Category Archives: Poetry Comparisons

Comparing Poems: Power and Conflict

For your English Literature exam, you will be asked to write a comparative essay on the poems from the AQA Anthology. This question is worth 30 marks, so should take you around 40 minutes.

You will always be given one poem from the anthology as a starting point and this poem will be printed in the exam paper. It’s then up to you to choose a poem to compare the printed one with.  Remember, a list of the poems will be printed in the anthology, so use this list to decide which poem to select.


It is absolutely crucial that you have a good knowledge of all 15 poems in the anthology and how they link. There are lots and lots of videos on youtube analysing each poem, as well as other websites which have detailed analyses of the poems. Remember, lots of these poems are very famous and have been discussed for years.

It’s also really important to remember that you have to be in a position to discuss poems from memory. This doesn’t mean you need to memorise all 15 poems, but knowing parts of them off by heart is absolutely vital. For instance, have a look at the list below:

  • A shattered visage lies
  • Sneer of cold command
  • Look on my works ye mighty and despair
  • colossal wreck
  • the lone and level sands stretch far away.

These are all quotes from Ozymandias. If you could remember these five, you would probably be able to write a pretty good essay about this poem, and compare it to other poems confidently.

What 5 lines could you memorise from My Last Duchess? What about London? Remains? War Photographer?

Developing Comparisons

Once you have a good knowledge of each poem, you need to start practising comparing them. You can use this document (poetry-pc-compare-themes) as a guide to which poems link and how.

Once you have selected two poems that you think go together, devise a question to help focus your ideas. The question should take this form.

Compare how the writers of …………… and  ……………. present ideas about …………..

Then you can use this planning document to plan how exactly these poems compare. You can see an example below where I have planned an essay on how the authors of Remains and War Photographer present ideas about conflict.

When comparing poems, you should think about the poet’s choices of language, structure and form. The questions below should help guide your thinking:

  • Who is the ‘voice’ of each poem? Are they similar? Different?
  • What mood / atmosphere does the poet create? How do they compare?
  • Do the poets convey any similar ideas? Do they do this using different techniques?
  • How do language choices contribute to the mood or tone of the poems? Does this mood change at any point?
  • Do the poets use any poetic techniques? Do they use similar techniques or different ones?
  • How are the poems structured? How does this support their messages?
  • Are there any clear similarities in structure or form?

Useful Links and Resources