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How to analyze poetry

How to analyze poetry

William Shakespeare is one of the most influential poets in literature.

Ten Most Famous Poets

  1. William Shakespeare
  2. Emily Dickinson
  3. Shel Silverstein
  4. Christopher Marlowe
  5. Edgar Allen Poe
  6. William Blake
  7. Robert Frost
  8. William Wordsworth
  9. Langston Hughes
  10. Walt Whitman

It may seem like doing analysis of poetry is easier than, say, analyzing books, but, don't be fooled by its size. Poetry, for most people, is one of the most difficult types of literature out there to analyze properly. Although it is usually considerably shorter than books out there, poetry can carry a lot within just a line or two, so understanding what it takes to do a proper analysis of poetry is worth the time it takes to really get it down.

One of the most essential things to remember is that doing literary analysis of poetry means that you are going to be reading that poem many times. The best way to get started on analysis of poetry is to read the poem once to yourself silently. In this first reading, do not immediately look for different literary devices or sound elements. All you really want to do it is get a basic understanding of what the poem is about. This can be the easiest step in literary analysis. Basically, you are starting broad and then, as you go through each reading of the poem, you are taking it apart bit by bit.

The second reading is most effective when it is done out loud. When you read out loud, you are able to catch those poetic sound devices that you may have missed when reading to yourself. Analysis of poetry is best when readings are done aloud so, from the second reading to the very last reading, you should do it out loud. This is not completely necessary, but, it makes for a better literary analysis of the poem.

When I do analysis of poetry, I use this same method, reading first to myself and then aloud. The first reading, I always focus on just what the poem is about and summarize what it is about to myself. Afterwards, I like to go through it stanza by stanza to work at my analysis. Literary analysis of poetry has always been my downfall when studying literature so it has always been something that takes me a lot of time and effort to do properly. The more practice, the easier it becomes and the less time it will take to catch all of those devices and other literary devices in the poem(s) that are essential to good analysis of poetry.

How to analyze poetry

An expert is someone who has mastered their craft through a process of study and practice. Poets are no different. It takes years to become an expert poet.

An important part of studying poetry is analysis. Examining the form, content, and syntax of a poem helps us develop a better understanding and deeper appreciation — not just for a single work of poetry but for poetry in general.

There are plenty of means and reasons for analyzing poetry: we can isolate and examine various elements of the poem, and we can figure out how the poem achieves its effects. Through poetry analysis our comprehension increases; we may gain appreciation for a poem; and ultimately we gain deeper insight into poetry as an art form and a tool for self-expression. We learn what works and what doesn’t, and why. Poetry analysis helps us become better poets.

Poetry Analysis Guide

Study and analysis require that we spend time with a poem, exploring its nuances and actively trying to learn from the experience of studying it. Here are some guidelines you can use during poetry analysis:

  1. Narrator and Audience: Identify the narrator. To whom is the narrator speaking?
  2. Setting: When and where does the poem take place? Which season, time of day, year, and at what event or location?
  3. Purpose: Does this poem have a goal? What is it?
  4. Content: What is the poem about?
  5. Core theme: What is the central theme or message the poem is trying to communicate?
  6. Syntax (the arrangement of words) and word choice: How does the selection and arrangement of words affect the poem and the reader? What kinds of choices did the poet make, and why?
  7. Imagery: Note the imagery (sensory details) in the poem. Which senses are engaged, and how?
  8. Literary Devices: List all literary devices you can identify in the poem (metaphor, simile, etc.).
  9. Tone: Is the poem lighthearted or serious? Ominous or optimistic? Casual or formal?
  10. Musicality: Use scansion to measure the poem’s metrical patterns. What observations can you make about its rhythm or rhyme scheme? Is there any repetition of sounds (alliteration, consonance, or assonance)?
  11. Form and structure: Does the poem follow a formal form, such as a sonnet or a haiku? Can you detect a pattern in its structure, or is it free-form?
  12. Criticism: What is objectively working or not working? What do you like about the poem? What do you dislike? What might appeal to other readers?
  13. Paraphrase the poem: Rewrite the poem in your own words. Did you learn anything new about it?
  14. Recite the poem: Does the poem work better on the page or read aloud?

