34 Close Reading – Analytical Response or Larger Essay Assignment

Authors: allia abdullah-matta, Angel Dye, Shauna Morgan, Dave Wooley

Target Group: Advanced Undergraduate

Poetry Close Reading Assignment

Note: This assignment can be used in conjunction with “The Poem Breakdown” or it can be used as a stand-alone, larger, analytical assignment. The instructor can modify the numbers of assigned poems and/or the weeks covered in the assignment.

Choose 2-4 poems from the assigned readings from weeks 1-7. Select poems that may have similar/contrasting threads of content, shared stylistic or formal elements, or less obvious connections. In any case, you will be close reading the poems and drawing on one of the assigned scholarly essays for the semester to analyze the poems.

Reading line-by-line, consider the following for each of your selected poems:

  • Are there words or phrases that have multiple meanings? What are those words and phrases? Do you have access to all of those meanings and layers?
  • Are there words you do not know? What are those words, and how do you move through the poem without ignoring words you are unfamiliar with?
  • What images appear in the poem? Images are sensory moments that you can see, hear, taste, touch, and/or smell.
  • How does the title of the poem show up in the poem itself? Is the title explicit, implicit, abstract, or something else?
  • What is the poem about in your reading of it? This question is not asking you to explain or define what the poem
    means. How do you experience the poem? What do you understand of its content, and what allusions or connections can you identify in it?

Now, considering all the poems together, respond to the following:

  • What major differences are there between your poems? Think about content, style, form, and visual presentation on the page.
  • What major similarities are there between your poems? Do they approach a similar topic? Do they complicate something or present a problem? Do they open up a dimension of Black life or experience?
  • When considered in conversation with one another, how do these texts amplify the meaning, message, and aesthetic elements present within each text?


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The Furious Flower Syllabus Project: Opening the World of Black Poetry Copyright © 2024 by Anastacia-Reneé; allia abdullah-matta; Ariana Benson; Mary Beth Cancienne; Teri Ellen Cross Davis; Shameka Cunningham; Hayes Davis; Tyree Daye; Angel C. Dye; Brian Hannon; T.J. Hendrix; DaMaris B. Hill; Meta DuEwa Jones; Shauna M. Morgan; Adrienne Danyelle Oliver; Leona Sevick; James Smethurst; Dana A. Williams; L. Lamar Wilson; Carmin Wong; Dave Wooley; and Joanne V. Gabbin (preface) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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