Poem Mother to Son By Langston Hughes Well, son, I’ll tell you: Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor— Bare. But all the time I’se been a-climbin’ on, And reachin’ landin’s, And turnin’ corners, And sometimes goin’ in the dark Where there ain’t been no light. So boy, don’t you turn back. Don’t you set down on the steps ’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard. Don’t you fall now— For I’se still goin’, honey, I’se still climbin’, And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. Poetry Explication Essay Format (as outlined in assignment policies in Syllabus): Double spaced, indented paragraphs, standard font (Times New Roman), print size (12), and margins (1”); give your essay a unique title. Please follow the MLA layout of your paper as outlined in the tutorial beneath Course Docs. Your tone and language should be appropriate for a college-educated audience. Avoid the use of first person (I, me, in my opinion). Length: 4-5 pages. You may go over this maximum length only if it enriches the analysis. If you feel that you have accomplished a thorough explication in three pages, this is fine but if explication is not thorough enough, then assessment will be affected. Flex due dates: July 14-16. No late papers accepted. Weight: 20% of final grade Objective: An explication of a poem is a line-by-line, sentence-by-sentence analysis of what the poem says, according to your interpretation, using the lines of the poem as compelling evidence. According to our textbook, “In an explication (literally, “an unfolding), a writer explains an entire poem in detail, unraveling its complexities” (1348). Selection: You must choose from one of the poems assigned and discussed in class in our discussion forums. • Your essay should contain a brief, relevant introduction which then leads to your thesis statement. • Thesis: The thesis statement presents the central, analytical idea to be explored within your essay. Ideally, it should indicate, either implicitly or explicitly, the poetic devices used to enrich the poem. Your explication will support that claim. Here’s a hypothetical example: Through the use of irony and graphic imagery countered by a distant, nonchalant tone of the speaker of “Saboteur,” Ha Jin effectively emphasizes the political corruption in his native China. If your poem has multiple literary elements, an implied thesis may be more effective—i.e. Through the use of various literary devices, a theme of….. • Citations from the selected poem: You should incorporate direct lines from the poem to support your explication. If citing more than one line, please use a forward slash to indicate where a line ends and a new one begins. Here’s an example: The poem opens with an eerie, somewhat disturbing image and the introduction of a mysterious woman: “Even the long-dead are willing to move. / Without a word, she came with me from the desert” (1. 2-3). Please follow the parenthetical citation format for citing lines of poem according to MLA. Here, this indicates stanza 1, lines 2-3. If your selected poem is one stanza only, just cite the line number(s). Also note that when quote is introduced by a full signal sentence, a colon is placed before the quote. You may also integrate lines of the poem smoothly into your own sentence. See example given in previous fiction essay. • Organization of Body of Essay: As mentioned, you should have a clearly delineated, engaging introduction ending with your thesis statement. Please include poet’s full name and title of poem somewhere in your introduction. Titles of poems are placed in quotation marks. The body of your essay will contain your explication, divided into paragraphs. Stylistically, this will depend on the poem you have selected. If a multi-stanza poem, you can devote a paragraph to each stanza. Or if one stanza, you can choose to group perhaps three lines (or four) and devote a paragraph to those four lines, then move through the poem accordingly. You should also discuss any poetic devices used in the poem that enrich the poem—i.e. imagery, figurative language such as metaphors and/or similes, dialect, sound devices, etc. Be sure to have clear transitions/topic sentences between paragraphs that take readers smoothly through the poem. You should close with a clearly delineated conclusion where you can re-emphasize thesis, highlight key points, and discuss theme or message of the poem. • Guidance with literary elements. Some elements you might discuss in your explication are below. These are just some examples; feel free to discuss other elements such as sound devices or any other elements you can identify. “Facing It:” simile, metaphor, sensory imagery, shifting tone of the speaker “Happiness:” simile, metaphor, personification, imagery “Those Winter Sundays:” shifting tone of the speaker, imagery, personification, repetition, sound devices such as consonance (“cracked,” “ached,” “banked”). “Mother to Son:” central metaphor of the staircase, symbolism (those “tacks, splinters, boards torn up” etc.), dialect of the mother • As with the Characterization & Character Arc essay, this assignment does not require research. Any evidence of plagiarism will result in a failing grade. Since you will only use this one source, your selected poem within your textbook, you do not need to have a Works Cited page.
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