Revision tips: ten ways to revise a poetry collection

Reading Time: 6 minutes At AS-level, comparison often needs you to think about the whole collection, which can feel a bit overwhelming when you’ve got fifteen poems and a closed-book exam facing you!

1. Read sample answers
The reality is: you’ll be taking an exam. That exam has a mark-scheme, and you need to know what the balance of the question is focused on. Is it the themes and ideas of the poems? Is it analysis of form, language and structure? Is it comparison across the whole collection? Is it exploring literary and social context? Reading sample answers will show you what that feels like. As you read, think about how the balance works. Does it use a lot of literary terminology? How much does it explore each point? How many other poems or ideas does it refer to? The answer can’t be boiled down to “refer to three other poems”, but you can get a sense of proportion across an answer.

2. Mind-map ideas across the poems
Throw everything you know down on paper! A great one if you’ve got access to an empty classroom and a board pen, or get some cheap wall lining paper from B&Q for a fiver!

Christina Rossetti – AS and A Level analysis revision guide

Reading Time: 1 minute I am so excited about this! I LOVE writing analysis – as you can probably tell from the rest of my blog, I’m a total English geek and proud of it! So I’ve been working on this a while now, and have decided to put it all together. It’s absolutely detailed notes on every poem in the OCR selection, with some additional goodies like how to use context well and how to meet the assessment objectives. Check out the sample pages here The first fifteen to use the code RossettiRocks will get a 25% discount too! …

Christina Rossetti’s Soeur Louise de la Misericord – Analysis

Reading Time: 7 minutes If you find this helpful check out my full Rossetti revision guide Soeur Louise: does desire destroy her, or does ageing destroy her desire? This is quite a tricky poem from Rossetti – partly, because she’s chosen a real person for her speaker, and partly The Duchess de Valliere – Soeur Louisebecause it’s not always clear whether or not desire is a terrible thing. It’s easy to think it is at first – “vanity of vanities”, burning life and love, leaving the garden a “barren mire” – ouch! But there’s also something there about not being able to feel desire …

GCSE Mister Pip – what is context and how is it useful?

Reading Time: 4 minutes One of the biggest problems with this novel at GCSE is often exploring the context of it. When you’re studying it for AQA’s Literature exam, it can seem like a difficult bit of the mark-scheme to hit. Mister Pip is an option on the same list as Of Mice and Men, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Both those books have a lot of stuff online about them, but the benefit of doing Mister Pip is that it is less common – which means there’s more opportunity to interest an examiner with something new. Context is the social, cultural, and historical …

From The Antique by Christina Rossetti: complete analysis

Reading Time: 10 minutes If you find this helpful check out my full Rossetti revision guide Rossetti’s poem explores the difficulties of women in the Victorian era, struggling to find a place where they are valued for themselves and what they can offer in a world where – sometimes – men seem to have all the power. Bleakly she asks the question: would anyone notice if I were gone? It’s a heartbreaking lyric poem which speaks to the misery that seems to have haunted Rossetti for a good part of her life.  It’s a weary life, it is, she said:  Doubly blank in a …

Rossetti’s Winter: My Secret (Poetry analysis)

Reading Time: 1 minute Winter: My Secret is part of the Rossetti collection studied for A-Level with OCR, so I taught it earlier this week. It’s a gorgeous poem that really rewards further detailed reading. On a first read through, it’s fairly straightforward – a woman who has a secret but refuses to tell it. But looking more closely, the playful, teasing tone starts to suggest that there is something more – what could the secret be? Is there a secret at all? Although there’s plenty of options for interpretation, tome it speaks of a woman trying to hold onto something of her mystery …