Unseen Poetry
In your exam, you have approximately 45 minutes to write
a response to a poem that you have never seen before.
Using the following technique is a good way to do well: SLOTO
Subject Language Organisation Themes Opinion
SLOTO: Subject
Having read through the poem twice, decide
what you think is actually happening in the
poem. For example, perhaps it is a poem that is
describing the horrible conditions a soldier
faced in the trenches in WW1.
SLOTO: Language
Next, pick out any interesting/significant pieces of
language that have been chosen by the poet and explain
their effect.
Perhaps this could be an individual word. For example:
‘And towards our distant rest began to trudge.’
Why choose the verb ‘trudge’? Why not ‘run’ or ‘walk’?
‘Trudge’ gives the impression that they’re tired; that
moving is laboured and difficult.
SLOTO: Language
You should also look out for whole phrases and specific
poetic devices that have been used. For example,
similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia:
‘Knock-kneed, coughing like hags’.
Why use this particular simile (comparison with like or
as)? It gives the impression that war has aged young
soldiers and makes them seem ill.
SLOTO: Organisation
How has the poem been structured? You could
comment on the length of lines, the number of stanzas,
the number of lines per stanza. Is a rhyme scheme
Can you give any explanation for why the poet has
structured it in the way that they have?
SLOTO: Theme
What overall messages or ideas are the poet trying to
convey/raise through their poem?
Maybe the subject of the poem is soldiers fighting in
some trenches, so the themes could include:
• War
• Death
• Suffering
SLOTO: Opinion
What is the poet’s opinion on the subject of the poem?
For example, are they pro or anti war? Are they trying
to suggest we should learn our lessons from past wars
to avoid any more in the future? Are they critical of the
government for going to war?
This does not mean, what is your opinion of the poem.