Saturday, November 16, 2013

How to Kick IB Language A Paper One's Butt by Analyzing a Poem

As promised in the previous post on kicking IB Language A Paper One's butt, Nerdvark has gone at a poem -- in this case "I Am Tourist" by Adrian Mitchell, as seen on last year's May exam -- and peeled its layers.  Here is the poem (in fact, the actual page off the exam) after Nerdvark got through with it (Nard contributed by stamping a purple pig-head at the bottom):
Nerdvark's colour-coded annotations of "I Am Tourist" by Adrian Mitchell, for IB English Paper 1
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Nerdvark likes to colour-code his analysis.  He reads the poem several times (on Paper One you can dedicate more time to reading/analyzing if you pick the poem, because poems are shorter) and he uses a few colours to underline and write his thoughts/impressions.  For "I Am Tourist" Nerdvark picked green to analyze form, red to analyze literary tools, and blue to analyze words.  He then wrote a few notes to himself under each question.

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Form - Look at whether the poem follows a standard form, which might be a clue to analysis, such as the use of a ballad to tell a story, or free form.  Look at punctuation, which helps you understand meaning.  Look at lines and stanzas - sometimes longer lines or shorter lines emphasize the idea in those lines.  Sometimes different stanzas have different tones or different topics.  Look also at rhyme and rhythm - a rhythmic poem might be mimicking a childen's rhyme, the sound of hoofbeats, music, or heartbeat - the rhythm might be faster for an exciting poem, or slower for a romantic poem.  Also note who the narrator is, the POV, and whether the narrator is talking to someone. (Hint: the narrator is rarely the poet, and sometimes the narrator is talking to him/herself, or someone else other than the reader, such as his/her lover.)

Literary tools - if the poem has a wide range of literary tools, you might want to colour code them, too - pink for imagery including metaphor, purple for sound tools such as onomatopeoia, etc. 

Words - all the words (connotation of words, meaning of words, symbolism, and sounds of words) add up to the poem's atmosphere, mood, tone, and hidden layers of meaning.  You can say the poem has a "lexis" of ... as "I Am Tourist" has a lexis of self-centredness through repetition of the words "I" and "my".  It has a simplistic lexis through words like "cold glass", "blue", "full" and "beautiful."

Thank you, IB Organization, for providing a fun poem by The Dogfather, Adrian Mitchell.  Find out everything about this poet on his website:, which is decorated with blue dogs of peace.

Check back for "How to Kick IB Language A Paper One's Butt - Part 2: Criterion B" coming up soon on this blog!  Meanwhile, if you like my blog, please check out my website,

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoy my blog and/or find it helpful, please take a well-deserved break! Written by K.I. Borrowman

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