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Written Assignment: Close Reading #1

Close Reading / Poem Analysis #1: A close and careful reading of a poem considers both the parts of the poem and the whole poem. Choose one of the following poems. Then examine all of the important aspects of the poem as well as you can. Write a 600+ word essay in which you offer a close reading of one of these three poems.
  • George Herbert, “The Collar”
  • William Wordsworth, “Surprised by Joy”
  • Richard Wilbur, “A Barred Owl”

Steps for doing a close reading a poem: (See also Poetry – Interpretation Worksheet)

  1. Begin by reading the poem out loud several times;
  2. Mark those places in the poem that have shifts in sound;
  3. Go back and read the poem line by line;
  4. Mark any shifts in topic the poem;
  5. Mark words that stand out;
  6. Look up these words and pay attention to etymology as well as connotation and denotation;
  7. Try to describe any dominant images in the poem;
  8. Try to describe any dramatic situation suggested by the poem;
  9. Consider the meaning of the poem’s title;
  10. Is there a preoccupation in the poem or a conflict?
  11. What are the different possible levels of meaning in the poem? (Is the poem suggesting a metaphorical or other meaning?)
  12. What is a possible interpretation of the poem?