John Keats HL 2009

Standard

Here’s a look at how to handle a Keats poetry exam question. You can see a model introduction and then some broad tips on how to plan the essay. A plan is just the bones – some flesh will be added in the next day or two.

LC HL 2009

Keats presents abstract ideas in a style that is clear and direct. Do you agree….

From my study of the poetry of John Keats, I am not surprised that many call him the finest English poet of the Romantic period. In many ways, his work is typical of his era. His themes reflect his deepest beliefs about what was important to him in life. Imagination, nature, strong emotions, love, death, transience, immortality are among the many abstract ideas with which his poetry is concerned. The manner in which Keats writes is often clear and direct as he creates verbal music in his sound effects, sensuous imagery that is tactile and aural. However, there are often times when his style can be challenging such as his use of paradoxes and antithesis to explore his themes. Therefore, I agree with this view of Keats’ work to a large but not full extent.

Now, you can approach this essay in one of two ways:

  1. Poem by poem:

Go through 4/5 of the six studied poems – one par or two paragraphs for each poem. As you discuss each poem – refer to one or two of the different abstract ideas mentioned in the intro and show how the style is clear / direct or not. If you are discussing one poem in each paragraph, make sure you link to another poem (perhaps the 6th poem, not being assigned its own paragraph) by way of a quote that shows a similar or different view/use of the theme/style being discussed. As always use words that show your personal response eg I was impressed with, I was challenged by, I enjoyed, I have often/never felt the same way about… I was pushed out of my comfort zone when studying… Keats’ use of x is striking… and so on.

  1. Theme by theme (or aspect of style by aspect of style):

Choose a different abstract idea according to the ones listed in the intro for each different paragraph. As you discuss each theme, refer to two or more poems that deal with it. Also show how Keats explores the idea – his style and comment on its clarity and directness (as the question requires). Again, include a personal element. As always keep the focus on the exact terms (or synonyms) of the question.

What is ultimately expected is that you show you know and understand Keats’ poetry thoroughly; and that you have thought about it and formed an opinion that you can justify and defend. Furthermore, you are being tested on how well you can interpret a question and apply your knowledge and understanding and opinion to what the question asks of you. (RTFQ and ATFQ J)

Now for two outlines – one following each approach:

  1. Poem by poem outline:

As always have a think about putting your paragraphs in a logical order that will create a flow to your thinking – and try to create smooth transitions between paragraphs.

Intro: (similar to above)

MB 1: Ode to a Nightingale

(Ask yourself: What abstract themes does this poem deal with and are those themes expressed in a clear and direct style?)

Abstract ideas – the imagination, transience, poetry, nature, mortality, death

Style – synaesthesia, sensuous imagery esp smell, allusion, contrast, changing tone

(Now ask yourself: How will I shape these points to suit my paragraph? OR: Which of these points will I use for my paragraph? OR: What will my paragraph topic be in relation to the question asked?)

MB 2: Ode to a Nightingale

Continue with points not used in MB 1.

Contrast this poem’s treatment of nature with its treatment in ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’

MB 3: To Autumn

Abstract ideas – beauty of nature v the harsh reality of death (transience, mortality)

Style – rich imagery – tactile, visual, aural; personification of Autumn, contrast, onomatopoeia + alliteration

MB 4: Ode on a Grecian Urn

Abstract ideas – immortality through art, permanence, transience, imagination, love (brief ref to LBDSM’s contrasting treatment of love)

Style – paradoxes + antithesis + ambiguities, contrast, assonance + sibilance

MB 5: To one who has been long in city pent

Abstract ideas – beauty of nature + its restorative powers, appreciation of literature (brief ref to ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer), transience

Style: Changing tone, personification, allusion, alliteration + onomatopoeia

Conc – a crucial paragraph – shorter than main bodies – sum up – recap the main thrust of your essay and if possible leave the reader with a final thought-provoking comment on Keats and your opinion of his work in relation to this question.

  1. Theme by theme outline:

WARNING: Be careful not to repeat aspects of (or the same quotes from) the same poem in different paragraphs.

As always have a think about putting your paragraphs in a logical order that will create a flow to your thinking – and try to create smooth transitions between paragraphs.

Intro: (similar to above)

MB 1: Imagination; style – clear and direct or not

Think about which poems will help you with this – you can use one poem in this par and one poem in the next paragraph but comment on whether they have a similar or different approach.

