Close Reading Exercise

This assignment can be adapted for any piece of writing. Short poems, though, offer an especially discrete object of analysis, so it is focused on the close reading of poetry.

Choose one of the following poems and create an annotation that fulfills one of the below close reading exercises:

  • Highlight and annotate a particularly rich use of language in the poem. Define any unfamiliar terms. Explain how the use of the word or phrase contributes to the meaning of the poem as a whole.
  • Highlight and annotate a literary device used in the poem. Describe how your selection fits the definition of the literary device and explain how it contributes to the meaning of the poem as a whole.
  • Highlight and annotate a direct reference or subtle allusion to social or historical context in the poem. Identify the reference or allusion and explain its significance in the poem. Why does the author make the reference or allusion?
  • Highlight and annotate a selection of the poem that you think relates directly to a passage in something else we’ve read in the course. Quote the other source in your annotation and explain the connection. Link to it directly if possible.

Think about your annotation as a kind of Wikipedia entry. It must as fully as possible explain your chosen object of analysis, defining key terms and relating the specific selection back to the work as a whole. Select your text carefully: if you are not planning to explain an entire line or two of the poem, then just highlight and annotate what you will focus on.