Go Forth and Analyze Poetry

Poetry analysis is a useful technique for improving your poetry writing skills by studying the work of other poets. Have you ever analyzed poetry? What did you learn? Keep reading, writing, and analyzing poetry!

Whether it’s an assignment in an English class or a task you are taking on for your own pleasure, poetry analysis lets you get more out of each poem you read. Examine each element individually while studying line by line lets you break poems down to study their structure, language, and theme.

Discover how to appreciate, learn from and write great poetry with Poet Laureate Billy Collins. It’s available via Masterclass.

Elements to Consider When Studying a Poem

Each poem puts together literary elements that include rhyme scheme, language tools, and more. Not every poem will have every element. For instance, a haiku does not have a rhyme scheme. Free verse may not use rhyming or a regular meter. Look for each element and determine which elements are present and why.

1. Theme. The theme of a poem involves the central ideas. Often, poetry uses similes, metaphors, and other figurative languages to communicate ideas.

2. Sound and rhythm. Is the poem in iambic pentameter? Does it adhere to a haiku’s 5/7/5 structure? Pay attention to all these factors to learn more about what kind of poem you are reading.

3. Rhyme scheme. Some types of poems, like limericks or sonnets, have strict rhyme schemes that the poet adheres to. Others are more freely versed.

4. Language. What sorts of language does the poet use? Do they use alliteration to affect the flow of the words? Do they rely on the personification of places or objects? Do they repeat vowels and diphthongs to create assonance?

5. Context. Understanding the context of the poem can help you better understand its meaning. The meaning of a poem is strongly affected by who wrote it and the circumstances of their life and times.

If you need help, it pays to understand the type of poem you’re critiquing.

9 Steps to Poetry Analysis

The first time you encounter the poem, simply read it from beginning to end

Going through each of these steps can help you get a better understanding of every poem you read. A better understanding of the meaning of the poem can also give you a better appreciation for the work.

1. Read the Poem Quietly to Yourself

The first time you encounter the poem, simply read it from beginning to end. Start with the title and slowly go through it line by line. Make a note of your first impressions.

2. Read the Poem Out Loud

After you’ve familiarized yourself with the poem by reading it silently, read it out loud to get a better sense of its rhythmic patterns. Pay attention to the meter, the length of the lines, the rhyme scheme, and the imagery.

3. Scan the Poem for Meter and Rhythm

Poems are made up of “feet” that include one stressed syllable and at least one unstressed one. You will be able to figure out which is which when you read aloud. By marking how frequently the stressed words occur, you can get an idea of the meter of the poem. For instance, a poem written in iambic pentameter will have five feet, each involving one stressed and one unstressed syllable.

4. Map the Rhyme Scheme

Rhyme schemes are notated by assigning the last word of each line a letter. Each time a line rhymes with a previous one, assign it the letter of that line. So, a limerick will have an AABBA rhyme scheme involving two couplets and a final line that rhymes with the first one.

5. Take in the Poem’s Visual Impact

A poem’s structure is used to make a visual impact as well as an emotional one. Look at the way a poem looks on the page without looking at the individual words. Different poets use form differently. Robert Frost, for instance, wrote with very regular rhyme scheme, line breaks, and structure. T. S. Eliot varied his spacing and line lengths to get different effects with each poem.

6. Determine the Form of the Poem

Some poetic forms are more formal, others looser. Emily Dickinson, for instance, wrote poems in free verse with a single speaker. Some were the first person, others had an external point of view.

7. Take Note of the Language and Literary Devices Used

Look at the poetic devices used to convey ideas and emotions. Consider the language. Is it formal? Casual? Shakespeare, for instance, used iambic pentameter for his sonnets, as they were gifts for his patron. Robert Burns wrote in a Scots dialect.

If you are reading a translation of a poem, look for other translations. Some translators prioritize preserving the meaning, others prioritize the meter and rhyme structure.

8. Consider the Meaning of the Poem

What ideas are conveyed? Who is the narrator? Are you being told a story? Think about what the poet is trying to tell you as you read.

9. Paraphrase the Poem

Rewrite the poem in your own words, line by line. If there are metaphors you think you’ve identified, feel free to write down what you think they mean. By doing this sort of deep analysis, you can be sure you truly understand the poem.

