Hughes’ point is that African Americans thrived through various civilizations around the world and the Civil Rights Movement is just another hurdle. The rest of the population at the time viewed the African American population as the recently freed slaves who were supposed to show gratitude. However, most people failed to put into consideration the fact that African Americans’ history predated slavery. Dunbar’s poem is also structured in a manner that addresses African Americans and the rest of the population. Dunbar sends a call to action to African Americans although his message is not direct. On the other hand, Dunbar’s poem informs the rest of the population that the happiness they see among the African American population is not real. While Hughes’ message is assertive and direct, Dunbar’s message is provocative and indirect. One of the most striking similarities between these two poems is the fact that they use a central metaphor. Hughes’ poem uses the River as the main metaphor. In addition, he includes it in the poem’s title. The river is used to show the passage of time in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”. African Americans have come a long way and triumphed over several forms of adversity. However, just like rivers flow eternally, African Americans have kept on flowing. The metaphor of the river is also used to show that the existence of African Americans will outlast many things. At one point in the poem, the speaker says that he has seen rivers change their appearance depending on the time. This signifies that a time will come when the outlook of African Americans will be favorable. Dunbar’s poem uses the mask as the main metaphor. The poet also boldly introduces this metaphor in the poem’s first line. The mask refers to the façade that prevents people from seeing the discontent of the African American population. According to Dunbar, African Americans use masks to hide their actual feelings and avoid provoking those who oppress them. The mask is a strong metaphor that also lends itself to the poem’s title. Use of metaphors gives these two poems a valuable outlook and helps the poets pass their strong messages to their audience. “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “We Wear the Mask” are two poems that address the plight of the African Americans albeit from different perspectives. The wishes of the two poets materialized with the success of the Civil Rights Movement. Both poets reckon that the struggle of African Americans is an ongoing process.

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North Shore Community College Library

CMP102 - Composition 2 - Taylor: Poetry Essay: Comparison/Contrast Assignment

Poetry Essay: Comparison/Contrast Assignment Details

About the Comparison/Contrast Essay

A comparison/contrast essay weighs the differences and sometimes similarities between two distinct things: two boyfriends, high school vs. college courses, your first car with the car you have now, two of your children or a brother and sister, etc. As always it is important to do some pre-writing to be sure you have enough "ammunition" to write a complete essay. 

In this assignment, your job will be to compare/contrast two poems. If you turn to page xvii, you will see four basic themes - Parents, Nature, Love, and War. Pick the subject that interests you the most. Pick one or two poems from that section or pick one poem from that section and find a second poem that has the theme you have chosen. Do a poetry analysis sheet for each poem to be sure you ave a good grasp. If not, pick a different poem. 

Introduction  - (Just what the name says!) Your job in this paragraph is to introduce the reader to the tow poems. It would be good to give an overview about your choices, perhaps why you made your choices. Be sure to say the poet's name and the name of the two poems. Remember our introduction discussion. (7-8 s.)

First Body Paragraph  - Give the best information you have about the first poem (S,S,S,S,Tone, Theme, F of S). You need not use all our analysis, just where you have a better grasp. You want the reader to truly understand the poem. If you find you do not have much to say, perhaps you should have picked another poem. (12-14 s.)

Second Body Paragraph  - Now you are writing to about your second poem. Keep a keen eye on what aspects you chose to write about in the first poem since it makes sense to be somewhat similar or entirely different. Try to follow the same order you wrote in for your first body paragraph since that will make your paper clearer for your reader and more of a comparison/contrast. (12-1 s.)

Conclusion - Sum it up. Why do you suppose these poems are in your text? Might they be there in 100 years? Would you like to meet this author? Did this poets life have an influence on what the poet says? These are things your reader may be interested to know (5-7 s.)