Ode to a Nightingale

MB 2: Imagination; style – clear and direct or not

A second poem on this theme – Ode on a Grecian Urn

MB 3: Nature; style – clear and direct or not

To Autumn + To one who has been long in city pent + brief link to LBDSM as poem which treats nature differently

MB 4: Immortality / Death + Transience; style – clear and direct or not

Ode to a Nightingale + Ode on a Grecian Urn and To Autumn

MB 5: Love; style – clear and direct or not

LBDSM + Ode on a Grecian Urn

Conc – a crucial paragraph – shorter than main bodies – sum up – recap the main thrust of your essay and if possible leave the reader with a final thought-provoking comment on Keats and your opinion of his work in relation to this question.

More flesh will be added to these over the next day or two – but these pointers should be a good guideline in how to start looking at a Keats question. Happy studying!

Analysing the paper

Standard

Some students gain comfort from analysing the poets that have come up in the past. Here is a quick overview of the last few years:

2015
John Montague
Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin
Robert Frost
Thomas Hardy

2014
W.B. Yeats
Emily Dickinson
Philip Larkin
Sylvia Plath

2013
Elizabeth Bishop
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Derek Mahon
Sylvia Plath

2012
Thomas Kinsella
Adrienne Rich
Philip Larkin
Patrick Kavanagh

2011
Emily Dickinson
W.B. Yeats
Robert Frost
Eavan Boland

2010
W.B. Yeats
Adrienne Rich
Patrick Kavanagh
T.S. Eliot

2009
Derek Walcott
John Keats
John Montague
Elizabeth Bishop

2008
Philip Larkin
John Donne
Derek Mahon
Adrienne Rich

2007
Robert Frost
T.S. Eliot
John Montague
Sylvia Plath

2006
John Donne
Thomas Hardy
Elizabeth Bishop
Michael Longley

2005
Eavan Boland
Emily Dickinson
T.S. Eliot
W.B. Yeats

2004
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Patrick Kavanagh
Derek Mahon
Sylvia Plath

2003
John Donne
Robert Frost
Sylvia Plath
Seamus Heaney

2002
Elizabeth Bishop
Eavan Boland
Michael Longley
Shakespeare’s Sonnets

2001
Elizabeth Bishop
John Keats
Philip Larkin
Michael Longley

Past exam questions on Philip Larkin

Standard

2014
‘Larkin is a perceptive observer of the realities of ordinary life in poems that are sometimes illuminated by images of lyrical beauty.’
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above statement? Support your answer with reference to both the themes and language found in the poetry of Philip Larkin on your course.

2012
‘Larkin’s poems often reveal moments of sensitivity which lessen the disappointment and cynicism found in much of his work.’
To what extent do you agree with this statement? Support your answer with suitable reference to the poetry of Philip Larkin on your course.

2008
‘Writing about unhappiness is the source of my popularity.’
In the light of Larkin’s own assessment of his popularity, write an essay outlining your reasons for liking / not liking his poetry. Support your points with the aid of suitable reference to the poems you have studied.

2001
Write and essay in which you outline your reasons for liking and / or not liking the poetry of Philip Larkin. Support your points by reference to the poetry of Larkin you have studied.

Questions on Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

Standard

Eiléan Ní Chilleanáin is a relatively new poet on the course and has only appeared once on the Leaving Certificate exam so far. What a lovely question about this wonderful poet!

2015
‘Ní Chuilleanáin’s demanding subject matter and formidable style can prove challenging.’
‘Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with reference to the poetry of Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin on your course.

Here are some other sample questions on Ní Chuilleanáin:

‘Ní Chuilleanáin is a truly imaginative poet, exploring other worlds and realms in an inventive fashion.’
Write a response to this statement, supporting your answer with reference to the poems you have studied.

 

‘Ní Chuilleanáin’s poetry reflects her interest in traditional worlds and is rich in symbolism and allusion.’
To what extent do you agree or disagree with this assessment of her poetry? Support your answer with suitable reference to the poetry of Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin.

 

‘Ní Chuilleanáin writes about people and places in poems full of vivid imagery.’
Write your response to this statement, supporting your answers with suitable reference to the poetry of Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin on your course.

 

‘Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin writes on public and private themes in a way that engages and fascinates.’
To what extent do you agree with this statement? Support the points you make with suitable reference to the poems by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin on your course.

 

To help you come to a fuller understanding of this poet’s work, Poetry Ireland has recorded Ní Chuilleanáin reading her poem ‘All For You’. She then gives an interpretation of this poem, along with a discussion of other aspects of poetry. You can watch this recording for yourself here.

Past exam questions on Dickinson

Standard

2014
‘The dramatic aspects of Dickinson’s poetry can both disturb and delight readers.’
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above statement? Support your answer with reference to both the themes and language found in the poetry of Emily Dickinson on your course.

2011
‘Emily Dickinson’s original approach to poetry results in startling and thought-provoking moments in her work.’
Give your response to the poetry of Emily Dickinson in the light of this statement. Support your points with suitable reference to the poems on your course.