The Final Word About How to Analyze a Poem

When reading poetry, taking time to do some deep analysis can help you ensure you understand what you are reading. Learning the history of a poem and going through it step-by-step can uncover hidden meanings and enhance your appreciation.

Want more advice like this? Learn how to analyze a book.

FAQ About How to Analyze a Poem

What is the easiest way to learn to analyze poetry?

The easiest way to learn is by doing it. Don’t worry if you miss elements when you are new to poetry. As you learn more, you will be able to recognize more in each one you read.

How do you analyze a poem in an essay?

Start with a thesis about the meaning of the poem, then back up your assertions using the analytical tools discussed above.

What is the difference between a poem analysis and a literary analysis of a poem?

Nothing at all. Both are phrases for the same thing.

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Author

Lara is a freelance writer currently located in the Florida Keys. She frequently covers health, wellness and how-to topics.

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Analyzing poetry is no easy feat. How can we read meandering lines of words, sometimes that rhyme and sometimes not, with opaque imagery and symbols and make sense of it all as a coherent whole? How do we even start?

Sure, there are always those students in class who seem to easily “get” poetry, and their analysis of the poetic text seems to emerge from their brains in a way that many of us cannot duplicate. And if you’re not one of them you’re often left wondering things like, “H ow is a tree a symbol of knowledge? And how can anyone know that in advance?”

One of our most popular posts offers some very practical tips for working through analyzing a poem , and we have distilled our top three bits of guidance here in this simple how-to guide.

Basically, our “how to analyze poetry” guide follows three easy steps:

Once you pull these three elements together, even if you are still not 100% sure what the poem really and truly means, you will have the foundations for an insightful response to a question– especially an AP exam question –asking you to analyze a poem.

How to analyze poetry

Imagery is a word that encapsulates a variety of tropes and symbols, essentially where the words on the page mean more than their strict dictionary terms, and often appear in creative writing, including narratives and poetry. Images and symbols are deeply contextual, and in order to identify them the best, we often need to know the cultural symbols of the culture the poem emerges from. In the Anglo-American tradition (basically, poetry from places like the UK and US) there are some fairly common images that we can think of.

For example, a sunset often not only literally means the end of the day, but also often a symbolic ending to something, say the end of a life or a dream or a relationship.

So if you look for some common images in poetry you are one step closer to unlocking and appreciating its meaning.

In poetry, form is as important as content. What is being said is as important as how it’s being said. So often if we can start to identify elements of the poetic structure, then we become able to start to think about its meaning too.

For example, if a poem has a strict rhyme scheme then we can look to how the poet might play with those expectations. Maybe the most important part of the poem exists in the rhyming couplet at the end!

While stories in novel or short-form have narrators, poems have speakers. Someone is voicing the poem, and we can learn many things about the poem itself if we pay attention to the nature of its speaker.

For example, if the speaker is very young or naive then there’s often something called “dramatic irony,” which is a situation where we as the readers know more than the participants.

Once you’ve made some notes and insights (and here’s one of the best guides on taking awesome notes ), then you have the foundation of your poetic analysis. You may still be a bit unclear on exactly what the poem means, and that might be because poems often mean many things and evoke a variety of complex meanings. However, if you can identify some key images, the structure of the poem, and who its speaker is, then you have all you need to get started on a poetic analysis paper!

And if you need help with writing that poetic analysis essay, well, we’re always here to help!

Reading and understanding poetry can seem like a daunting task. Follow these steps to begin to “unpeel the layers” of your favorite poem. It may take a lot of work, but that’s what makes poetry so beautiful: the payoff is very rewarding.

Contents

Steps [ ]

