So last year we focused our revision based on themes as there were only six or seven main ideas running through Songs of Ourselves: Part 1 and the comparison questions tended to be based around these. It’s a little bit different at A2 when studying any of the available poetry selections and first of all I’ll explain why. Once you’ve read this have a look at the way I would plan my revision by clicking here (link will be inserted soon).
Both AS and A2 comparison questions last one hour and both give you the freedom to pick pretty much any poem you like (sometimes they forbid you using the poem in the extract question; you may find it impossible to focus certain questions onto certain poems – i.e. a question asking you about gender might be difficult to answer in relation to ‘To Lalla’).
However, last year we were looking at a comparison between two poems, but for A2 CIE have upped it to three. You can look at this in two ways: (1) Oh bugger, I need to know more poems!; or, as I would sell it (2) Great, I only need to write about each poem for twenty minutes.
The truth is that you probably feel a bit between these two. It is tricky to contain your thousands of ideas about each poem to just twenty minutes. Another issue is the slightly altered or developed mark scheme that now assesses your ability to discuss other critical opinions and ideas in relation to your text.
You can check out how I’d approach this and some summarised opinions from a range of people organised thematically if you click here.
The other major change is the wording of the questions. Bear in mind this is the first year of Rossetti’s Selected Poems appearing at A2, but I have based my ideas on the syllabus outline and also the way questions have been formulated on past papers looking at other poetry collections.
Comparison questions tend to follow the quote and then a general invitation to discuss three poems. However, from what I can see these quotations that are used as the spark for your discussion seems to be often quite abstract from any of the major themes in your selection, but might be something like ‘Rossetti uses powerful imagery to convey intense emotions’ or ‘Rossetti use of biblical allusion is at the heart of her poetry’, which would then be suffixed with something like ‘By referring closely to three poems, consider some of the uses and effects of Rossetti’s choice of language and poetic expression.’
At first glance this may seem very alarming as the quotations seem awfully specific. However, they are actually pretty general questions that give you quite a lot of control, if you can twist them effectively. In addition, if a quotation seems unnecessarily focus on one aspect of her poetry or a particular techniques (as the ‘intense imagery’ one above) then be sure to check the actual task as this will probably still be pretty generally focused on how Rossetti creates meaning with language, techniques, tone and structure. As long as you make some sort of nodding reference every now and again to imagery, you’d find yourself able to explore pretty much any poem you want.
Let me give you an example: