Academic Writing: Summarizing and Paraphrasing a Poem--Results of the In-class Exercise from 11/23


On November 23, my Academic Writing students were asked to do an in-class exercise during which they were to summarize and paraphrase--both line-by-line and prose version--a poem.

For others accessing this page: please bear in mind that this exercise was done during class in a limited amount of time.

In addition, for these students, English is a second language.

The students' summaries and paraphrases are presented in green, my notes in purple.

Group 1: (Katerina Angelkovska, AElica Atanasovska, Gorjan Kostovski, Aleksandra Tomeska)

“Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

1. In one sentence, summarize the poem.
The writer talks about a snowy dark night in the woods where he's passing through on his way to somewhere.
2. Write a line-by-line paraphrase (to help you understand the poem better).
I think I'm familiar with this place.
But his house is not here;
And he won't see me now
while I watch the snow falling.

My horse is confused
Stopping far away from a farmhouse
In the middle of the woods and a frozen lake
In the darkest evening of the year.

His horse shakes his head
Wondering why they stopped
The only sound they can hear
is the sound of the wind and the flakes

He praises the woods
but he has to go
and keep his promises
before he finds a spot to sleep.
3. Write a prose paraphrase.
Group 1 did not finish the prose version; however, the line-by-line version is good, and this was the longest poem of the five assigned. This group started their paraphrase with the following:
The writer is travelling somewhere and is passing through the woods where he stops for a moment
This is still more of a summary than a paraphrase, but had they more time, I suspect that, after completing the prose version, they would have reworked the first sentence.

Group 2: (Biljana Dijaniseva, Goran Dimitriev, Mila Dimoska, Sandra Mijalkovska, Natasha Stojanovska)

“Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favour fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

1. In one sentence, summarize the poem.
The poem is about the two possible ways in which the world will end--in fire or in ice.
2. Write a line-by-line paraphrase (to help you understand the poem better).
Some people think the world will end in fire,
others think that it will freeze over.
From the poet's experience in desire
he supports the first group.
But if the world was given a second chance,
the poet recognizes hatred as the strongest emotion
which will destroy the world with ice.
An ending that is great and sufficient.
3. Write a prose paraphrase.
Robert Frost talks about the two beliefs about the ending of the world. According to the poem, some people believe that the world will end in fire, while others believe it will end in ice. From his experiences with passion, the poet supports supports those who believe the world will burn in the end. However, if the world had to end twice, the poet recognizes hatred as the cause for the world's destruction. And so the world will freeze over and end in ice, which is an appropriate ending.


Group 3 (Frosina Angelkoska, Kosta Bojcheski, Biljana Nedelkoska, Biljana Zdravkoska):

“Yesterday is History,” by Emily Dickinson

Yesterday is History,
'Tis so far away
Yesterday is Poetry
'Tis Philosophy

Yesterday is mystery
Where it is Today
While we shrewdly speculate
Flutter both away

1. In one sentence, summarize the poem.
While dwelling on the past, we lose focus on present, and when thinking about the future, past and present fly away.
2. Write a line-by-line paraphrase (to help you understand the poem better. For this poem, this may be a bit difficult, but give it your best effort).
Yesterday is already gone,
It can never come back.
As past memories leave mark on us,
So does poetry on all humanity.

Evoking thinking about everything.
From the point of today, yesterday is a blur.
While wasting our time thinking about future,
Both yesterday and today are gone.
3. Write a prose paraphrase.
We shouldn't pay attention to the past because we can't change it. What's done is done. The author compares yesterday to poetry and philosophy because they are both contemplative processes, leaving deep trails on our minds. The mysterious face of yesterday is unknown because it is gone for good, and concentrating on the future makes both past and present unexisting.