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How to write the perfect comparative essay on poetry

Students writing essays in classroom

When it comes to poetry analysis, Phil Beadle knows what examiners want to see – and he’s here to make sure you can help every student can deliver it

Phil Beadle

Writing a comparative essay about two poems, seen or unseen, is what students will eventually be assessed on when they come to sit the poetry analysis part of their GCSE Literature in essay.

It makes sense, therefore, to get some early practice in and see what the assessment criteria will be asking for in preparation for the day the stakes are high. And the first door we must knock on is the one housing the crone of context.

What the GCSE mark schemes will eventually ask for is a well constructed, conceptual response replete with oodles of subject terminology and a fairly deep mention of context.

It asks students to do this, however, in very little time; and ignores the fact that contextual analysis in poetry – aside from the obvious modern/ancient dichotomy – is a rich brew that requires, firstly, a lot of contextual knowledge.

It also ignores the fact that the biographical takes you away from the textual, and that since the value in poetry analysis is the study of how words and form align to construct beauty or its antithesis, mention of context inevitably takes you into the realms of history – and this is a whole other subject.

Resources: ‘My Last Duchess’, by Robert Browning ‘Remains’, by Simon Armitage

Context – theme

So, my recommendation to students when constructing the first paragraph of an essay comparing two poems is, if appropriate, to make glancing reference to the titles – but only so far as they link to comparison of theme. The contextual is in the thematic.

On comparing theme, they should make explicit reference to the word ‘subtextual’ to flag to the examiner that this is an answer rich in apposite use of subject terminology quite early on. For example:

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essay difference poetry

How to Write an Essay Comparing Two Poems

How to Write an Essay Comparing Two Poems at

In what follows you will get familiar with some useful instructions regarding how to write an essay comparing two poems. Please use them only as a starting point and not as absolute authority - essay writing is always a unique process.

Writing an essays comparing two poems – 7 useful tips

1. reflect on the topic.

As with any other kind of essay, here you need to reflect very deeply upon the topic. Ask yourself the following questions: what is your task? What will be your leading idea (or thesis)? Then write down everything which comes to your mind and use it while writing the essay.

2. Formulate a topic of your comparison

You cannot merely title it “A comparison between the poem A and the poem B.” It should be rather exposed as a topic; for example, “The idea of romantic love in the poem A and the poem B.” Of course, this is valid only if your teacher has not assigned a precisely formulated topic.

3.  Describe both poems one by one

Pay attention especially to their plot (if there is such), to the ideas that are exposed in them (in short), and to their narrator or main character.

Advice : you do not need to go into details while describing the poems. This should not take more than one-fifth of the whole essay. Thus, if your essay is ten pages long, the description needs to be around two pages.

4. Find similarities between both poems  

You can do this by referring to their style, length, author, social and political context. Usually such a task requires comparing two poems belonging to one literary school (romanticism, symbolism, etc.). However, it is also possible to compare poems by two great poets although both of them belong to different nations, traditions and schools.

5. Reveal the differences between both poems

Again by referring to their method, style, etc. 

6. Turn to your central idea  

Now you need to turn to the central idea which is the basis of your topic; for instance, romantic love. How is this idea treated in both poems? You can use quotations in order to prove how romantic love is defined by both authors. The first author puts more stress on its tragic dimensions, and the other author is more optimistic concerning it. You can also refer to the style and methods used by the particular poets because ideas are suggested also in technical way (i.e., not only verbally).

7.  Conclusion

You can conclude the essay by saying what are the similarities and differences in the treatment of the main idea (or that which is your topic).

Remember that your conception should be clearly expressed and logically proved. The fact that you are dealing with poems does not indicate that you can say about them whatever comes to your mind. A literary analysis should be logical.

From all said above, it can be asserted that writing an essay comparing two poems requires preparation and deep reflections on one central idea, common for both poems. You have to demonstrate your observational skills and also ability to find meanings through interpretation. 

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Writing About Literature

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Writing About Literature

Essay 1: Comparing Two Poems

Post your ideas for the first essay below. This is a good place to test thesis statements and topics and to discuss the finer details of the assignment.

