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How to Write a Reflection Paper in Poetry? A Full Guide with Topic Examples

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.

What Is a Reflection Paper In Poetry?

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?

  • A summary of the poem;
  • Answers to “Big” questions;
  • Text references to the poem.

What are ‘big’ questions? Those are the questions that should provoke some thoughts about this poem. They are the following:

  • Why did the poet write that poem?
  • What is its main idea?
  • What is confusing about it?
  • What does it mean?
  • What associations does it give me?

How Is a Reflection Paper Different From a Research Essay?

  • Structure
  • 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.

  • Thesis statement
  • 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.

  • Point of view
  • Reflection paper: the first person.
    Research paper: the third person.

  • Conclusion
  • 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.

How to Choose a Topic?

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 Step-by-Step Plan on How to Write a Reflection Paper In Poetry

  1. Read the poem twice. Try to sneak into its meaning, write down your first impression and comments.
  2. Research the poet. The author’s biography and the background of the poem would give an understanding of what or who inspired the poet and gave rise to his idea.
  3. Read the poem once again, this time slower. Pay attention to the style, the use of poetic figures. If any unknown words are met, find out their meaning in the dictionary. Poets sometimes use ancient myths, history facts, words from other languages, special language – don’t neglect these as they can play a significant role in preserving the poem’s idea.
  4. Answer the ‘big’ questions.
  5. Analyze the figurative language used. Reflect on the poem’s rhyme and the structure of each stanza. Define each alliteration, metaphor, hyperbole, personification, simile and provide examples to each of them.
  6. Try to identify the mood of each stanza. Maybe the mood changes as the poem progresses.
  7. Reflect. Give your feedback, your thoughts, ideas, resort to the poet’s background and use of figurative language.
  8. Conclude. It’s important to mention here whether you liked the poem or not, whether you find the problem it raises relevant in the modern world. Maybe this piece motivated you for some actions or changed your beliefs in a certain way – this is the appropriate paper to write about it.

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.

The Outline of the Reflection Paper In Poetry

In general, the structure of the reflection paper is the same as any academic paper. However, there are some peculiarities to it.

Introduction

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:

  • Hook. A fisher’s main weapon is a hook, a reflection paper writer’s – words. It is used to pick the audience’s attention. It can be a quote, anecdote, statement, rhetorical question. For example: ‘As humans, we often fear those who are different from us’. An inappropriate hook looks like this: ‘Have you ever feared of those who are different from us?’. Using ‘You’, ‘Have you ever…?’ or another cliched question is unsuitable for a senior when writing an academic paper. Thus, avoid these.
  • The transition between the hook and brief information about the poem. Move from the big idea to the specific poem you are going to analyze. The next few sentences’ tasks are to make a smooth, not abrupt transition. For example, you can clarify the hook in the first sentence. In the second sentence make a connection between the hook and the poem background, by making a preview to a historical event a poem is devoted to.
  • Information about the poem. Include its caption, author, what the poem is about.
  • Thesis statement. It should be restricted, a precisely worded sentence that states your purpose in that paper. Give the reader a short but broad glimpse of what you are going to talk about.

Here is an example of an introduction from a reflection paper on a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar ‘We Wear the Mask’.

Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?

‘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.’

Main Body

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.

  • Relate the idea of the poem to your experience or knowledge;
  • Consider how the poem helps to understand or even challenge your ‘life baggage’ and vice versa;
  • What are the implications of this in terms of your intellectual development, individual growth?

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:

  • Create one paragraph for each idea;
  • Forget about slang and abbreviation. It’s still an academic paper even though you use the pronoun ‘I’;
  • Talk mainly about yourself. If you want to incorporate other people into your narrative, avoid using their names. Put emphasis on their actions.
  • Start with a statement to summarise any realizations or feelings and explain these in the following paragraphs.

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.’

Conclusion

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.

Editing a Reflective Paper

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.

Summary

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.