Group 4 (Aleksandar Dimitriev, Ivana Jovevska, Burkurie Kajoli, Biljana Mojsoska, Katerina Nikolovska, Maja Ristovska):

“Gypsy,” by Carl Sandburg

I asked a gypsy pal
To imitate an old image
And speak old wisdom.
She drew in her chin,
Made her neck and head
The top piece of a Nile obelisk
and said:
Snatch off the gag from thy mouth, child,
And be free to keep silence.
Tell no man anything for no man listens,
Yet hold thy lips ready to speak.
1. In one sentence, summarize the poem.
The poem is about the men's desire for gypsy wisdom.
2. Write a line-by-line paraphrase.
He asks a gypsy friend
to depict something ancient
and utter something wise
she made a face
and imitated
the head of a Nile Obelisk
and told him
remove the cloth from your mouth boy
enjoy silence
and don't bother others 'cos they don't pay attention
but be prepared to communicate.
3. Write a prose paraphrase.
The poet asks his female gypsy friend to depict something ancient. To look more convincing, she imitates a Nile Obelisk and tells him to remove the piece of cloth from his mouth. He should be ready to speak, but, however, keep silent because no one pays attention.

Group 5 (Filip Aslimovski, Tihomir Davchev, Nikola Gjelimcheski, Vanja Tripunoska):

“An Epitaph,” by Walter de la Mare

Here lies a most beautiful lady,
Light of step and heart was she:
I think she was the most beautiful lady
That ever was in the West Country.
But beauty vanishes; beauty passes;
However rare, rare it be;
And when I crumble who shall remember
This lady of the West Country?
1. In one sentence, summarize the poem.
Beauty is transient.
2. Write a line-by-line paraphrase (to help you understand the poem better).
The poet starts by introducing a most beautiful lady who was light of step and heart and according to the poet's opinion the most beautiful lady ever seen in the West country.

In the second quatrain, he suggests that even the exceptional beauty fades with the years and he poses the question of who will remember this lady of exquisite beauty when he passes away.

NOTE: This is really a prose paraphrase of the poem with a bit of literary analysis.
3. Write a prose paraphrase.
The poem operates with the themes of beauty and transience. The first quatrain is very romantic-like in the depiction of a lady with exquisite beauty. Conversely, in the second quatrain he suggests the transience of beauty, a theme in many other poems. Finally, he ends the poem with a rhetorical question, revealing that what remains of a human life in only a rhyming couplet.

NOTE: this is really a literary analysis of the poem, which suggests that this class exercise might have been too elementary for this group and, perhaps, the entire class.


Links to Various Readings, Notes, Exercises, Handouts, Prompts, etc.

