How to write an ap lit poetry comparison prompt
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How to Write an AP Lit Poetry Comparison Prompt - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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How to Write an AP Lit Poetry Comparison Prompt!. Understand the Poems. Read the question. What is it asking you to look for? Quickly read and interpret each as it pertains to the question Look at the details of the poems themselves

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Understand the poems
Understand the Poems

  • Read the question. What is it asking you to look for?

  • Quickly read and interpret each as it pertains to the question

    • Look at the details of the poems themselves

    • Consider the fact that these two poems specifically have been paired

Understand the texts
Understand the Texts

  • IMPORTANT: The two poems are connected thematically (NOT just in subject). The difference lies in the approach, tone, view, etc.

Test your interpretation
Test your interpretation

  • There IS something that connects the two poems. Do you see it?

  • Does your interpretation clash with what you know about the poet/s?

In your response you are to
In your response you are to…

  • Identify the commonality

  • Express the differences between them and where the difference/s come from

  • Explore how each poet communicates his view of that theme

Identifying the similarity is key
Identifying the similarity is key

Sorry to be repetitive, but REMEMBER: In all compare/contrast situations that are worth anything, there is not only contrasts to be discussed, but comparisons as well.

Obviously each poem discusses a similar subject (leaves, love, cows), but the comparisons can’t end there. There must be a similarity in each poem in terms of message or theme.

Answering the question
Answering the Question

Look at the samples I have provided: Emily Dickinson’s “We grow accustomed to the Dark” and Robert Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night.”

  • The poems below are concerned with darkness and night. Read each poem carefully, then in a well-written essay, compare and contrast the poems, analyzing the significance of dark or night in each. In your essay, consider elements such as point of view, imagery and structure.

Dickinson frost
Dickinson / Frost

In your groups, determine the answers to these questions:

What is the similarity in these two poems?

Yet they were slightly different, right? In what way(s)?

Dickinson frost1

Address that similarity and its divergence in the thesis .

“Though these two poems by Dickinson and Frost share the element of dark or night, the poets speak from very different perspectives. Dickinson’s “darkness” connotes uncertainty and change, while the speaker of Frost’s poem imbues night with a far more negative and desolate meaning.”

(I did NOT identify literary devices…I simply stated the difference in approach)


  • Whereas thesis suggests the similarities and differences, in the conclusion you are welcome to summarize/recap the specifics.

  • Ultimately you want to communicate the net effect of the contrasts

  • Whereas “She Walks in Beauty” elevates a woman to a pantheon of beauty by using heavenly images and pleasing sounds, “Sonnet 130” cheekily depicts its female subject by insisting mostly on the negative. Plain words and unappealing comparisons initially confuse the reader as to the object of the speaker, but the bracing ending levels a broadside at the lies other poets must use to praise a woman.

  • The dissimilar structures of the poems further reinforce their differences. The pauses created by the interrupting dashes in Dickinson’s poems create a feeling of tentativeness and suggest the hesitancy experienced by those who are left in the “Dark” to find their own path. Frost organizes his poem in solid, uniform lines, similar to the fixed and certain gloom cast by the images throughout the piece. Thus each poets’ style serves to underscore his or her perspective.