Annotation Assignment


Using the exhaustively annotated edition of Hart Crane’s The Bridge as a model, each student will perform a similar annotation of a poem from his or her chosen contemporary collection. In addition to annotating the poem, students will submit a 500-word reflective piece indicating why the particular poem was a good candidate for such annotative attention, and what new insights about the poem or the poet’s work more generally were generated by the assignment.

Both the annotation and reflection are due in class in hard copy and via email in electronic copy on Wednesday, October 28th. When submitting your electronic copy, please send it as one document named in the following format: “last name_first name_annotation assignment”.


This is the first part of the multi-stage capstone project on your chosen contemporary poetry collection, which includes the Close Reading Assignment as well as the Argumentative Essay. Although some of you will have had a change to think carefully about your a poem from your respective volumes in the presentation, this assignment is a chance to unpack a poem that interests you in more careful detail. The information and ideas you unearth in the Annotation will provide the basis for the more formal unpacking of your chosen poem that you will write in the Close Reading.

Completing the Assignment

The assignment has three basic steps: selecting a poem from your collection that you think merits annotation and with which you’d like to spend some more time; annotating the poem; and completing a 500-word reflection describing your process of selecting the poem and annotating it, as well as what insights into the text and the book as a whole came to light in completing the assignment.

Selecting a Poem: You may select any poem from your chosen collection, including the poem you presented on should you have done so already. In choosing a poem, be sure to pick one that is both long enough and dense enough to merit close attention. In other words, choose a poem that will give you plenty of work to do in the assignment, and one that can hold your attention and interest.

The Annotation: I expect you to provide at least 10 annotations. Up to five of these may be simple glosses defining or translating difficult words, phrases, and references. The rest, however, must be substantive, narrative footnotes that provide one or more of the following: (a) crucial information and background on the poem; (b) an interpretation of a difficult moment, phrase or passage; and/or (c) an analytic or argumentative claim about the poem itself and/or how it relates to the collection as a whole. Use the annotated edition of The Bridge as a model here. Do not be afraid to get detailed—the idea is to give yourself plenty of resources for future work. Keep Lawrence Kramer’s useful question in mind: “What do I have to know to make sense of this text?”

Reflection: In your 500-word reflection, I want you to walk me through your process of completing the assignment, indicating what parts were difficult, what parts came more easily, and what you learned from annotating the poem. I’m particularly interested to read about your process of selecting a poem—including what makes this poem a good candidate for annotation and why—as well as a description of the work that went into the individual annotations themselves. As always, try to be as detailed as possible in your reflection, indicating specific elements from your completed assignment as examples of what you mean. That is, for every general claim you make—for example, “The allusions were tricky to track down”—provide some examples from your assignment. A successful reflection will balance general responses to the assignment with concrete details that are illuminating and persuasive to the reader.

A note on sources: You are free to explore secondary sources to fill in background information on your poem. If you do so, please attach a works cited page to your annotated poem formatted in MLA style. The Purdue Owl is a great resource for all things MLA, so do check it out first if you have any questions regarding the works cited page.


I will evaluate the annotation based on the following criteria:

  • To what extent did the student make a thoughtful and effective choice in selecting their poem to annotate?
  • Is the assignment complete as per the specifications given? That is, are there at least 10 annotations, at least 5 of which are substantive footnotes providing detailed information, interpretation, and/or analysis?
  • Does the annotation provide compelling and useful resources for future work? Are the narrative footnotes substantive, illuminating, and convincing?
  • Is the student able to write clearly and specifically about the choices they made in preparing their annotation in the reflection? Are the processes of selecting and annotating the poem described in detail? Does the reflection offer some promising insights or ideas about the poem and collection that emerged from the process of completing the assignment?

Note that the translation assignment is worth 15% of your overall grade. A full grade breakdown can be found on the Assignments page.