  1. First reactions. The first time you read through a poem, record any “gut reactions” you have to the poem: any emotional connections you have with what the author is saying, reminders of personal experiences, things you like or dislike, etc. Think in terms of, “How do I feel about this? Why?” These reactions can help you focus on the type of response the poet is looking for in a reader.
  2. Literal meaning. Translate the poem into conversational English. How would you tell the poem’s story to a friend? Think in terms of, “What’s the most common dictionary definition of this word or phrase?” This can be a difficult step, but remember that all good poetry, even when it seems incredibly inaccessible, is still based on words that carry literal meaning.
  3. Connotative meaning. Take several key words or phrases from the poem and consider the kinds of connotations they carry. Think in terms of, “Why this word and not another?” Refer to your first reactions: often connotative meanings, rather than denotative, are what engage our emotions.
  4. Symbolic meaning. Record any allusions you recognize, references to symbols, etc. Think in terms of, “What could this stand for? Why?”
    • For example, consider the word “light.” This may not refer to the literal condition that means the opposite of darkness; often “light” is used to symbolize knowledge, truth, peace, joy, or spirituality.
  5. At this point, stop and ask yourself, “What is the author trying to say? What is his goal for this poem? What kind of a reaction is he trying to get out of readers? Why?” Try to identify the author’s purpose for writing.
  6. Analysis from here on out will probably help you examine how the author accomplishes that affect or meets that goal, rather than what that affect or goal is.
  7. Prosody. Analyze the poem in terms of poetic devices. Look for tools of form and format (shape, rhyme, meter, etc.), sound (alliteration, assonance, etc.), imagery (sensory detail, word pictures, etc.) and so forth. Think in terms of, “What kind of language tools is this author using? How do those tools help him accomplish his goal?”
  8. Narrative Arc. Read through the poem like a story: all poems have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Try to identify a crisis, or a problem presented by the poem and how the author fixes it. Think in terms of, “Why is the poem set up like this? Is the crisis truly resolved at the end? Why or why not?”
  • If you’re still having trouble understanding what the author is trying to say through the poem, go back and read through it a few more times. Pay attention to the kinds of emotions the poem relates to. Often a poet’s goal will be simply to help readers feel a certain way or sense the reality of an imagined scene.

Warnings [ ]

  • Try not to get frustrated. Some poetry can be very challenging to understand. All in all, just practice! Don’t give up. Learning to appreciate complex poetry is a skill that takes time to develop.

See also [ ]

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on “How to Analyze Poetry”. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA-2.5 license.

At first, analyzing a poem may seem like an intimidating task, especially considering the myriad poetic forms out there. It’s important to note, however, that a poem can have different meanings for different readers. Many poems are intentionally left open-ended and refuse to resolve their internal tensions. As poet Billy Collins says, you should not be trying to beat a confession out of a poem.

Let’s look at how to analyze a poem in 7 steps:

1. Read the poem aloud multiple times

Reading a poem aloud is necessary for analysis. It’s important to read a poem multiple times before attempting to dig for deeper meanings. Pay close attention to the rhythm and punctuation of the poem, the stressed and unstressed syllables, for these are intentional decisions made by the poet. Make note of anything that stands out from your readings of the poem, such as word choice, characters in the poem, and the rhyme scheme.

2. Review the title

The title often contains important clues for understanding the piece. After reading the poem, reflect on the title and determine how or if it relates to your understanding of the work. Does it tell you anything about the poem’s subject, tone, or form? Does it illustrate a specific time, place, or action?

3. Identify the speaker

It’s important not to confuse the poet with the “speaker” of the poem. More often than not, the speaker is a character, just like in a novel or play. The speaker will not always reveal a name, but using context clues, you can determine the persona, point of view, and the audience the speaker is addressing.

4. Consider the mood and tone

Once you’ve identified the speaker, you’ll have more insight into the attitude or mood of the poem. Consider the speaker’s tone and delivery. For instance, does the speaker’s voice change throughout the piece? Is the voice active or passive? Are they speaking directly to the reader or to another character?

5. Highlight the use of poetic devices

There are hundreds of poetic devices or techniques writers employ to enhance the effects of their works. Poetic devices are tools that can create rhythm, enhance a poem’s meaning, or intensify a mood or feeling. While you do not need to include every device in your analysis, it’s a good idea to include the significant techniques that contribute to the overall meaning of the poem.

Some poetic devices to highlight include:

    – a comparison between two different things – a direct comparison between two things using the words “like” or “as” – the use of a word that imitates the sounds of what the word mean – the repetition of vowel sounds – the repetition of consonant sounds – giving human traits to non-living/non-human things – words that evoke the senses, creating images, sounds, and sensations in the mind of the reader

6. Try paraphrasing

Before writing your analysis, it may be helpful to rewrite the poem in your own words. This does not mean condensing the poem, but working through the lines of the poem one by one. Now that you’ve become familiar with the poet’s figurative language and use of poetic devices, you’ll be able to apply what you’ve learned to determine what’s at the heart of the piece. But remember, avoid the notion that there is “one true meaning.”

