poetry explication: The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens


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here is the poem:
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Some Questions to Get You Started
1) What is the title’s importance to the poem?
2) Who is the poem’s speaker? Who is the speaker addressing?
3) Does the poem have a particular setting (time and place)?
4) What difficult, interesting, unusual, or surprising words does the poem contain, and how do
those choices affect the poem’s tone and meaning?
5) What is the theme or meaning of the poem? How do you know what the meaning is? What
details led to your conclusion?
6) Does the poem rhyme? Repeat sounds? Use a regular meter? Does the rhyme/meter seem
forced or natural? Are the rhymes perfect rhymes, eye rhymes, imperfect rhymes, rhymes in
assonance or consonance, etc.?
7) Where do line breaks occur, and why? What is the significance of the final word in each line?
8) Does the poet use figurative language? If so, how and why?
9) Does the poem follow an established structural pattern or develop one of its own? How does
the structure affect how meaning is shaped?

Things to Remember
1) Your essay should have an original title. (Not “Poetry Explication.”)
2) Your thesis should appear in the first paragraph and should be concise, specific, and original.
3) A Work(s) Cited page should appear as the last page of the paper and follow MLA guidelines.
The paper should also include in-text citations whenever the poem is quoted, paraphrased, or
otherwise referenced. No resources other than our class texts should be used or consulted.
4) This essay is worth 150 points of your final grade.

Important Due Dates
M 3/17 In-class prewriting (bring selected poem)
W 3/19 In-class drafting (bring selected poem and any prewriting)
M 3/31 Peer Review (bring two copies of rough draft; should be at least two pages)
W 4/2 Final Essay Due (in hard copy and on Blackboard prior to the beginning of class



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