Immersed in the Christian traditions of his time, Donne’s exploration of Death emanates from the Elizabethan acute awareness of the brevity and vanity of human life; however, with his sensual elevation of reciprocal love and his deep spiritual belief in the resurrection of Christ, Donne meditates upon his belief and celebration of eternal life.Time and time again students fall into one of two traps.
They either try to start each paragraph with a lengthy (and often beautiful) phrase trying to encapsulate every idea they plan to introduce in the paragraph.
Once you wrap your head around it you’ll be cruising!
To make these tips even more practical, we’ll be focusing on John Donne’s poetry in relation to the topic below: I’m sure you’ve heard it before…
- Pan out to the broad, abstract ideas that the poet wrestled with- Discuss the aspects of the poet that set them apart from other poets at the time (i.e.
for John Donne that is his intellectual imagery, arresting voice, wit, fusion of passion and logic and the manner in which he challenged intellectual argument and strongly held societal conventions)- Short and sweet not long and wordy!From there you can work out which poems best represent each concept to work out which poems you will use for each paragraph.This is why I love poetry essays as planning for them is so easy! Here are the three ideas that I plan to discuss in each of my paragraphs of this essay as well as the poems I would use:- Sexual/physical human experiences- ‘Elegy 19: To His Mistress Going to Bed’ & ‘The Flea’- Mutuality and reciprocity as an experience/element of spiritual love- ‘A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning’- The innately human experience of dying and being embraced by God in heaven- ‘Hymn to God My God in My Sickness’If there was one thing that was playing in my head over and over while writing a poetry essay it was ‘analyse, not summarise’.illuminate, emanate, meditate)And here’s a sample introduction to help you even more: John Donne’s anthology, “Selected Poetry” illuminates the human condition and thus provides much commentary on life and death.A metaphysical poet of the Renaissance era, Donne combines a playful wit, rich imagery, and perhaps most importantly language, to challenge intellectual argument and celebrate various aspects of sexual desire, mutuality and faith.playful wit, rich imagery, language, challenging intellectual argument) as well as the ideas and values they endorse (i.e.elevation of reciprocal love, belief in the resurrection of Christ, celebration of eternal life)- Wow your assessor with unique vocab (i.e.When accompanied by the stability of the ABAB rhyme scheme that works to echo the couple’s settled love, this presents the experience of reciprocity and mutuality of love to be higher than the dull and earthbound nature of love that is solely physical.Hence, Donne reveals the bliss that mutual love permits mankind, given it eclipses the desire for any form of physicality.All you have to do is think of three or four different ideas for the essay topic and then find your textual evidence by working out which poems best reflect these ideas…. It is so easy to fall into the trap of simply summarising the poetic techniques and language of the different poems rather than analysing their meaning and linking this directly to the essay question.Even if you have the best plan and ideas going for you, if an assessor notices you going into summary mode they’ll assume you’re just rewriting a memorised essay rather then answering the exact essay question given…. To prevent this utter catastrophe, I urge you to please, link to and answer the specific essay topic EVERYTIME you introduce a new poetic technique/piece of evidence.