Not everyone understands poetry. These pieces of literature can sometimes be hard to understand as poets are often inclined to express their thoughts not with direct speech but with symbols, imagery, peculiar rhythm and rhyme. Thus, people who tend to have a more mathematical organization of mind may have obstacles with analyzing a poem.
A reflection should give a reader not only a summary of the poem but also an understanding of how you feel and what thoughts that particular poem wakes up in you.
What is the purpose of writing such a paper? First of all, the aim is to get a deeper understanding of what you have recently read, to make connections to things you already know. By analyzing, questioning and evaluating your experience as a result you may develop new insights and perspectives. Reflective writing is a chance to think critically.
What should be included in your reflection?
What are ‘big’ questions? Those are the questions that should provoke some thoughts about this poem. They are the following:
Reflection paper: can have both an open structure and a typical essay form. Whatever structure you choose it has to connect, explore and integrate poem ideas with life experience.
Research essay: formal structure, each paragraph has to include arguments and supporting evidence.
Reflection paper: generally does not require a controlling idea, but it is beneficial for the overall perceiving of the essay by the reader.
Research essay: the thesis is obligatory.
Reflection paper: the first person.
Research paper: the third person.
Reflection paper: can both summarize the thoughts and question your conclusions.
Research essay: bold summarization, inappropriate to present new ideas or oppose the above mentioned ones.
The variety of topics for reflection in poetry equals the number of poems in the world. Your task as a Poetry reflection writer is to meticulously analyze every language figure and estimate the meaning that the author intended to put in it. There is probably one possible scenario of choosing a topic: you have to write a reflection on a poem that you have recently read in class, or maybe you are specifically given a poem to reflect by your teacher.
A quick tip! Write your paper in an organized manner. Don’t rush into writing immediately. Take a sheet of paper, create an outline. Due to that, it will be easier for you to give a natural logical flow to the paragraphs. Keep in mind that the audience has no idea what is going on inside your head. The reader must comprehend your points and thoughts.
In general, the structure of the reflection paper is the same as any academic paper. However, there are some peculiarities to it.
That part is the ‘face’ of your paper. Why? If a reader finds your introduction not fascinating, he will lose interest and won’t estimate the beauty of the body paragraph at its fullest. The main rule – don’t be bland. Here is a basic structure:
Here is an example of an introduction from a reflection paper on a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar ‘We Wear the Mask’.
‘It is a common business in our world that people judge each other by their job or appearance. To not be judged people hide these aspects of themselves under a mask. In the 1800s African-American were victims of racial segregation and unequal rights, which affected their opportunities to study and go to work normally. That problem had a strong influence on Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first Afro-American writer, who wrote the poem ‘We wear the mask’ to illustrate that issue. The poet applies figurative language, such as metaphors and hyperboles, as well as elements of imagery to show that people fake their true personalities to not stand out.’
Remember the difference between the essay analyzing the poem and a reflection paper expressing your thoughts on it.
Once you have conducted research on the poet’s life try to walk in his shoes. You can even highlight specific lines that caught your interest. Beware of writing in bold. By reinforcing your statements with a correct quote you help the reader learn your opinion and assumptions about the key ideas given in the poem. Here is a helpful approach.
Let’s take the same poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Here you can describe that you learned that racial discrimination and slavery of ‘colored’ people were worse than seemed. People were treated with such disrespect that it is understandable that they would rather stand in front of the white race and hide their true faces. To ease their lives they would talk and act according to what the owner dictated. Their lives had been basically taken from them. But despite being constantly humiliated they managed to preserve their strong inner spirit. Their belief in God helped them go through the most dreadful situations. Dunbar writes about ‘us’, black people, his people. But the idea of the poem can refer to the life of everybody even today.
Here you can talk about how you feel about racial discrimination, how it can be managed and whether it will ever even happen. Compare your expectations about the poem to your actual thoughts. It’s easier to write that paper than think about it. As everything you think about is OK as long as it is connected to the subject.
Remember to provide details on how you arrived at these conclusions. Keep everything logical – not chaotic. Here are some general advice on writing the main body:
Here is a short example of the main body extracted from a reflection paper on ‘The Poison Tree’ by William Blake.
‘In the first stanza, Black has a difficulty speaking to the enemy, this is how he ‘feeds’ the Poison Tree inside of him. When reading this I imagined cancer virus spreading in capillaries. In the second stanza, he notes that he smiles through his anger:’…with soft deceitful wiles’.
Don’t we encounter the same problem today? William wrote that poem more than 225 years ago and its main message is still relevant when talking about today’s world. It’s just part of human nature. Black teaches us an important lesson: we need to be open-hearted and honest in order to not let the insidious Poison Tree to leak into our blood. But I think that Blake also wants to tell us that however difficult the conditions are, we don’t have to be cowardly and stand up in front of our foes to express our fury right in front of their faces. I agree that on one hand, it sounds cruel and wicked, but I strongly opine it’s better to get rid of such a coach grass as fast as possible. This poem encouraged me to sweep away my ‘best friend’ who pretended to be one. I felt his ill-will a long time ago but was fearful of breaking our bond. I truly regret not doing it earlier just because I didn’t want to be left alone.’
Everything is simple here. Like the introduction, it closes the text and has to leave a positive residue on the reader’s heart. Summarise your thoughts, you may also want to explain how this reading will change your actions in the future. Unlike the usual research essay, which must not contain any new ideas in the conclusion, in reflection paper you can even challenge prior assumptions.
As children, we learn grammar and vocabulary through speech. Therefore, it is more effective to read your text aloud to hear the sentences that sound wrong. Sometimes we just pass a weirdly sounding sentence by, not even trying to change them.
It isn’t worth saying that papers of such a kind may contain some personal information. But if using criticism constructively, it can only benefit your work. Peer feedback is extremely useful. If your group mates aren’t convinced by your argument, find your composition confusing, can’t read some sentences because they are broken in logic, then your teacher won’t too.
Writing a reflection paper has its own hardships. The most common issues are disengaged from the poem and course content, unfocused writing and brainstorming, unstructured response. But with this guide, there is nothing to be afraid of.