“Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich

Poetry Assignment: Close Reading


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For this assignment, you will be using “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich. You will choose a section of the poem to do a close reading. The chosen section needs to be 14 lines MINIMUM. You can do more than 14 lines, but do not do the entire poem—it is too big to do a close reading in the amount of words I am limiting you to. You can do several sections of the poem if you want.


This past few weeks, we learned about “translating” a poem; now, I want you to practice that and move toward analyzing the poem. You will be using this same process in your official poem explication assignment.


I know poems are tricky, but everyone has the ability to understand a poem. Here are the steps you should take for this assignment.


  1. Follow the link below to learn  about closely reading a poem:


Purdue OWL // Poetry: Close Reading : there is also a slideshow at the bottom of this page. This slideshow is very helpful for breaking down the process step-by-step.


So, to review: A close reading is the careful, sustained analysis of any text that focuses on significant details or patterns and that typically examines some aspect of the text’s form, craft, meaning, etc.


Now, in your textbook, read pages 518-520 to learn about rhyme scheme.

  • If you are still confused about this, there is a worksheet in the drive that explains it more (titled “rhyme scheme worksheet”).


  1. Re-read and TRANSLATE a 14-line section of the poem. If you don’t understand the steps I gave you in class (watch the class recordings available to you), use the ones that Purdue OWL gives you:
    1. Read the poem slowly
    2. Read it at least twice
    3. Read it aloud
    4. Annotate/define important words, images, phrases, and sections
  2. Remember that you need to first understand the literal words before moving on to thinking about the text figuratively.
  3. Once you understand the literal words of the poem, now move on to writing down your close reading. This all comes from the Purdue OWL PPT I point out in #1.
    1. Understand the poem’s project/goal
      1. Subject of the poem?
      2. Speaker?
      3. Larger context?
      4. Genre/mode?
    2.  Examine form and structure: how is the poem formed or put together?
      1. What does the form contribute to the content?
    3. Look closely at each line of the poem and begin analyzing
      1. Line length and variation / line breaks / enjambed vs. end-stopped lines
      2. Look for places where form and line change
    4. Look closely at language the poet uses — remember that language and figurative language work to alter the layers and associations working in a text.
      1. Diction?
      2. Tone or mood?
      3. Images that stand out?
      4. Figurative language?
    5. The job of the poet is to “make it new”
      1. Does the poet combine unexpected elements, like form and subject?
      2. Does s/he employ an unusual perspective?
      3. How does the poet’s language make something new or surprising?
    6. Make a claim about how the poem works or what the poet is doing (your thesis).
      1. What is the overall effect of the whole poem’s crafting, and the elements that are part of the craft?
      2. Where does the poem take us (emotionally, intellectually, narratively, etc.)?
  4. Now that you have a claim (thesis), write a short essay around that claim in which you prove it using evidence from the poems. NOTE: Check the “Quote Integration” PDF in G drive to see how you quote AND cite a poem (it is different than fiction).


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