Engaging with the text

Enjoy the text

  • If studying the poems becomes a chore, you will gain little from them
  • Although the imagery may seem unfamiliar – even difficult – at first, most people find they have less difficulty following the poetry if they hear it read out loud
  • Blake's poetry has given rise to many interpretations and is full of ideas and challenges – allow yourself to think!

Get to know the text

There is no substitute for reading the text – do so four or five times even!

  • Familiarising yourself with Blake's imagery, ideas and language takes time but is essential if you are to have your own well-informed response to it
  • Critics and study-guides may suggest approaches
  • Ultimately, it is your opinion which counts, based on your own knowledge and understanding.

Know the complete text

Examiners often report that students seem to know a few poems well but not the others. Study in class may tend to focus on the first few poems in the book you are using, discussing ideas, language and imagery to the reader, and then to become less detailed as the class grows more familiar with these concepts. So make sure you are familiar with a wide variety, even with the more difficult ones. For example, you should know at least one poem for each of the Themes mentioned in this guide. Certain poems cover two or three themes, so they are often good ones to be familiar with. But remember – examiners get very tired of reading commentaries on exactly the same few poems from each candidate.

Listen to the text

The language the poets use is carefully chosen and structured. You need to hear it.

  • Listening to a professional tape-recording of the text will help
  • An even better method is to read it out loud yourself, or with a group of friends
  • Making a tape-recording of yourselves gives you a recording for revision purposes.

Analyse the text

In order to ensure that you are fully aware of the poet's techniques and use of language:

  • Be prepared to work through analysing each poem
  • The analysis given in this guide cannot cover everything. Strike out on your own and see what else you can discover in each section: summary, theme, language, imagery, structure
  • Work through the questions asked. Hopefully, you have discussion and question times in class and you can air some of your problems and discoveries.
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