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 Poet Research Project

Topic: You are to write about the connections you can make between the life, the works, and the time period in which your approved poet lived. Obviously, you must read biographical material about the poet and some of what the poet has written (at least ten poems). Try to imagine what life was like for your poet. Which writers influenced your poet? What events would have had greatest impact? What themes dominate your poet’s poems?. In order to have your poet approved, you must locate at least one of three reputable biographical resources: an actual book about your person, a significant biographical entry in one of the school databases, or an entry in Gale research resources (online or in paper at the public/base library). Wikipedia is not an acceptable resource. Note: You must have your poet and the specific resources you are reading by that poet approved in advance.

You wll find links for many poetry resources on my Poem-a-Day website, for National Poetry Month (April). Scroll down to the bottom where links for organizations and for individual poets can be found.

General Guidelines: The quality of your reference sources is much more important than the quantity. Because you are collecting information that other people have already published, you have to give credit to these people for the information you use that is theirs. In other words, no plagiarism. To protect you from temptation, I expect photocopies or printouts of your resources. You may make notes on these papers and/or use a highlighter to help you plan your writing -- but I will keep everything at the end. No printouts or photocopies of your reference resources -- no credit -- no exceptions.

You may download a Plan Page if you wish. You may also see correct format by examining a My Sample Paper or a Model Longer Paper from Hacker.

Minimum Required Resources: You must include the following in your bibliography (more resources would be better).

  • one biographical resource
  • one critical resources (print or online database)
  • ten annotated poems

Citing Sources: We will follow MLA style. Follow directions as given on my Bibliography page. Excellent resources that break the complicated process down into greater detail include Citation Machine and Easy Bib.

Research Links: You have been given a handout with user names and passwords for the online databases available to our school.

Parts of the Project

Cover: Select a meaningful quote from the works of your approved poet and illustrate that quote so that it will fit on the front of your report folder. You may use original artwork, computer graphics, calligraphy, graphic fonts, cut-and-paste illustrations from magazines -- whatever will help you make the most of the words themselves. Although you have the freedom to use varied art materials and papers, remember that the final quote design must be no larger than 8 1/2 by 11 inches if it is to fit. I have provided several examples on my Quote Design page.

Letterhead and Business Card: Design a logo that is appropriate and relevant for your poet. Use it for both letterhead and business card -- which do not have to be identical, but which should go together. Be as accurate as possible, but feel free to make up an intersting job title, address, email, etc. Print a sheet of cards on plain paper, no need to actully use card stock. Please do not cut the cards out.

Résumé: Following the formats discussed in class, or even one of my resume formats on this website, put all that information you have gleaned about your poet’s life into résumé form. Assume the persona of the poet. Concentrate on accuracy -- rather than the “selective” truth real résumés often provide.

Personal Alphabet: Browse through a dictionary, looking for adjectives to describe your poet. Know the meaning of the words you select and be able to explain how each word you’ve chosen fits you. Choose at least one adjective for each letter of the alphabet. Be sure you choose the adjective form of words. For example, “excite” is a verb and “excitable” is an adjective. “Exciting” is a participle so it can be used as an adjective BUT “excitable” and “exciting” mean very different things.

Personal Metaphors: Make a list of metaphorical comparisons. Think, “If my poet were an animal, what kind of animal would my poet be?” For each item, write the general label and then your specific comparison. Be realistic, be somewhat honest, and explain your choices. Don’t say your poet is a rose, if the poet is really a daisy.

1. Animal
2. Plant
3. Article of Clothing
4. Day of the Week
5. Food
6. Color
7. Geometric Shape
8. Fragrance
9. Type of Building
10. Word
11. Musical Instrument
12. Season of the Year
13. Appliance / Machinery
14. Natural Phenomenon
15. Literary Character

Critical Essay: Develop and support a thesis sentence that makes a connection between the life of your poet and the themes in your poet's work. For example:

William Shakespeare was the ideal Renaissance man because of his interests in exploration, politics, and humanism.

Familiar with all medieval social classes, Geoffrey Chaucer revealed his cynicism and a hidden faith in The Canterbury Tales.

Peter Meinke’s poems use everyday imagery and modern verse style to demonstrate the contrast between idealism and reality.

You will cite your sources parenthetically within the content of the essay. Focus your essay on what you can prove from your reading and research. Narrowing your topic will help. Your essay should be approximately 3-5 pages, double-spaced. Include at least three quotes for each body paragraph. Use the guidelines given in Quoting from a Poem.

Annotated Poems: Use the TPCASTT format to annotate your copies of the ten poems (or however many were approved for your poet). Include a legend or a key (color helps) if you have developed a personal shorthand for your annotations. Make sure that you label any poetry terms included in your Poetry Terminology handout.

Final Presentation: Yes, you knew it was coming -- an informative PowerPoint or Keynote presentation on one of your poet’s poems. You will need to follow the example I will share in class, but your presentation will present “talking points” on one specific poem -- and you will be the expert who teaches that poem. Copies of the poem will need to be provided for all your classmates. Download my PowerPoint on Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Love Is Not All” as an example. Or view my webpage on the poem.

Bibliography: Cite all your sources in an alphabetized list that follows MLA format.

“Undress” (or whatever) Your Poet -- digital version also required. Follow the example and guidelines given on the Poem-a-Day #21 for Billy Collins’s “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes.”

Final Order for the Report: Annotated poems, grading checklist, and learning log go in the front pocket of your folder; printouts and photocopies of research in the back pocket. Put everything else in your folder inside brads (not in pockets or a loose folder or a three-ring binder) in the following order --

  • Cover -- Illustrated poem or quote
  • Title page - poet, your name, hour, and date.
  • Letterhead and Business Card
  • Résumé
  • Personal Alphabet
  • Personal Metaphors
  • Essay
  • Printout of PowerPoint/Keynote Slides -- digital version also required
  • Bibliography -- six entries in MLA style
  • “Undress” (or whatever) Your Poet -- digital version also required

Updated 13 June 2016.

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