illustrated portrait of American poet Robert Frost

Robert Frost

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Can someone explain how to write a thesis for a poetry essay in simple terms?

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The idea of a thesis statement is to give an introduction to your essay and offer a quick insight into your overall opinion and/or conclusion. The thesis should be one or two sentences long and summarize the essay.

Writing a thesis for a poetry essay is no different from a thesis that would accompany a longer text, whether you're exploring a broad scope of work—for example, the poetry of Robert Frost—or a single poem.

It helps many students to ask themselves a question about the subject, usually about the thing that strikes them as most interesting or research-worthy. It can concern the theme or style or both. The thesis will then take the form of an answer. For example, if you're reading a poem that is very crude and possibly offensive, the question might be, "Why is that?"

The thesis could then be something like this, broadly phrased:

  • The poet uses provocative language to draw the reader's attention to a hurtful topic and illustrate the need to express their anger.

Or maybe the poem is very comparison-heavy, seemingly over-explaining a simple theme. You could ask, "Is the poet overdoing it?" Depending on your point of view, you could answer with a thesis:

  • The poem uses various imagery to transport the reader into the poet's own childhood, trying to capture the sense of melancholy and nostalgia.

The question doesn't even need to be your own. The type of poetry usually chosen as the topic of an essay has usually stood the test of time and has something universal to say. That in itself is enough of a question—why has this particular poem or body of poetry proved so timeless?

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