These essay questions are all based on the Cambridge IGCSE Literature questions that you can find in specimen papers and past papers Songs of Ourselves, Volume 1, Part 4.

I have adapted the wording to suit a range of themes and focal points. I’d recommend planning as many of them as you can so that you get a lot of practise organising your thoughts. Aim to write at least 2-3 full essays before your exams, not including mock exams that are set in schools. If possible, get feedback on your essays too so that you know where you’re doing well and areas that can be improved.

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CAIE IGCSE Poetry, Songs of Ourselves, Volume 2, Part 4

CAIE IGCSE Poetry, Songs of Ourselves, Volume 1, Part 4

CIE IGCSE Poetry Essay Questions 2023-2025, Part 1

Essay Questions:

  1. What do you think is the speaker’s attitude towards life in the poem ‘A Consumer’s Report’? Support your answers with evidence from the poem. 
  2. ‘The modern world is shallow and disappointing.’ To what extent do you agree, in reference to the viewpoint presented in the poem ‘A Consumer’s Report’? 
  3. In what ways does Porter comment on capitalism in ‘A Consumer’s Report’? 
  4. Critically discuss the theme of religion as brought out in Stevie Smith’s poem, ‘Away, Melancholy’.
  5. ‘The speaker has achieved nothing by the end of the poem.’ Discuss to what extent you agree with this statement, in reference to ‘Away, Melancholy’. 
  6. Examine the way in which Smith portrays the relationship between humans, nature, and God in the poem ‘Away, Melancholy’. 
  7. Regarding the poem ‘from Long Distance II’ by Tony Harrison, do you think there is, or there should be, a specific way through which people should mourn beloved dead ones? Use evidence from the poem in your answer. 
  8. How does the speaker present his own attitudes to death in ‘from Long Distance II’? 
  9. To what extent does the poem’s conclusion contribute to its wider themes? Use evidence from the whole poem in your answer, exploring the presentation of its themes before and after the final stanza. 
  10. How does the speaker express his state of grief in ‘Funeral Blues’? 
  11. In what ways does the sadness in the poem serve as an expression of love and appreciation for the deceased in the poem ‘Funeral Blues’? 
  12. How does the writer explore the themes of pessimism and acceptance in his poem ‘He Never Expected Much’? 
  13. In what ways does Lowell powerfully portray the speaker’s anxieties in the poem ‘Night Sweat’? 
  14. What are the main challenges facing older adults in society, especially those with no close friends or relatives to help them? Use ‘Night Sweats’ by Robert Lowell as your point of reference. 
  15. To what extent does the poet present a positive portrayal of relationships in the poem ‘Night Sweat’? 
  16. ‘Turner is able to convey his message through heavy reliance on metaphors.’ To what extent do you agree with this statement? Use the poem ‘On Finding a Small Fly Crushed in a Book’ as your point of reference. 
  17. Discuss the theme of life and death as brought out in, ‘On Finding a Small Fly Crushed in a Book’, by Charles Tennyson Turner. 
  18. Examine the ways in which political power is presented in ‘Ozymandias’ and at least one other poem from the collection. 
  19. Compare what ways in which the poet presents attitudes to death in ‘Ozymandias’ and at least one other poem from the collection. 
  20. Discuss the presentation of leadership in ‘Ozymandias’ and at least one other poem from the collection. 
  21. Assume that Thomas referred to the war when writing the poem ‘Rain’. What do you think the broken reeds represent? 
  22. Why do you think the speaker thinks about the dead as being blessed when the rain rains upon them in the poem ‘Rain’? 
  23. Imagine that the poem ‘Rain’ was a poem which the speaker sent to you directly by post. Write a response which captures your own emotions and feelings about it. It could be in a form of a letter, a poem, a piece of prose, or a collage. Choose what works best for you. 
  24. Compare Edward Thomas’ vision about death in ‘Rain’ with Dylan Thomas’ vision in ‘Do Not Go Gentle in That Good Night’. 
  25. Explore the connection between water and death in Edward Thomas’ ‘Rain’. 
  26. To what extent does the speaker show love for others in the poem ‘Rain’? 
  27. Examine the way in which Thomas demonstrates the complexities of the human condition in the poem ‘Rain’. 
  28. How does the poem ‘Rain’ explore the themes of psychology and the mind? 
  29. Discuss Wright’s attitudes to memory and the past, as evidenced in the poem ‘Request to a Year’. 
  30. Discuss the role of parenting and the parent/guardian/children relationship as portrayed in the poem ‘Request to a Year’.
  31. To what extent do you think that the subject of the poem ‘Request to a Year’ (the speaker’s great-great-grandmother) was a good role model for her children? 
  32. How does the poem ‘Rain’ explore deeper tension about history and colonialism, via the contrast between Wright’s Australian heritage and the European setting of the poem? (Advanced) 
  33. How does the poet explore the impact of city planning and the idea of a declining society in the poem ‘The City Planners’? 
  34. How far do you think the poem criticises urbanisation in the poem ‘The City Planners’? 
  35. In what ways does Gunn explore the theme of suffering in ‘The Man with Night Sweats’? 
  36. To what extent do we feel sympathy for the speaker in the poem ‘The Man with Night Sweats’? 
  37. In what ways does ‘The Planners’ reflect concerns about modernism and development? 
  38. Based on the poem ‘The Planners’ by Boey Kim Cheng, explain the tension between progress and history. 
  39. ‘The speaker in ‘The Planners’ feels nothing for his city’’. To what extent do you agree? 
  40. Discuss the contradictory views the speaker echoes in regard to human nature in the poem ‘The Spirit is too Blunt an Instrument’. 
  41. Write an essay describing the speaker’s attitude towards fellow human beings in the poem ‘The Spirit is too Blunt an Instrument’. 
  42. In the poem ‘The Telephone Call,’ how does Fleur Adcock’s writing make the poem both amusing and serious at the same time? 
  43. What is the main theme in the poem ‘The Telephone Call’? Is this a common situation in our modern society? 
  44. Write a critical evolution of ‘The Telephone Call’ in which you show how effectively the poetic techniques have helped you to appreciate the central concern of the poem.