7. Identify the theme

After paraphrasing, you should now have a better idea of the ideas of the poem. From those ideas, you’ll be able to create a theme. Essentially, the theme of a poem is the message the poet is trying to convey. A theme will often relate to a bigger idea or a universal truth.

At this point, you’re ready to begin writing your analysis. You’ve read the poem multiple times and dissected all the pertinent aspects that embellish the poem with meaning. Remember, don’t expect a definitive reading. There can be many different interpretations other than your own. But as long as you are thorough and justify your analysis with evidence, your interpretation is as valid as any other!

For a more in-depth review on to how to analyze a poem, visit eNotes’ How-To Series.

How to analyze poetry

As a High School English Language teacher, you can use this lesson plan to teach your students how to read and analyze poetry and to use these techniques to examine climate related poems.

In this lesson plan, students will be taught how to read poetry and identify elements such as theme, structure, and tone. Through this lesson plan your students will also be introduced to one of the most significant issues of our times- Climate Change.

Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in English Language.

Want to know more about how to contribute? Contact us.

Questions

Use this lesson plan to help your students find answers to:

  1. How is poetry read?
  2. What are the essential components of poetry?
  3. How is a poetry analysis done?
  4. How is climate change portrayed in modern poetry?

How to analyze poetry

About Lesson Plan

Poetry Elements- Structure, Tone, Theme

Climate related Poetry

Contents

Here is a step-by-step guide to using this lesson plan in the classroom/laboratory. We have suggested these steps as a possible plan of action. You may customize the lesson plan according to your preferences and requirements.

Step 1: Topic introduction and discussion

  1. Use the module, ‘Preparing for Poetry: A Reader’s First Steps’ by Jason Rhody, published by EDSITEment, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), to take your students through a step-by-step guide to reading poetry.
  2. Follow the instructions to facilitate the students’ understanding of the techniques involved in reading and analyzing poetry.
  3. Use this teaching resource to also enable your students to learn how to prepare an essay about a poem.

Step 2: Apply the understanding in written and spoken discussions

  1. Choose one or more poems from the list of 21 poems, ‘’Our melting, shifting, liquid world’: celebrities read poems on climate change’ curated by UK poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy and published by the Guardian, to read in class.
  2. The poems can be downloaded, and copies prepared beforehand for classroom reading.
  3. You can also choose to engage your students further by playing audio files (mp3 format) of the chosen poems read out by celebrities- James Franco, Jeremy Irons, Ruth Wilson, Gabriel Byrne, Michael Sheen, Kelly Macdonald, Maxine Peake, Tamsin Greig, Ian Glen, and Iwan Rheon.
  4. Use the worksheet (from the first resource), ‘Preparing for Poetry’ by NEH to ask your students to analyze the chosen poems.
  5. Use the completed worksheets to facilitate a classroom discussion on the theme of climate change poetry.
  6. Further, encourage your students to employ the techniques learnt to prepare an essay on the chosen poem/s.

Note: In order to improve your students’ understanding of the climate change theme beforehand, you can give a brief overview using this educators’ resource by CLEAN Foundation, Canada.

Imagery represents the descriptive elements of the poem. The descriptions are not only visual, they can also appeal to all the senses. Imagery makes the reader become emotionally involved with the poem and attached to its subject matter. In analyzing its imagery, you should examine the poem’s figurative language and see how it complements its tone, mood and theme.

Imagery

Imagery is the way the poet uses figures of speech to construct a vivid mental picture or physical sensation in the mind of the reader. In order to analyze a poem with imagery, you should read the poem and take note of the types of imagery that the poem expresses. It is important to keep in mind that a poem is not limited to only visual imagery, but will also likely have imagery that appeals to the reader’s other senses.

Examine Imagery

Imagery can be divided into different categories, according to which sense it appeals to. In addition to visual imagery, which creates pictures in the reader’s mind, a poet may use auditory, olfactory and tactile imagery, which appeal to the reader’s senses of hearing, smell and touch, respectively. Furthermore, gustatory imagery appeals to the reader’s sense of taste, and kinetic imagery conveys some sense of motion.

Take Note of the Figurative Language

After noting the types of imagery that a poem expresses, you should examine the poem’s figurative language. Figurative language is a kind of rearrangement or unconventional way of saying things, and it is also another word for imagery. Figurative language comes in a variety of forms such as analogy, simile, metaphor, personification and extended metaphor. These forms are tools that the poet uses to actually construct the vivid picture of the physical sensation in the reader’s mind.

Examine the Purpose of the Figurative Language

The final step of analyzing a poem with imagery is to examine how the poem’s figurative language functions within the poem. Poetry uses many types of figurative language in order to add substance and meaning to a conventional idea or concept. In particular, it often complements and emphasizes the poem’s other important aspects, such as its tone, mood and theme.

Example

In “Daffodils,” William Wordsworth paints a visual picture in the mind of the reader, using a lot of descriptive language about daffodils, the sky and the hills. In particular, he writes, “I wander’d lonely as a cloud/ That floats on high o’er vale and hills,/ When all at once I saw a crowd,/ A host of golden daffodils.” The first line uses personification and a simile, making the speaker a cloud. The images of daffodils and Wordsworth’s use of figurative language reinforces the poem’s theme: nature’s ability to awaken the individual from his dreary life and remind him of the grace and beauty of nature.

  • Writing Essays About Literature: A Guide And Style Sheet; Kelley Griffith; pg. 122
  • Austin Community College: A Short Guide to Imagery, Symbolism, and Figurative Language; Andrea Clark
  • English Grammer: Critical Analysis-“I wondered lonely as a cloud”

Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.

How to analyze poetry

Finding it difficult to know where to start when you are asked to analyse language in poetry? Perhaps you are studying for your English Literature GCSE exam? Let us break it down for you with 5 easy steps:

1. Focus on what you know.

Remember that poets are often describing very ordinary things that you have seen or experienced – love, friendship, arguments, nature. So don’t panic! The unique thing about a poem isn’t usually what is being said – but how it is being said.

The poet Seamus Heaney, in his poem Storm on the Island (1966), uses images and sounds to describe a storm :

How to analyze poetry

Even if you don’t know some of the words used in this extract, do not panic. If this happens outside of an exam, you can simply look up the words to find out what they mean. However, if this happens during an exam, do not try to talk about the language you do not understand. Only discuss the parts that you do understand.

2. Highlight parts that can help answer the question.

Let’s imagine that our question is this: How does this part of the poem bring the storm to life?

We are only going to highlight the parts that:

a) make the storm seem alive (since this is the focus of the question).

b) we understand completely.

3. Analyse only the most interesting language first.

We don’t have time to analyse every single word that we have highlighted, so we are going to ‘zoom in’ on specific language that we think is the most interesting and the most powerful.

We highlighted the first line in this extract because it makes the wind sound like it is deliberately moving – but exactly what language creates this effect?

There are several things that make this word powerful and make the wind seem alive:

  • The verb ‘ dives ‘ describes a deliberate, sudden, pointed action which usually ends in hitting something – usually water.
  • The verb ‘ dives ‘ personifies the wind (makes it seem like a human).
  • The verb ‘ dives ‘ suggests that the wind is attacking the people (‘we’).

4. Make suggestions about why the poet has chosen this language.

Now we need to think about why the poet has chosen this language. The question has told us that the storm seems alive , and we have now identified that the storm also seems like it is deliberately launching an attack on the people.

Now we need to make suggestions about why the poet wants to make the storm seem this way. Again, do not panic if you think you do not know. Even the teachers do not know exactly why a poet has chosen certain language! Only the poet knows – and we can’t ask him. So we just need to show that we have some suggestions.

Perhaps the poet has done this for one of the following reasons:

  • to make the storm seem threatening and dangerous.
  • to emphasise the power of the storm compared to the people who are experiencing it.
  • to suggest that the place itself is under attack, almost like it is a war zone.
  • to encourage the reader to feel more fearful of nature and to respect its power.
  • to convey how vulnerable it can feel to be on an island up against such an ‘enemy’.

5. Build on your argument using extra evidence.

Now that we have made a few suggestions about why the writer has used this language, it’s time to support our argument using extra evidence from the poem itself!

