Curriculum Vital

     GCSE English literature poetry specification

    The new GCSE English literature specification requires students to study ‘a selection of poetry since 1789’. In an effort to make the system more rigorous, students will not be permitted to take a book into the exam. This means, in essence, that students will have to memorise one poem by each of the 15 prescribed poets.

    Below, we offer lesson plans on the anthologies of leading exam boards AQA and Edexcel.

    Visit our English resources page for many more free poetry lesson plans and other useful resources, including guides to Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde and other GCSE set texts. 


    Students will study one cluster of poems taken from the AQA poetry anthology, Poems Past and Present. There is a choice of two clusters, each containing 15 poems. The poems in each cluster are thematically linked and were written between 1789 and the present day. The titles of the two clusters are:

    • Love and relationships
    • Power and conflict

    Students should study all 15 poems in their chosen cluster and be prepared to write about any of them in the examination. Click on a poem to discover our free lesson plan thereon. 

    Love and relationships

    Power and Conflict



    1. 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci', John Keats
    2. 'A Child to his Sick Grandfather', Joanna Baillie
    3. 'She Walks in Beauty', Lord Byron
    4. 'A Complaint', William Wordsworth
    5. 'Neutral Tones', Thomas Hardy
    6. 'My Last Duchess', Robert Browning
    7. 'Sonnet XLIII: How Do I Love Thee?', Elizabeth Barrett Browning
    8. '1st Date', Wendy Cope
    9. 'Valentine', Carol Ann Duffy
    10. 'One Flesh', Elizabeth Jennings
    11. 'i wanna be yours', John Cooper Clarke
    12. 'Love's Dog', Jen Hatfield
    13. 'Nettles', Vernon Scannell 
    14. 'The Manhunt', Simon Armitage
    15. 'My Father Would Not Show Us', Ingrid de Kok


    1. 'A Poison Tree', William Blake
    2. 'The Destruction of Sennacherib', Lord Byron
    3. Extract from 'The Prelude', William Wordsworth
    4. 'The Man He Killed', Thomas Hardy
    5. 'Cousin Kate', Christina Rossetti
    6. 'Exposure', Wilfred Owen
    7. 'The Charge of the Light Brigade', Alfred, Lord Tennyson
    8. 'Half-caste', John Agard
    9. 'Catrin', Gillian Clarke
    10. 'War Photographer', Carole Satyamurti 
    11. 'Belfast Confetti', Ciaran Carson 
    12. 'The Class Game', Mary Casey
    13. 'Poppies', Jane Weir
    14. 'No Problem', Benjamin Zephaniah
    15. 'What Were They Like?', Denise Levertoz

    Time and Place

    1. 'To Autumn', John Keats
    2. 'Westminster Bridge', William Wordsworth
    3. 'London', William Blake
    4. 'I started early', Emily Dickinson 
    5. 'Where the picnic was', Thomas Hardy
    6. 'Adlestrop', Edward Thomas
    7. 'Home Thoughts from Abroad', Robert Browning 
    8. 'First Flight', U.A. Fanthorpe
    9. 'Stewart Island', Fleur Adcock
    10. 'Presents from my aunts in Pakistan', Moniza Alvi 
    11. 'Hurricane Hits England', Grace Nichols 
    12. 'Nothing's Changed', Tatamkhulu Afrika
    13. 'Postcard from a Travel Snob', Sophie Hannah
    14. 'In Romney Marsh', John Davidson
    15. 'Absence', Elizabeth Jennings

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