As a class, we do not need too much revision on this as we have used an ‘unseen poetry’ approach to explore each of the poems in the Character and Voice cluster. However, it was useful for us to go through the steps required when looking at a poem for the first time. This is what we came up with:

  1. Read the title. What is the significance? Does it tell you anything? Give a clue?
  2. Read the poem. Best done a couple of times, You can use the punctuation marks or the stanzas to guide you.
  3. Think about possible meanings and brainstorm initial thoughts.
  4. Highlight and annotate.
  5. Identify techniques: Imagery, Sounds, Rhyme, Structure, Form

We felt that 5-10 minutes reading and planning is suitable for gaining sufficient understanding for the question.

It’s useful to note the assessment objectives here:

  • Respond to texts critically and imaginatively.
  • Select and evaluate relevant textual detail to illustrate and support interpretations.
  • Explain how language, structure and form contribute to writers’ presentation of ideas, themes and settings.

To practise this method, we looked at ‘Anne Hathaway’ by Carol Ann Duffy:

Anne Hathaway
by Carol Ann Duffy from The World’s Wife

‘Item I gyve unto my wife my second best bed …’
(from Shakespeare’s will)

The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where we would dive for pearls. My lover’s words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses
on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme
to his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights, I dreamed he’d written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on,
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love –
I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head
as he held me upon that next best bed.

  1. Title: Radhika was the first to comment on the title, saying that it was the name of Shakespeare’s wife. A few also noted that it is the name of a Hollywood actress. We all felt that it was a quite old fashioned name, and had a posh connotation. We weren’t sure whether it would be first or third person at this stage.
  2. Miss Ryan read the poem aloud once. Initial words that we came up with were: love, romance, vocabulary of language and writing, Shakespeare. We also noticed that it was a sonnet. If you don’t know what a sonnet is, check Miss’ video out;
  3. After a closer reading, where we stopped at each punctuation mark to reflect, we were able to gain a greater insight into the ideas, feelings and poetic methods within the poem. Here are some of our ideas:
The bed we loved in’ – Duffy explores a passionate sex life full of adventures ‘forests, castles…’ The words are fairy tale romantic, written in a never ending list to suggest that their passion is lasting. However, we also noted that it is written in the past tense making us believe that it is now over. This is confirmed in the final quatrain ‘my widow’s head’.
‘shooting stars‘ – A metaphor showing her admiration of Shakespeare, shooting stars are rare and magnificent and also the symbol of a dream come true. Duffy portrays the relationship as a magical experience for Anne Hathaway, showing how proud she is of her lover and his ‘verb dancing‘.
dribbling their prose‘ – The stark comparison between their guests stale lovelife, metaphorically presented as prose (continuous text) serves to heighten the passion of their ‘poetic’ love. They are lifeless which could be ironic considering the fact that they are in ‘the other bed, the best‘.
We had to write about the poem at the end of the lesson, thinking about how the writer presents Anne Hathaway and her relationship in the poem. We used this a a guide for structuring an answer:
  1. Short Intro related to question, displaying a point of view.
  2. Section focused on language.
  3. Section focused on structure and form.
  4. Section focused on ideas.
  5. Short conclusion with strong personal opinion.
  6. Quotations to be used throughout – aim for 3-5 explored in detail.