What's the best chronological way to answer an exam style poetry question?

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macarooo75 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If the exam you are taking is asking a specific question about a poem, then yes, moving through the poem chronologically would be the best way to respond. First, for most humanities courses, the citation style is MLA format. Therefore, when you use in text evidence in the form of quoting, remember that line numbers go immediately following the quoted text in a parenthetical: ex: (12-14). Also, use the forward / to indicate line breaks.

Now, if the question is asking for you to compare or contrast two different poems, then you might not work chronologically. Instead, you would work with the strongest evidence from both poems and include that evidence (in the form of a quote) to prove your point. 

Don't forget that all quotes need signal phrases, and that MLA asks that writers use present tense verbs. For example, if you are quoting from the poem "The Road Not Taken," you can begin the quote in several different ways:

  • Frost writes, "And that has made all the difference" (20).
  • The speaker concludes, "And that has made all the difference" (20).

Both of the above examples show a signal phrase, a quote, and a parenthetical.