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How should I approach an unseen poem in an exam?

The most important parts of tackling an unseen poem are understanding what the poem means on a surface level, interpreting what the poet could be discussing on a symbolic or metaphorical level, and then being able to explain how the poet is expressing these meanings using form, language and structure. Contextual knowledge is not required for an unseen poem, therefore it's important to focus on the ways in which the writer has crafted meaning, rather than the context of the poem.When approaching an unseen poem it is crucial to read the piece at least twice, in order to gather an understanding of its meaning and an overview of the key language techniques employed by the poet. A basic overview of the poem's literal and potentially interpreted meanings should be briefly mentioned in the introduction, as well as outlining techniques that will be discussed in the essay. When structuring your response, select 3 or 4 key features of the poem, for example broad language techniques, structural elements or features of the poem's form, and discuss how the writer uses these techniques to shape meaning in the poem, using quotations lifted from the poem as evidence. It is also important to discuss the effect that this has on the reading, linking this with the poet's intentions and how they use these techniques in relation to the broader theme given in the question. A conclusion should be used to summarise the key points argued in the essay, and should bring in no new information.