Search This Site

My Cloud

Academic Writing (40) American Literature (37) African-American Literature (36) LIT160 Introduction to Literature (33) Syllabus (31) Creative Writing (30) Spring 2008 (30) Prompts (14) Paraphrasing (11) Summarizing and Paraphrasing (11) 19th Century American Literature (10) The Piano Lesson (8) 20th Century American Literature (7) Academic Writing Assignments (7) Persuasive Essay (7) Argumentative Essay (6) August Wilson (5) Character Studies (5) Creative Non-fiction (5) Group Exercise (5) Summary (5) drama (5) Letters (4) Creative Writing--Peer Review (3) Critiquing (3) Outline or Summary (3) Summarizing (3) Worksheets (3) 19th Century Poetry (2) APA Reference List (2) APA documentation (2) APA in-text citations (2) APA internal citations (2) Academic Writing In-class Exercise Notes (2) Academic Writing Syllabus (2) American Literature Syllabus (2) Authority Creditibilty Objectivity Currency Reputation Coverage Relevance (2) Avery (2) Body Paragraphs (2) Brainstorming (2) Characterization (2) Creative Writing Syllabus (2) Creative Writing Terminology (2) Flash Fiction (2) Folksong (2) Langston Hughes (2) Lymon (2) Negro Spirituals (2) Notes (2) President Barack Obama (2) Story Structure (2) Topic selection (2) Topic sentences (2) Trifles (2) Website Evaluation (2) Writing Assignment (2) counterarguments (2) oral tradition (2) 19th Century English Literature (1) 20th Century Poetry (1) A Letter to His Master (1) Abverbs (1) Academic Desk (1) Academic Writing Syllabus Fall 2009 (1) Academic Writing Syllabus Spring 2010 (1) Academic Writing Tasks (1) (1) Alice Walker (1) American Literature Syllabus Fall 2009 (1) American Literature Syllabus Fall 2010 (1) Announcements (1) Assignments (1) Atlanta Compromise (1) Barack Obama (1) Berniece (1) Blues (1) Booker T. Washington (1) Books on Reserve (1) Boy Willie (1) Children's Literature (1) Christmas (1) Code song (1) Comparison and Contrast (1) Conclusion (1) Contact Information (1) Controversial Literature (1) Creative Writing Syllabus Fall 2009 (1) Creative Writing Syllabus Spring 2010 (1) Creative Writing--Self Review (1) Determining Story Structure (1) Dialect (1) Dialogue (1) Dialogue Exercise (1) Dialogue Tags (1) Doaker (1) Elements of Non-fiction (1) Epilogues (1) Essay Structures (1) Explicating a Poem (1) F.A.N.B.O.Y.S. (1) FANBOYS (1) Fiction (1) Five-Paragraph Paper (1) Folk Tales (1) Formal Letter Format (1) Formal Letter Templates (1) Found Poem (1) Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1) Frederick Douglass (1) Full Text of Nat Turner's Confession (1) Genesis (1) Grace (1) Great Speeches (1) Guide Questions (1) Helen Bannerman (1) Henry Highland Garnet (1) Historical Outline (1) How to Summarize and Paraphrase (1) Introduction (1) Jazz (1) Job Application Letter (1) Kate Chopin (1) Links (1) Little Black Sambo (1) Malcolm X (1) Maretha (1) Martin Luther King Jr. (1) Mary Robison (1) Merged Texts (1) My Bondage and My Freedom (1) Nat Turner (1) Nat Turner's Confession (1) New Christmas (1) New Name (1) New Year (1) Nymph Time (1) Old Christmas (1) Peer Review (1) Plagiarism (1) Poem (1) Point-of-View (1) Private vs Public Writing (1) Purple Prose (1) Questions (1) Questions for Analysis (1) Relevance of Sources (1) Reporting Verbs (1) Response Papers (1) Rough Drafts (1) Rules of Formal Letter Writing--British and American (1) Section I.A (1) Section I.B (1) Section I.C (1) Section I.D (1) Section I.E (1) Section II (1) Section II.A (1) Section II.B (1) Section II.C (1) Section II.D (1) Section II.E (1) Section II.F (1) Section II.G (1) Section II.H (1) Section II.I (1) Section II.J (1) Section II.K (1) Section II.L (1) Section II.M (1) Section II.N (1) Section II.O (1) Section II.P (1) Section III (1) Section III.A (1) Section III.B (1) Section III.C (1) Section III.D (1) Section III.E (1) Section III.F (1) Section IV (1) Self Review (1) Sequels (1) Short story (1) Six Paragraph Paper (1) Song (1) Sorrow Songs (1) Story Analysis (1) Summarizing and Paraphrasing Poems (1) Table of Links (1) The Bible (1) The Color Purple (1) The Killer Husband--Five Versions (1) The Owl at Purdue (1) The Research Challenge (1) The Weary Blues (1) Time Nymph (1) Transitions (1) Types of Characters (1) Types of Plagiarism (1) Types of Webpages (1) W. E. B. Du Bois (1) Walt Whitman (1) Wining Boy (1) Writing Assignments (1) Writing for Different Rhetorical Occasions (1) Yours (1) conjuration (1) coodinating conjunctions (1) email spam (1) hoodoo (1) writing journals (1)