Reading and Preparing your Anthology

Reading and Preparing your Anthology

Before worrying about preparing for the exam essay, you need to concentrate on just reading the poems. It is important that you are familiar with the contents of the anthology.

Time spent simply dipping into the poetry is time well spent. As with all of the other texts, the more familiar you are with the text, the better.

In order to study a collection of poems, you need to read the poems in the following stages:

  1. Pick a single poem and read it through out loud. Think about what the poem is saying and the rhythm in the poem.
  2. Look at the poem in more detail. What questions does it raise? Does your impression change of the poem?
  3. Study the poem more closely. Think about the following issues: (see notes for more details).
    • Poetic Voice
    • Diction
    • Use of Imagery
    • Form and Structure
    • Rhythm
    • Rhyme
    • Themes and Mood in the Poem
  4. [*]Make notes on each of these aspects of the poem. Try to condense all of your notes on to one piece of paper. [*]Write key information on the poem. Consult your teacher to find out how much annotation is allowed. [*]Repeat these stages for a number of poems.

Having read a number of the poems you should now be in a position to start considering the anthology as a whole.

While reading see if you can find natural links between the poems. Can you see similarities between certain poets? Do the different poets have particular styles or ideas that distinguish them from each other? Are there certain themes that keep cropping up? Which poems interest you the most and why? Are there any you find difficult to understand?

The poems may be grouped into certain categories in the anthology already. Naturally this makes life easier, but it does not mean that these are the only groupings, or that the examiner will pick poems from only one section.

Once you start to see links between the poems you can begin to organise your ideas about the anthology as a whole.

Write down a list of categories that crop up in your comparisons. For example:

  • Death
  • Imagery
  • Reflective Poem
  • Romantic
  • Autobiographical
  • Use of rhythm

Alongside each category write the name of the poems which you associate with this issue. Don't feel restricted to your initial list of categories. Ask fellow students and teachers to see which themes and issues they think are important.

Often collections of poetry contain notes about the poems. These may include explanations as to why certain poems have been grouped together. Or the editor may include his/her own attitudes towards the poem. Some collections contain a glossary explaining specific vocabulary. Others include essays or quotations from critics about the poets and their poems.

Obviously these are very useful and can help you with your exam, but it is generally better to formulate your own ideas about the poetry first. They can provide a way in to the poetry and a helpful standpoint against which you can compare your own ideas. Whatever you do, don't regard them as the absolute truth. If you refer to them in your exam you must cite your source (say where the idea comes from), as if you've discovered them you can be sure that the examiner has as well.

Don't try to pass off other people's ideas as your own. This will lead to youlosing marks. On the other hand referring to other critics in order to clarify your own viewpoint will be rewarded.

Once you have read the poems and begun to compare them you are ready to move on to the next stage. There are three main types of anthology which you may have to study. They all share common approaches but have specific issues which you need to consider.

For that reason, they have been divided into the following three categories:

  • Anthologies by one poet
  • Anthologies of a particular period
  • Anthologies based on a certain theme

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