Uploaded by Isabel Moon


Isabel Moon
Professor Faigen
Intro to College Writing
In sophomore year, one of our assignments was to pick a poem out of a collection of
“greats” and write an essay that analyzed it and eventually distilled it into its true message.
Though I had read through and analyzed many poems before, it had all been in a class setting
where our instructor would give us the message and we just had to reword it to sound original.
This assignment forced me to think in the way an English teacher would while still trying to find
my own message in Sylvia Plath’s words from her poem “The Night Dances”.
Before starting the essay, I went through the poem first just by reading, then annotating,
then annotating again. I wrote down every thought I had about the work, picking apart imagery
and how it made me feel. Sylvia Plath’s work spoke to me in a way nothing had before, maybe
because I had my own interpretation of it without the influence of any other academic shoving
what they thought her message was down my throat. But when it came time to take my scattered
notes from the paper to the Google doc, I realized that all my notes were utterly useless. Every
one of my annotations were about how the poem spoke to me, not how it contributed to the
academic thought surrounding creative writing. So, I scrapped my notes, printed a clean piece of
paper with the poem on it, and got to work, but I couldn’t seem to shake my original
understanding of the poem. I had focused too much on what I believed the poem to mean instead
of what Sylvia Plath intended for the poem to mean. In the end, I realized I cared about getting a
good grade and not writing about what I thought deserved to be said more than I cared about
staying true to my interpretation of Plath’s work.
I did well on my essay, so from then on, I only wrote about things that had been said
before instead of my own original thoughts. Everything I needed to argue for an essay has been
said before, I just rearticulated and added commentary that only supplemented widely accepted
thoughts about literature or history. My original thoughts have always had to take the back
burner to more traditional or established viewpoints, and this essay was no exception, even
though I had no prior impressions of the work.