Review the prompt and details for this assignment on Blackboard.

28 thoughts on “ Essay 1: Comparing Two Poems ”

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Thesis: In this essay, I will show how “Thirteen Ways to Look at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens and “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes both have themes relation to human emotions and analyze the execution presenting such themes.

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Kyla, this is a great start! Try and focus in on a specific emotion that you read in both of these poems. I’m immediately inclined to point out fear or perhaps love, but there are certainly other emotions described or implied in each poem even if they are not explicitly named.

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Thesis: “Ozymandias” and “My Last Duchess” are two poems that both describe works of art, a sculpture and a painting, respectively, both of which depict a deceased person. These artworks act as masks that hide the subjects’ real nature, as well as depicting the sum of their life’s work.

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Petvy, this is a good overview for your essay. Your thesis statement might want to argue that the dead figures depicted in each work of art are similar and/or different in important ways. For instance, Ozymandias seems to have had a hand in the commissioning of his statue and seems to have held a great deal of power while he was alive. But the Duchess had her portrait commissioned by her husband and was ultimately (we may presume) murdered on her husband’s orders. While she lived, she seemed not to have much power (according to my reading, but perhaps you can prove otherwise). Do these figures fare differently as works of art? Ozymandias’s broken statue seems a bit embarrassing and ironic. The painting of Duchess, however, is a subtler presence: do you think the Duke remains jealous or fearful of her even after her death?

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“Sonnet 73” and “Sonnet 116” are two different, yet very similar poems that use metaphors, imagery, and meter to portray the beauty and everlasting effect of love.

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Karyna, commenting on the mystical qualities of love in Shakespeare’s sonnets is a great starting point for this essay. But know that every poem uses metaphor, imagery, and meter. What you’ll need to show is how the Shakespearean sonnet form (fourteen lines divided into three quatrains and a final conceit expressed in the closing couplet), exemplified in the two sonnets you’ve chosen, works within certain formal constraints to explore what you call “the beauty and everlasting effect of love.” I don’t see a hopeful outlook on love (by which I think you mean romantic love within the confines of a marriage?) in Sonnet 73. That poem is more pensive and is concerned with “lov[ing] that well which thou must leave ere long.” In other words, enjoy the moment because this love is not going to last. This seems to be the antithesis to “the beauty and everlasting effect of love,” so if you keep with the theme you’ve chosen, Sonnet 73 should act as a sort of foil to Sonnet 116. If you’re going to talk about “metaphors, imagery, and meter,” you would do better to focus on elements like tone or mood, personification, or simile, as well as sonic qualities of the poem where you notice them, such as alliteration, assonance, and consonance, and repeated or closely related words. Always use adjectives to describe the tone, mood, imagery, meter, or any other literary device you’re scrutinizing. Using any of these terms without an accompanying adjective doesn’t tell your audience anything they won’t already know.

How do you start to do this? Reading each poem very closely! Start by breaking the poem into sections (quatrains and couplets) and then into lines and finally phrases or single words.

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The two poems I have selected for this Essay is Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost and It is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free by William Wordsworth. The theme I am focusing on is nature and the influence it had on both characters in certain ways.

Tayyab, this is a good start. You’ll need to explicitly show what you mean by “nature” because it’s a broad term. You’ll also need to be more specific than to simply state that nature has an “influence… on both characters in certain ways.”

Here are some questions to get you started:

How, specifically, does Wordsworth’s speaker respond to the beauty and calmness and freedom of the evening by the seashore? Is the little girl part of “nature,” as you understand the term? How, specifically, does Frost’s speaker respond to the cold and the snow of the evening, to the woods, to his little horse, to the miles he still has to go before he can sleep? Does it matter that the speaker “thinks” he knows whose woods he stops by?

Do these speaker’s make similar resolutions? Do they have similar responses to their surroundings? What is important about the similarities or differences you see in these responses, and why?

