Category Archives: Unseen Poetry

Unseen Poetry: Nettles

As you know, there is an unseen poetry section in Paper 2 English Literature. What is great with this part of the exam is that you are not expected to ‘remember a text’ or prepare anything. It is purely your thoughts and opinions on a poem that you are given backed up with quotes an exploration. Today we will develop your unseen poetry skills.

For today’s lesson you will need:

1. Pen and paper / word document to write your ideas

2. A copy of the unseen poem (below). Don’t worry if you cannot print this. You can make notes and annotations on your paper.

Task 1

Consider the title ‘Nettles’. What do you think this poem will be about based on the title? Consider the word ‘nettles’. What does this word remind you of? What emotions are likely to be explored?

Now read the poem and consider this question: how does the poet present the speaker’s feelings about parenting? You can begin to note some key ideas, messages or quotes during your first reading.

Watch the video below if you would like to hear this poem.

Task 2

Now answer the following questions in full sentences:

  1. What is the poem about? Hint: You could use the words parents/protect/pain

2. Who do you think the Speaker is in the poem? Why do you think that? Why has the poet chosen to use the voice of this speaker?

3. The speaker uses military metaphor to describe the nettles as ‘green spears’ and a ‘regiment of spite’. Why do you think the poet has included this? What tone does this create and why?

4. The writer continues this metaphor throughout the poem. Why do you think the poet has chosen to do this?

5. What do you think the poet’s overall message is through this poem? What is the poet trying to teach / show us?

Stretch questions:

  1. The poet describes the nettles as a “fierce parade”. Why might this be? These words seem oxymoronic – what do they suggest?
  2. The poet has used caesura on the fourth line. What is the effect of this?
  3. The speaker is alluding to a bigger battle that he’s fighting, beyond the nettles. What is this? The last line should give you an idea.

Click here to watch a video about this poem if you want a little more help. You can stop the video after about a minute.

Task 3

Now that you have some initial ideas and points around the poem, it is time to focus ideas on the exam question.

How does the poet present the speaker’s feelings towards parenting?

With the question in mind, go back through the poem. Underline or write down any examples where the speaker presents his feelings towards parenting.

Next, bullet point 3/ 4 different feelings that the speaker has towards parenting. Remember you cannot repeat the same point.

Task 4

Now we are going to write a short response to the exam question: How does the poet present the speaker’s feelings towards parenting?

Here are some of my ideas if you’d like a starting point:

  • Parenting can feel like a battle to protect your child.
  • The parent finds it easy to feel anger towards anything that threatens the child

Push yourself: Now build your thesis statement (your ‘big idea’).

In ‘Nettles’, the poet clearly/ cleverly/ sensitively portrays/ displays/ evokes an impression of parenting as…

Task 5: time to write!

Now use this writing frame to help you finish your analysis. You should spend around 15 minutes writing your response.

Well done! Remember to send your work to your teacher!

Unseen poetry: one flesh

As you know, there is an unseen poetry section in Paper 2 English Literature. What is great with this part of the exam is that you are not expected to ‘remember a text’ or prepare anything. It is purely your opinion on a poem that you are given (with some tips and tricks to include in your analysis, obviously!). Today we will develop your unseen poetry skills.

For today’s lesson you will need:

1. Pen and paper / Word document to write your ideas

2. A copy of the unseen poem (below). Don’t worry if you cannot print this. You can make notes and annotations on your paper.

Task 1

Consider the title ‘One Flesh’. What do you think this poem will be about based on the title? Consider the word ‘Flesh’. What does this word remind you of? What mood does this create?

Now read the poem and consider this question: how does the poet present the speaker’s feelings about relationships? You can begin to note some key ideas, messages or quotes during your first reading.

Watch the video below if you would like some extra help with this poem.

Task 2

Now answer the following questions in full sentences:

1.What is the poem about? Hint: You could use the words relationship/ distance/ parents

2. Who do you think the Speaker is in the poem? Why do you think that? Why has the poet chosen to use the voice of this speaker?

3. The speaker uses a simile to explain how the woman is ‘like a girl dreaming of childhood’. Why do you think the poet has included this? What tone does this create and why?

4. The poem ends with a question. Why do you think the poet has chosen to do this?

5.What do you think the poet’s overall message is through this poem? What is the poet trying to teach/ show us?

Stretch questions:

  1. The poet ends each stanza with a rhyming couplet, except the final stanza. Why do you think the poet did not use a rhyming couplet at the end of the poem?
  2. The speaker reflects that she came as a result of her parents ‘fire’. What are the connotations of this word? What does this word suggest about the past? What effect does this metaphor create?
  3. On line 5 the speaker explains how the people are awaiting a ‘new event’. What could this event be? Why do you think that the poet has included this?
  4. The speaker explains how ‘shadows’ are above the woman. What could these shadows represent? Why has the poet chosen to specifically use this image?

