You may choose any poem(s) from the reading list. If you get "stuck," read your chosen poem(s) again with a pen in hand so you can make notes. Do not hesitate to share your initial ideas with your classmates and the instructor.
As you begin to plan your essay, first, consider its contexts. For example, if you are writing about Langston Hughes's poem "The Negro Speaks of Rivers," you might mention that Hughes, a famed black poet from the Harlem Renaissance, wrote this poem when he was only 19 years old. Many consider this piece to be a praise poem honoring African American history because in it Hughes traces his ancestors' experiences back to Africa. Briefly introduce the poet and poem and then clarify your thesis (main claim). For instance, for the Hughes poem, a possible thesis is: "Hughes's poem uses the image of rivers to symbolize the black man's journey across time and continents." Then, dig in, excerpting and analyzing passages to support your ideas.