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John Milton’s “On His Blindness” and Sir Phillip Sydney’s Sonnet 1 are both examples of poems that discuss an artist’s relationship to his work and his struggle to find inspiration and meaning in his work. In “On His Blindness”, the author finds it in a higher being while in Sonnet 1 he finds it in another person.

Ilya, I like the contrast you’re setting up between these two sonnets. Besides Milton’s overt deference to God and Sidney’s Muse’s admonition that he need only look into his heart to find the words by which to express his love for his beloved, Milton emphasizes Talent while Sidney emphasizes a progression of interconnected, interdependent, personified ideas: Knowledge, Pleasure, Nature, Invention, Study, etc. Milton wants to avoid wasting his talent, while Sidney needs to be reminded by his Muse to look into his heart. Maybe there’s some room for comparison and contrast here.

Also worth comparing are the voices that speak in each poem: the murmuring voice of “On His Blindness” and the Muse in “Sonnet 1.” Can you make any connections between these two voices?

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John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” both concern the appreciation of beauty in its stillness. In “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, the speaker is content with the immortalization of movement and strong emotion while in “My Last Duchess”, the speaker is satisfied with keeping his previously outgoing wife still and controlled as a painting.

Chiara, comparing these poems is a very logical move, since they are both ekphrastic poems (talk about ekphrasis in your essay!).

Is the speaker of “Ode on a Grecian Urn” truly, as you say, content? What, then, do we make of his exclamation, “Cold Pastoral!” Pastoral is poetry about an idyllic, restful life in the countryside. But “Cold” vexes this sunny view of pastoral—interpreting the meaning of “Cold” in this line will go a long way toward defending your reading of the speaker’s response to the urn. I do like the ways you’re reading the two poems.

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Although “Sonnet 73” by William Shakespeare and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens both talk about similar issues, they are able to talk about different aspects of the same idea using there unique poetic writing style.

Jordan, you’ll have to work on this thesis statement. To say both poets have a “unique poetic writing style” doesn’t tell your audience anything. Shakespeare’s sonnet is, formally speaking, a very different poem from Stevens’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” which has no rhyme scheme, meter, or fixed stanza. More importantly, what are the “similar issues” these poems talk about? Again, “similar issues” shows your audience nothing. Note the specific similarities in your introductory paragraph and show how your reading of the poems will bring new similarities and differences to light.

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In this paper, I will analyze how both Robert Frost in, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” and Emily Dickinson in “Because I Could Not Stop For Death,” utilize irony to portray death with a paradoxical approach. Dickinson uses irony in her poem by relating a serious topic of death with a soft-approach and tone, treating it as a journey. Likewise, in “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the speaker wants to stop and admire the beauty of the tranquility in the woods, but cannot due to the obligations he still has to fulfill. Frost thus uses irony to convey how the speaker has responsibilities in life before he can “enjoy” a more calmer occasion, such as resting, or even death.

Love this! Keep building on these ideas.

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“The Snow Man” and “The Learn’d Astronomer” employ the themes of nature and man. “The Snow Man” paints the scene of a winter landscape, while “The Learn’d Astronomer” demonstrates the battle between scientific knowledge and natural knowledge of the stars. Both poems involve a higher perspective of thinking: “The Snow Man” promotes an objective view of nature, while “The Learn’d Astronomer” advances that experience and wisdom are the key to true knowledge.

Mary, I really like the ideas you’re working through here. I would question the “objective view of nature” you posit to be present in “The Snow Man.” What, then, do we do with the lines “for the listener, who listens in the snow, / And, nothing himself, beholds / Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” I can see how one might read this as an “objective view of nature,” as you do. And this is a good reading. I wonder whether the ambiguity of these lines might necessitate further explanation. Similarly, in Whitman’s poem, that learn’d astronomer himself seems to present the speaker and the students in the auditorium with an “objective view of nature.” Keeping in mind that what we now call science used to be called “natural philosophy,” I think you might mean to contrast “scientific knowledge” with “poetic knowledge.” Does this get closer to the position you’re trying to uphold?

