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How to: Approach Poetry Analysis in an Exam

An in-depth guide to write super-awesome commentaries. So my IB paper 1 unseen text exam is tomorrow, so thought I might condense all that I’ve learnt on poetry analysis over my high school life here. 

Reading the poem/those first 5 minutes:

The first time you do so, don’t worry about finding literary devices etc. Just read it. Feel the mood, feel the poem. Often in exams, you are given 5 minutes of reading time when you’re not suppose to write anyway, so really make use of that time. Remember your initial impression of the poem. 

  1. Ask yourself the following questions: WHAT is going on here? (What is the “dramatic situation”? WHO is speaking? (Known as the voice or persona. What kind of a person, what is their attitude to the situation? Who are they speaking to? How consistent is the speaker with the situation? 
  2. Ask yourself how the poem achieves the effect you noted above. Look for:  PATTERNS: The effect of the structure, the construction of the stanzas, lines. Repetition? Look for use of rhyme, metre, rythm, and sound patterns. IMAGES: What appeals to the senses? Look for taste, touch, sight, sound, smell, movement. What about literal images? Or are they figurative? Why? WORDS (Use of diction): Why the choice and position of words? What extra implications, connotations, dimensions, allusions? Ask yourself how these contribute to what the poem is doing.


Now use lots of pretty highlighters to annotate the poem. It helps to use a colour scheme! For example, use orange for literary devices, green for specific use of diction etc… It makes it easier to identify and go back to what you’ve found while writing the essay.

  1. Literary devices: So, so important. Focus on how language shapes meaning. I have created a page with all useful devices you could use HERE. 
  2. Structure: Look at the number of lines per stanza (Is it a tercet? A Quatrain? - Find the names of your poem structure on the same post as the literary devices) Look at rhythm (pentameter) and rhyming scheme. (ABAB or ABBA…) OR is it free verse? Drop all of this down somewhere on the page. 

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Lol.. finally wrote this. This is based on something that’s been happening in my dorm recently.. sadly, there is no happy ending for my story, but I was glad to have one here ^^

Minho was almost towards the goal. His legs pumping in slow motion, watching as the other team closed in around him. He was just beyond the defensive line; it was only him and the goalie now. He knew everything rode on this goal. If he made it, they won the tournament. Just as Minho was preparing his shot, he heard a voice float into his head. It was soft and sweet and incredibly distracting. Minho decided to shoot, but only kicked at air. The ball was gone, everyone was gone. It was just him standing at the goal, the colour of the world fractured and diluted. That’s when Minho finally accepted defeat and opened his eyes.

Minho cracked open his eyes as he stretched. Light from his window streamed into the room, landing on his face and tickling his nose. He pulled his phone from his bed side table and checked the time, groaning when he realised it was only 9 am. The honey like voice floated into his head again, and Minho remembered why he was awake so early in the morning.

Why the hell was someone singing this early in the morning, and did this someone realise how thin the walls are in the dorm? Minho rolled over in his bed. This wasn’t the first time he had heard this voice. Some afternoons Minho could hear someone singing in the shower, or the voice traveling through the dorm, but he never sang this early, and Minho was fed up. He got out of bed and threw on a t-shirt before leaving his room, following the voice down the hallway.

As the voice got progressively louder, Minho grew more annoyed. It was a friday morning, he didn’t have class until 12, and frankly, he wasn’t planning on waking up until 11:40 at the earliest. Of course, it didn’t help that he had spent most of his time at the gym, and the rest trying to get past the next level in his video game.

Minho stood in front of source of sound, Lee Jinki, was written in big letters on the door, their RA’s doing. He rapped on the door twice, waiting for a response, but received none. He tried again, a little harder this time, and the voice stopped. Minho heard someone shuffling around beyond the door before it creaked open, and a small face popped out.

The man looked up at Minho before he fully opened the door and smiled, “I’m sorry, is there a problem?” The man, Jinki, was wearing a blazer that accentuated his features, it was tight at the waist, and showed his strong physique. He had broad shoulders, and strong arms, both highlighted in the garment. A nice pair of tight jeans showcased his strong thighs, and Minho was suddenly aware of his partial nakedness. His t-shirt he grabbed was the same he had used the night before, and smelled of sweat, and as for pants, he wasn’t wearing any, just the pair of boxers he had worn to bed.

Minho couldn’t help but blush. Why did the source of his frustrations have to be so cute.. or hot for that matter. He couldn’t really decide which, because he seemed to be both simultaneously.

Jinki opened his mouth and quietly addressed Minho, who seemed to be frozen. “Um, did you want something?”

Jinki’s voice pulled him out of his trance, “what? Oh yeah, sorry. I wanted to uh, ask if you could be uh..” Minho didn’t know how to address the situation, the last thing he wanted to do was somehow be rude to him. “Never mind.”

“Are you sure?” Jinki looked confused, and his face was too cute for Minho to handle.

Minho shifted his weight nervously. This was so dumb, why was he so enamoured with this guy he didn’t even know.

Jinki went to close the door slowly, but on impulse, Minho stopped it. “Sorry, um, I’m Minho, this is stupid, but are you free today?”

“Um, no,” Jinki’s cheeks went red, “I have a big test today. Well, it’s kind of a test, I just need to study now.”

Dejected, Minho pulled his hand from the door and sighed, “well, I’ll see you around then.”

Jinki smiled, his eyes turning into happy crescents, “yeah, I hope I see you! Have a good day!”

Minho left for his room and decided to sleep until his next class, hoping to forget the awkward experience he just had.

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We all know Misha makes the weirdest faces when he’s doing something physically demanding, but there’s a scene that’s been completely ignored in which he’s making the best damn faces

It’s a serious scene


here, let me pause that for you

and again

and one more time

i can never unsee it

and now you can’t either