Click here to watch a video about this poem if you want a little more help. Stop the video at 9 minutes.

Task 3

Now that you have some initial ideas and points around the poem, it is time to focus ideas on the exam question.

How does the Poet present the speaker’s feelings towards relationships?

With the question in mind, go back through the poem. Underline or write down any examples where the speaker presents his feelings towards relationships.

Next, bullet point 3/ 4 different feelings that the speaker has towards relationships. Remember you cannot repeat the same point.

Task 4

Now we are going to write a short response to the exam question: How does the Poet present the speaker’s feelings towards relationships?

Here are some of my ideas if you’d like a starting point:

  • Marriage has changed over time. It is now distant and passionless.
  • There is a nostalgic and sad tone to this poem.
  • The speaker is intrigued by the change in the marriage.

Push yourself: Now build your thesis statement (your ‘big idea’).

In ‘One flesh, the poet clearly/ cleverly/ sensitively portrays/ displays/ evokes an impression of relationships as…

Task 5: time to write!

Now use this writing frame to help you finish your analysis. You should spend around 15 minutes writing your response.

Well done! Remember to send your work to your teacher!

Unseen poetry

As you know, there is an unseen poetry section in Paper 2 English Literature. This section of the exam will assess your ability to analyse an unseen text. Today we will develop your unseen poetry skills.

For today’s lesson you will need:

1. Pen and paper / Word document to write your ideas

2. A copy of the unseen poem (below). Don’t worry if you cannot print this. You can make notes and annotations on your paper.

Task 1

Consider the word ‘Follower’. Write as many connotations of the word as you can. What does the word ‘Follower’ make you think of?

Now read the poem ‘ Follower’ by Seamus Heaney and the question that follows it. You can begin to note some key ideas, messages or quotes during your first reading.

Seamus Heaney reading the poem ‘Follower’

Task 2

Answer the following questions in full sentences:

1.What is the poem about? Need some help? You could use the words parent/ age/farmer

2.Look at the opening 2 lines and the final 2 lines of the poem. What change takes place over the course of the poem? Why do you think the poet has chosen to do this?

3.The poem includes a range of different words that link to farming. Why do you think the poet has chosen to do this?

4.What do you think the poet’s overall message is through this poem? What is the poet trying to teach/ show us?

5.Who do you think the Speaker is in the poem? Why do you think that? Why has the poet chosen to use the voice of this speaker?

Stretch questions:

  1. Look at the rhyme within the poem? Why do you think the writer chose to use this rhyming pattern?
  2. The poem is written using 6 consistent quatrains. Why?
  3. Consider the simile on the second line. Can you consider 3 possible interpretations for this line? Now look at the different sounds being repeated within this line. What is the effect?

Click here to watch a video about this poem if you are unsure.

Task 3

Now that you have some initial ideas and points around the poem, it is time to focus ideas on the exam question.

How does the Poet present the speaker’s feelings towards his Father?

With the question in mind, go back through the poem. Underline or write down any examples where the speaker presents his feelings towards the Father.

Next, bullet point 3/ 4 different feelings that the speaker has towards his Father. Remember you cannot repeat the same point.

Task 4

Now we are going to write a response to the exam question (How does the Poet present the speaker’s feelings towards his Father?)

Some possible ideas could include how the speaker admires his Father’s strength and skills. Also how the Speaker wanted to be like his Father but felt that he was never good enough.

Use these sentence starters to help you:Significantly, the poet presents the Speaker as feeling….. towards his Father through the use of the phrase ‘……”

This may reveal that the speaker…..because…

It could also suggest that…

The use of….perhaps implies…

Specifically, the word “….” highlights that….

The Poet may have done this to show/ teach/highlight/create…..

Some useful vocabulary : awe/ skilled/ Imitate/ Capable/inevitable/Inspired/ frustrated

Well done! Remember to send your work to your teacher!

Unseen Poetry Practise

The first question of your poetry exam will test your ability to write an extended essay about a poem that you’ve never read before. Below, you’ll find some examples for you to practise with.

You could practise:

  • Reading the poems and summing up the main messages.
  • Using this document to practise essay planning
  • Answer the questions in timed conditions (around 45-50 minutes) before giving the essay to your teacher. You should aim to write a short introduction and 4 main paragraphs.

Here are five examples of previous poems used in the exam. If you want to practise any other examples, look for poems in the green anthology marked with an asterix (*). These are all suitable poems to practise writing unseen essays.

  1. Unseen Poetry Past Paper1
  2. Unseen Poetry Past Paper2
  3. Unseen Poetry Past Paper3
  4. Unseen Poetry Past Paper4
  5. Unseen Poetry Past Paper5