“A Small Needful Fact” by Ross Gay (he/him) “Allowables” by Nikki Giovanni (she/her) “not an elegy for Mike Brown” by Danez Smith (they/them) “a brief meditation on breath” by Yesenia Montilla (she/he

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“A Small Needful Fact” by Ross Gay (he/him)

“Allowables” by Nikki Giovanni (she/her)

“not an elegy for Mike Brown” by Danez Smith (they/them)

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“a brief meditation on breath” by Yesenia Montilla (she/her)

You will provide your own interpretation of the poem. This means that the first thing you need to do is read each of the short poems and select one to do your paper on. Consult this handout on literary thesis statements as a guide.

In an exercise in using third person, you must provide your interpretation without using any first person (“I,” “me,” “my,” “we,” “us,” “our,” “ours,” etc.) or second person (“you,” “your,” “you’re,” “yours”). You may only use first or second person if it is in a quote from the text of the poem. This means that you will write entirely in third person point of view with an objective tone/stance.

One way to avoid using first person or second person is to focus on effects and to be specific about who/what causes those effects and who experiences those effects. A few examples:

Readers can interpret this quote to imply/suggest/demonstrate XYZ.

The author’s text allows readers to connect X with Y.

Giovanni’s use of the term “X” evokes the concept of Y.

The poem argues that Americans/parents/children/Texans tend to do XYZ. (This specificity helps you avoid “us” and “we,” and increases clarity.)

I want you to give meaning to the poem by providing your own interpretation of it. For this reason, I am only requiring you to cite one source: the poem itself. Please consult your textbook, Purdue OWL, and/or the Eastfield Writing Center live tutoring for help with MLA citation.

Sections of NFG that pertain to this assignment:

Chapter 11 (“Analyzing Texts”)

Chapter 17 (“Literary Analyses”)

Pages 413 and 347-349 (on thesis statements)

You must have a clear and consistent focus that will allow your readers to gain a rich understanding of what you are trying to say. Use your thesis statement as a guide to write your paper, and make sure that all paragraphs stay “on topic” with your thesis. Use this handout for Basic Essay and Paragraph Format.

A successful essay will:

“Hook” the intended audience with an interesting introduction that provides necessary background information.

Include a clear thesis statement as the last sentence of the introduction.

Be clear and consistent with purpose, audience, genre, and tone.

Deploy vivid vocabulary that is appropriate, professional, and used correctly.

Use correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, etc.

Develop an unambiguous conclusion that reinforces your thesis, but does not simply recap the paper.

Give relevant details that help develop the claim.

Carefully avoid repetition and wordiness (be concise).

Minimum requirements:

Minimum of 800 words (use Microsoft Word’s word count tool to check this). You cannot pass unless you meet the minimum word count.

Conforms to MLA format in all particulars, including (but not limited to):

Minimum of one cited source — the poem itself.

Embed all direct quotations (this means that all quotes need lead-ins). See the handout on “How To Embed Sources In Your Paper”:

Use formal language and tone throughout the essay.

No first person

No contractions. “isn’t” —> “is not”; “doesn’t” —> “does not”

Second person – NEVER. (Unless in a quote.) Automatic 50 if used even once. Use CTRL+F to find them!

Passive voice:

Multi-paragraph format (introduction with thesis statement, body paragraphs, conclusion).

Minimum of one, preferably two, examples from the poem in every body paragraph. This minimum will force you to accomplish two things: 1) stick with the evidence and avoid mere opinion, and 2) develop your body paragraphs sufficiently. You may incorporate citations into your intro and conclusion as well, but this is not required.

No plagiarism. Automatic 0 if your essay contains any instances of plagiarism.

Essays should answer questions, not ask them. No questions. You may have one in your paper at most–but only if it’s in the introduction and immediately answered in the following sentence. It’s best not to have any at all. Do not use a question as a way to open your essay — that’s more of a high school writing tactic.

All body paragraphs must have topic sentences.

Include a Works Cited page for sources (in proper format).

Things I’m looking for while grading:


Purpose: Your essay provides a clearly defined purpose.

Introduction: Your introduction captures the attention of your readers and your main points (thesis statement) are clearly articulated.


Scope: Key ideas are focused throughout the paper and descriptive examples of ideas are included.

Depth: Complete and relevant development of ideas supported by specific examples.


Focus: Organized around a focus stated in a thesis statement. Your paper is written in a logical order.

Relationship: The relationship of ideas is clear; transitional sentences are used to guide the reader.

Structure: All paragraphs support your main idea; paragraphs are structured around controlling ideas.


Outside sources must be cited using MLA style in-text citations AND listed on a Works Cited page, as the last page of the paper.

Conventions/Correctness: Your paper reflects careful proofreading (checking for errors). Grammarly is your friend!

Working Draft Rubric

For more information about the Working Draft, please look at the “What Is a Working Draft?” handout.

100: Working draft is complete (has all parts), with MLA, intro, body, conclusion, and Works Cited page and shows signs of having been proofread before the deadline.

90ish: Working draft is complete but does not show signs of proofreading or still contains numerous “automatic 50” issues. Or, the working draft deviates largely from MLA.

80ish: Working draft is missing Works Cited but is otherwise complete.

70ish: Draft is a rough draft, not a working draft, or it is missing something more than WC page.

50ish: Draft exists; is halfway complete. Or, draft contains accidental plagiarism.


When writing your assignment, we aim to help you get an A, not just beat the deadline.

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