English 207: Studies in Poetry                                  

Dr. Morillo

First Paper Assignment


Due Wednesday, August 24, printed out, at the start of class

graded pass/fail. Pass = A and 11 pts;  fail = F, 0 points. An exemplary job = A+, 12 points

LENGTH at least 2 and no more than 4 full pages, double-spaced computer-printed texts, standard margins : 1.25" left and right margins; 1" bottom and top margins.

No handwritten papers accepted. Your interpretation of each poem will be at least 1 page, and no more than 2 pages. You will write about 2 poems.


Standard formatting conventions to follow: Put all titles of poems, whether the poems are short or long, in italics. For any direct quotation from a poem, supply the line number or the line you quote like this:  In She Walks in Beauty, Byron considers this woman’s “aspect and her eyes” (l. 4).

Your Initial Ability to Interpret and Write about Poetry

To see how you are able to read and interpret poetry now, I need a good writing sample from you showing what you can already do as a writer and thinker. 

You will write about two poems: Robert Frost’s “The Silken Tent,” (Seagull Reader p. 131) and Dorianne Laux’s “Family Stories,” online here. Read each poem aloud and then reread each poem silently and carefully.

Your assignment is to write a brief essay in the form of an argument for what you think matters most about this poem and why. Try not to simply summarize or paraphrase the poem or what happens in it; rather, explain what you think is the most important thing to say about it. Try to relate what it says to its form as a poem, how it looks on the page, how it sounds, any characteristics of poetic form you may already know. Try to cite some specific examples from each poem to support your claims. You need only your wits about you and the poems in front of your eyes to write this paper.

I know that there are hundreds of places in cribs like Cliff Notes, books, and online where you might find somebody else's opinions about these poems, but I am NOT interested in seeing those from you. It is pointless for you to borrow from any of these for three reasons: first, if you do, I'll be measuring your later likely improvement against someone else's baseline ability as a reader of poetry, and that does neither of us any good; second, you needn't fear the grade on this, since it is graded pass fail--turn it in and show sincere effort and you pass; third, plagiarism is cheating, is the absolute antithesis of the critical thinking are aiming to learn in college, and it can get you in big trouble.

This may well be hard for you. All I ask is that you do your best and be honest. Say what YOU think is most important to say about each poem.

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