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Thesis: In “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” by Wallace Stevens and “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” by Emily Dickinson, both poems utilize different literary devices such as vivid imagery that generates very dark undertones, that help develop the common theme of irony shared between the two.

Lanz, the questions you’ll have to address, if you keep this thesis unchanged, include the following. What is it about the imagery of these poems that can be called “vivid”? Likewise, can you give specific examples (perhaps images that seem similar or even the same between the two poems) of what you mean by “imagery that generates very dark undertones?” Dark in hue, or dark in mood? Both? One or the other, depending on the poem? What is ironic about each poem, and how does irony help us to better understand the speaker of Dickinon’s poem in relation to Death, and the speaker(s) in Stevens’s poem in relation to a blackbird?

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The victims of time often are forced to face their own mortality, this phenomenon occurs throughout Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 60” and “Sonnet 64”. Imagery rooted in metaphorical language (generally alluding to themes regarding nature) in addition to structural parallelism (or lack thereof) creates an overarching theme across poems: Time is an enemy, and occasionally a paradoxical entity.

Cory, comparing these two sonnets is going to give you plenty to say. I think you can get even more specific than simply saying Shakespeare uses nature imagery. He uses imagery of oceans and shores, farms and fields, etc. “Nature” by itself could mean everything that is not myself, i.e., my mind. The shared theme of Time as something to be resisted through cultivating an appreciation for the fullness of life and youth is a great anchor to your more particularized readings of the imagery and its function within each respective poem.

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For my essay, I will be comparing Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess” and Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. I am interested in the way the story gets told in each poem. I don’t know what it is called though! The majority of Frost’s poem is the person being distracted by the woods. At the end, he regains focus and continues walking. The majority of My Last Duchess is the person complaining about his ex in a painting. At the end, he dismisses it and moves onto Neptune. I need help determining what this is called, but this is what I want the focus of my essay to be of.

Joe, I’m wondering whether you might consider the differences between solitude and society in these poems. On one reading Frost’s speaker is very much alone in the woods, and yet he is not lonely. He knows there’s a village and an acquaintance (perhaps the owner of the woods might even be surmised to be a friend) nearby. He knows he has a place to sleep at the end of his journey. Perhaps it’s in a warm, familiar place, or perhaps it’s an eternal sleep with a community of souls who have died.

Browning’s speaker, Ferrara, on the other hand, enjoys all the comforts of an obedient court, a rapt audience in the courtly attendant of his new fiancée, and a house filled with fine art commissioned by some of the best artists available for hire. And yet, in a very important, poignant way, he is utterly alone in spite of all his power. This is the thing people never seem to understand about power. It breeds isolation and distrust.

I think the word you’re looking for is persona. The persona of the speaker in Frost’s poem seems more genuinely self-assured than the confident yet jealous Ferrara.

Thanks for the reply?

Meant to say Thanks for the reply! With an exclamation not a question mark, now I sound sarcastic. I will definitely try to make comparison on Persona.

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The two poems I will talk about in my essay are, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Bird” and “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”. The common theme I will talk about between the two poems is Death.

Aiden, make sure in your opening paragraph, and in your thesis, to note specific ways each poem reflects on death. In Dickinson’s poem, Death is personified and takes on concrete characteristics (“He kindly stopped for me”). In Stevens’s poem, however, death is not personified and is more implied that openly articulated in the presence, absence, activity, or stillness of the blackbird or the scene in which the blackbird is involved. What role might literary devices like irony, sarcasm, innuendo, or mood play in each poem’s characterization(s) of death? What is clear or unclear about how the speaker thinks about or avoids thinking about death? Can either poem be said to be mournful? Obviously, there’s an endless font of questions to draw from. By articulating your reading of the particular ways in which each poem reflects on death early in your own essay, you’ll hopefully limit the range of possible interpretive questions to something manageable for a five-page paper.

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