Comparing Poetry

Posted: March 28th, 2022

We want to integrate quotes from the verse (and we indicate lines rather than page #s. So it’s “…………” [L. 32], for example, not p. 32)

We want to explain the imagery, techniques, devices, symbols as well as the THEME.

What is the job of the poem? To convey a particular emotion? To critique of a social practice, or value or ideology? To raise awareness of a social ill? To provide a historical, economic, sociological, psychological context of a poem and its era? Answer these questions and you will form your THESIS.

Another strategy that students find useful is to COMPARE/ CONTRAST two poems (a strategy you learned in ENG 101). BUT to say “Poem X and Poem Y” has similarities and differences is NOT A THESIS!



Compare Dickinson’s “I Like to See it Lap the Miles” to Whitman’s “To a Locomotive” as two different views of American expansion (via the railroads).

Discuss Dickinson as poet who challenges her contemporary values of mainstream religious thinking: “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church.”


Compare betrayal, break-up pain, grief: “When We Two Parted,” “Neutral Tones,” “The Raven,” “Mementos, I,” “What Was Left,”

Compare the power of Nature as restorative and rejuvenating: “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” Ode to the West Wind,” “Pied Beauty,” “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” “Stopping by Woods”

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