How can we help?

We’re moving our guides on 9th March 2019. See a preview of their new home at
Home > Revision Assistant > Prompt Library > Expansion Pack Library > Defining Poetry

Defining Poetry

Table of contents
No headers

Grades 11-12 | Argumentative | Source-Based

Source Lexile®: NP

Learning Standards




Prompt: Read the following quotes that attempt to define poetry, constructed by poets Emily Dickinson and Ntozake Shange.

“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know. Is there any other way?”  

- Emily Dickinson

“quite simply a poem shd fill you up with something/ cd make you swoon, stop you in yr tracks, change yr mind, or make it up, a poem shd happen to you like cold water or a kiss.”

- Ntozake Shange


Which perception of poetry best defines poetry’s impact on readers? Write an argument in which you make a claim about whether Dickinson or Shange best captures the impact that poetry can and/or should have on readers. Use evidence from the following to support your argument:

  • the included quotes

  • your own experiences as a reader

  • words, phrases, or lines from other poems that exemplify the intended impact.




from The Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson: By Her Niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi, 1924


“Self-Interview” quoted by Alicia Ostriker in “American Poetry, Now Shaped by Women,” New York Times Book Review (March 9, 1986)








Last modified


This page has no custom tags.


(not set)