2005
What impact did the poetry of Emily Dickinson make on you as a reader?
Your answer should deal with the following:

  • Your overall sense of the personality of the poet
  • The poet’s use of language / imagery

Refer to the poems by Emily Dickinson that you have studied.

1997
‘Emily Dickinson’s vision of death and immortality is wonderfully conveyed in verse of stark grandeur and intensity.’
Discuss this view, supporting your answer by quotation from or reference to the poems of Dickinson on your course.

'Hope is the thing with feathers'

‘Hope is the thing with feathers’

Two Approaches to Answering Poetry: Yeats 2010

Standard

When answering a Leaving Certificate Poetry question, the key is to answer the question. That might seem obvious but not every stays on task throughout the whole answer. The question must be responded to from the outset, so engagement with the task from the introduction, through the main body and right into the conclusion. Take a look at the following approaches to answering the 2010 question on W.B. Yeats:

2010 – “Yeats’s poetry is driven by a tension between the real world in which he lives and the ideal world that he imagines.” Write a response to the poetry of W.B. Yeats in the light of this statement, supporting your points with suitable reference to the poems on your course.
Ideas: 
Tension – struggle – conflict – dichotomy
Represented through contrast, antithesis, irony, balances, symbolism, paradox, oxymoron, repetition, etc…
Real v ideal –
Past and present
Mortality and immortal
Memory and reality
Hopes and reality
The effects of time
The fact of change
Disappointment with life
Thematic Approach
Intro: Address the task – use synonyms and the same words
Refer to overall themes that encompass the requirements of the task eg political issues, personal changes, the effects of time, disappointment with the world as we know it
What to expect in the essay
MB 1 & 2: Focus on the task
Political issues – Sept 1913 and Easter 1916
Include aspects of style, personal engagement, hammer the task home
MB 3: Focus on the task
The effects of time – In Memory
Include aspects of style, personal engagement, hammer the task home
MB 4: Focus on the task
Personal changes, the desire for immortality – Wild Swans* and Sailing to Byzantium
Include aspects of style, personal engagement, hammer the task home
MB 5: Focus on the task
Disappointment with the world – Wild Swans* and An Irish Airman
Include aspects of style, personal engagement, hammer the task home
Conc: Sum up key ideas
Relate all to the task (synonyms)
Personal engagement
(*Brief reference to one poem is acceptable – five poems in great depth.)
Poem by Poem Approach (Solid intro and conc needed – similar to Thematic Approach)
1. ‘September 1913’ – Past and present – public and political
2. ‘Easter 1916’ – Ideal aspirations v real tragedy – public and political
3. ‘In Memory of…’ – Memory and reality – public and personal
4. ‘Wild Swans…’ – Mortality and Immortality – personal
5. ‘Sailing…’ – Mortality and Immortality – personal
6. ‘An Irish Airman…’ – life’s futility vs freedom through death
Whichever approach you take: in every paragraph refer to theme, aspects of style and respond personally. Stay focussed on the task from beginning to end (ie respond to the question).

Past exam questions on Bishop

Standard

2016
‘Bishop uses highly detailed observation, of people, places and events, to explore unique personal experiences in her poetry.’
Discuss this statement, supporting your answer with reference to the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop on your course.

2013
‘Bishop’s carefully judged use of language aids the reader to uncover the intensity of feeling in her poetry.’
To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above statement? Support your answer with reference to the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop on your course.

2009
‘Elizabeth Bishop poses interesting questions delivered by means of a unique style.’
Do you agree with this assessment of her poetry? Your answer should focus on both themes and stylistic features. Support your points with the aid of suitable reference to the poems you have studied.

2006
‘Reading the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop.’
Write out the text of a talk that you would give to your class in response to the above title.
Your talk should include the following:
– Your reactions to her themes or subject matter.
– What you personally find interesting in her style of writing.
Refer to the poems by Bishop that you have studied.

2002
‘The poetry of Elizabeth Bishop appeals to the modern reader for many reasons.’
Write an essay in which you outline the reasons why poems by Elizabeth Bishop have this appeal.

2001
‘Introducing Elizabeth Bishop.’
Write out the text of a short presentation you would make to your friend or class group under the above title. Support your point of view by reference to or quotation from the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop that you have studied.

Notes written by Justus Baier on ‘The Prodigal’

Standard

Justus Baier from 5th year, one of our overseas students, has written an excellent set of notes on Elizabeth Bishop’s poem ‘The Prodigal’. He has kindly allowed them to be shared here on the blog.

 

Some more students from 5A3 have agreed to publish their notes here too and we look forward to reading them over the coming weeks.