For those who might be interested, here’s a basic presentation on structuring a poetry answer which I use with my Leaving Certificate Higher Level English class. This one is particularly focused on Bishop, but can be adapted for any poet. You could also jazz up the presentation yourself – I prefer mine plain!
I’m often asked whether a poem-by-poem approach is as good as a more complex structure. There’s no easy answer to this; depending on the question, either is acceptable and I have seen both approaches get full marks. I try not to prescribe a method for my students – I prefer to give them all the options as some will make a very good effort at the more complex approach.
In class, I would ask them (working in groups) to discuss which approach they feel would work best, and to identify poems and quotes they could use in an answer. Time permitting, I like to get them working on their plans in class before finishing the question for homework.
Any suggestions for improvement would be appreciated!