Writing a commentary advice

Example paragraphs base on the poem Originally,
by Scottish poet Carol Ann Duffy
Structuring a commentary
Organize your commentary into a plan.
Here is the basic structure:
Outline what you feel the poem is about (in terms of themes or other
content). Signpost the aspects of the poem you will be focusing your
analysis on.
 Main observation/point about poem, supported by PEE
 Second observation/ Point about poem, PEE
 Third observation/ point about poem, PEE
Include Personal response and final thoughts/ questions raised by
the poem
Read this poem and the notes about it. Then look at the examples of an
introductory paragraph, a body paragraph and concluding paragraph
on the next three slides.
We came from our own country in a red room
which fell through the fields, our mother singing
our father's name to the turn of the wheels.
My brothers cried, one of them bawling Home,
Home, as the miles rushed back to the city,
the street, the house, the vacant rooms
where we didn't live any more. I stared
at the eyes of a blind toy, holding its paw.
All childhood is an emigration. Some are slow,
leaving you standing, resigned, up an avenue
where no one you know stays. Others are sudden.
Your accent wrong. Corners, which seem familiar,
leading to unimagined, pebble-dashed estates, big boys
eating worms and shouting words you don't understand.
My parents' anxiety stirred like a loose tooth
in my head. I want our own country, I said.
But then you forget, or don't recall, or change,
and, seeing your brother swallow a slug, feel only
a skelf of shame. I remember my tongue
shedding its skin like a snake, my voice
in the classroom sounding just like the rest. Do I only think
I lost a river, culture, speech, sense of first space
and the right place? Now, Where do you come from?
strangers ask. Originally? And I hesitate.
Carol Ann Duffy
•The persona in the poem Originally is a child
fearful of losing her identity.
•The poem explores the struggle she goes through
in an attempt to retain it even after shifting from
one country to another.
•The title itself indicates the significance of having
roots and definite origins, something the speaker
worries she has lost by being forced to leave her
native country at such a young age.
•The first stanza suggests that the shift started off
as a fun adventure but when the persona’s brothers
realizes it is a permanent shift, all the children
became upset.
•In the second stanza the persona discusses the
process of change that comes with such a dramatic
•The last stanza suggests the person becomes bitter
yet resigned to the loss of cultural distinctions such
as accent.
Introduction Example
(What is the poem about? Literal actions and Persona mentioned) Carol Ann Duffy’s
poem Originally explores the changes a small child experiences after they are
forced to move to a new country with their parents. (What is the metaphorical
meaning of this?)The poem is essentially a philosophical critique of journeys and
moving on, both physically and spiritually. (Register, tone, voice and/ or audience?)
An intimate register is established through the highly self-reflective tone, but aimed
at an audience who will hopefully be sensitive to the young persona’s changing
circumstances. She or he seems to long nostalgically for the past and the security of
being protected against the harshness of change yet realizes, albeit reluctantly, the
necessity of accepting these changes in community and environment in order to
move forward in life. (Changes in the poems focus/perspective/ mood? What
structural feature is most important? Why?) The poem’s three stanzas are all eight
lines long, written in blank verse and iambic pentameter. This uniformity further
emphasizes the inevitability of change and the way in which time moves forward
even when people are keen to stop it. (Purpose of the poem? Metaphorical meaning
by the end?) This ultimately leads to a thought provoking interrogation of how
people define their origins and ultimately understand their own identity.
Blank verse = no rhyme scheme
Paradox= Seemingly contradictory statement
Body paragraph example
POINT: In comparison with her negative emotional state in the previous stanza, this last stanza
shows the persona’s begrudging acceptance of change. Syntax is again significant in
conveying this sense of resignation.
EXAMPLE: The three commas in the first line produce a hesitant, stilted flow when reading the
line, which shows the persona’s uncertain search for a sense of comfort and familiarity. Even
now, she cannot find the words she wants to sum up her nostalgia. The diction also shows a
growing uncertainty about how she will deal with the situation. She starts a with the definite
word "forget“ then moves to "don't recall", a much more uncertain expression, and finally
ends with "change." This self-doubt is accompanied by a tone of self-condemnation: the
sibilant "s" sound in "seeing your brother swallow a slug, feel only a skelf of shame“ slows
the pace of the sentence and makes the reader to spilt out the words in order to establish
these feelings of disgust.
EXAPLANATION: This is a clear indication that the poet was angry that her brother simply
blended into his new surroundings, copying the disgusting local habits in order to gain
anonymity. However, it is then revealed that the disgust grows more for herself as she
explains how she eventually followed suit and gave up her culture just as easily. However, it
is perhaps ironic that at this moment of absolute contempt for the loss of her former self,
the poet herself uses the Scottish dialect word “skelf” which is probably remembered from
her childhood, showing that nothing can completely obliterate one's past.
Skelf= Scottish word used to describe splinter or sliver of wood. In this context, it means only a little shame.
Diction= Word choice
Indicate what element of the poem
you are discussing in this paragraph
Introduce the language feature you
will be discussing in your example.
The sentences in light blue are
commenting on the effects of the
language feature at that point in the
The sentences in orange engage
directly with the language in the
poem and name specific language
features used to create meaning
Explain the overall purpose
of this combined use of
language at this point in the
Make an inference, personal
observation or creative
connection to a wider idea that
displays your own higher level
Overall, the poem is about emigration, both
physical and spiritual, from that which is familiar,
warm and secure to that which is unfamiliar,
foreign and hostile The deeply personal and
subjective nature of the poem Originality is its
underlying appeal. Reading the poem, it is easy
to relate to the little girl’s confusion and desire
for feeling a sense of community that comes with
being around people that are similar. The
persona’s attempt in the second stanza to remain
clinical in tone and objective when analyzing the
changes cannot be maintained. This only leads to
a tone of contempt for herself and her brother, a
sense of resignation, and finally an inability to
answer basic questions concerning identity. She
seems to realize the futility of judging the way
others establish personal identity. It is necessary
to accept change but this necessity fails to make
it any easier to bear.
(General summary of analysis. Try
to express this in different words
that your introductory paragraph.
Show some sense of development in
your level of thinking through more
developed vocabulary choices. )
(Personal response to the poem.
What does it make you think/
question/ feel and why? This is
vitally important to the
interpretation section of the
marking criteria.)
(How does the poem end? Maybe there
is a clear message or resolution? Maybe
the meaning is not immediately clear
but can certainly be inferred (If so,
how?) Maybe the ending is open ended,
has a double meaning or deliberately
indeterminate so that the reader must
choose their own viewpoint. )

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