LITR 100 – Second Short Response Paper Assignment
Choose one of the following poems and explicate it. Your discussion should isolate what you think is
the main idea of the poem and explain how the poet develops that idea by analyzing several (i.e., at
least five) specific details from the poem, explaining at length how and why the details you are
pointing out help to convey the meaning that you claim. Some particular kinds of details you might
consider looking at include (but are not limited to):
• Unusual word choices – for example, using rare words, using repetition, using
juxtaposition (putting things side-by-side to accentuate their differences), using
formatting or placement of words on the page to emphasize them, using words with
ambiguous or multiple meanings.
• Poetic structures – rhyme, rhythm (also called meter or beat), alliteration, assonance,
organization of stanzas and the transitions that link one stanza to the next (There is an
excellent resource on poetic terminology online at http://poetry.org/termsin.htm)
• Tone/voice of the poem – is there a distinct “character” seemingly telling the poem
to us and, if so, what do we seem to know about that character’s mind and how does
that affect our reaction to what he/she/it says?
• Symbolism and other forms of indirect/figurative meaning – Does the poet use
words that convey meaning non-literally, either through connotation, familiar
symbolism (e.g., roses = love), allusion (referring to another, usually well-known work
or story; a poem featuring a humble carpenter could, for example, be alluding to the
story of Jesus), metaphor and/or simile? Does the poet use shocking, humorous, or
other strongly emotional words to draw attention to particular ideas within the poem?
Your task is not simply to summarize or to rewrite the poem in different words, but instead to state an
explanation of how and why specific choices that the poet has made help to convey the specific
interpretation you’re claiming. In other words, don’t just note that a poem has an ABAB rhyme
scheme, but explain how such a simple, recurring rhyme scheme contributes to a particular mood
related to the larger meaning you’re attributing to the poem. Don’t just point out the similar meanings
of words throughout the poem, explain why such repetitions convey an idea.
Your paper should be at least two full pages in length (starting from the first line of the actual paper,
not from where your name appears), but not more than four full pages.
“For the Tattooed Man” (2005)
By Sharmila Voorakkara
Because she broke your heart, Shannon’s a badge—
a seven-letter skidmark that scars up
across your chest, a flare of indelible* script. * — impossible to erase
Between Death or Glory, and Mama, she rages,
scales the trellis* of your rib cage; * — a grid of wood, usually
her red hair swings down to bracket your ankles, whip used to train vines in a
up the braid of your backbone, cuff your wrists. She keeps garden
you sleepless with her afterimage,
and each pinned and martyred limb aches for more.
Her memory wraps you like a vise.
How simple the pain that trails and graces
the length of your body. How it fans, blazes,
writes itself over in the blood’s tightening sighs,
bruises into wisdom you have no name for.