Here are some examples from the other line we highlighted above:

  • The alliteration created by the repeated ‘ w ‘ sound (‘ we ‘, ‘ while’ , ‘ wind ‘) imitates the sound of wind blowing, helping the reader to experience the storm more keenly and feel even more threatened by it.
  • The image of attack is extended by the later use of the verb ‘ bombarded ‘ – not only ‘ diving ‘ now but actually hitting things – again like a warzone against an enemy.
  • The storm seems to have increased its attack by the third line in this extract – the sounds have changed from sibilant (‘ s ‘) to plosive (‘ b ‘, ‘ p ‘).

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Poems are beautiful… you’re overwhelmed with emotions when you read your favorite ones, aren’t you? When you’re asked to analyze them, however, you encounter a problem: how do translate those emotions into an essay?

Why Should You Know How to Analyze a Poem?

So what exactly do you need to do when analyzing a poem? You need to write an essay, in accordance with all standards of academic writing. Then, you need to analyze all aspects of the poem, such as the title, structure, rhythm, and sound, language, and images. Most of all, you should analyze the poet’s tone.

As you can see, the poem analysis doesn’t have much to do with your perception of the poem. You’re not writing a personal essay to show what the poet made you feel. This should be an objective analysis that shows you understand the essential elements of poetry. Have you ever written a process analysis essay? Well, the poem analysis is something similar.

It’s not an easy paper to write, but it’s very important if you’re taking a related course.

Now, let’s see: how do you analyze a poem?

Writing the Poem Analysis Essay: Your Step-By-Step Guide

When you’re trying to learn how to analyze poems, you should focus on few aspects of the piece. Let’s start with our step-by-step guide.

  1. Pre-Writing Stages: Reading and Understanding

Before you can start writing the analysis, you need to read and understand the poem. Read it very carefully. Then, read it again. If you read it out loud, it will be easier for you to catch the rhythm. These are the questions you need to answer, so you’ll know you understand the poem:

  • Is there a title? What does it mean and how is it related to the content? The poet chose it carefully. What expectations does it create?
  • Who is the speaker? Is it the poet? Is it another character?
  • How would you interpret the poem?

You’ll be getting ideas throughout the reading process, so make sure to note them down. Once you’re done with the reading, you’ll be ready for the analysis.

  1. Understand the Theme and the Poem’s Literal Meaning

Are there any words you don’t know? Is a word you think you know used in an unexpected way? Do you notice any important words that convey the meaning of the poem? You might need a dictionary to analyze the poem. Poets are known for creating their own language out of the words we already know.

What’s the literal meaning of the words? This understanding will help you reveal the poem’s theme. That’s the poet’s purpose for writing this poet. It’s about the idea they want to convey. The description of the theme will be the main point of your poem analysis.

  1. Analyze the Structure, Sound, and Rhythm

When you’re writing a character analysis essay, you’re focused on the personalities of the piece. A poem imposes a different approach. Instead of characters, you’ll be analyzing its theme, structure, sound, and rhythm.

How is the poem organized? Are there numbered sections or individual stanzas? How are they related to one another? How does that structure help the rhythm and sound? Do you notice a particular pattern of rhymes? Does it affect your response to the poem?

  1. How do You Relate the Language with Images?

A poem is more than words. What images does that language create? This is the point where most students get stuck and decide to get help from college essay services with professional writers. You have to understand the symbolism in order to describe the images the poet wanted you to see.

Now, Do You Know How to Write a Poem Analysis Essay?

If you were wondering how to write an essay analyzing a poem, now you have proper guidelines to get you started. Preparation is where half of the success lies. Read the poem. Read it as many times as necessary for you to understand its natural flow. Sometimes the meaning is hidden behind the symbolism.

Writing poem analyses can be really fun. However, it’s also a challenging process. You’re required to translate the poet’s soul into an essay that follows the strict rules of academic writing. It’s not easy to write an analysis that’s not dry. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’re not doing justice to the beautiful piece of poetry.

When it’s a mandatory assignment, however, you don’t have much choice. You have to write it, so you might as well write it well. Start working on it way before the deadline, so you’ll give yourself time to understand the poem.

You’re Ready to Start with Poem Analyzation

If you’re taking a course related to poetry, you’ll have to write these assignments. If you’re writing your own poetry, it’s even more important for you to analyze poems well. This skill will help you identify the main points of attraction in a poem. Then, you can find your own way to master the details. Thanks to the tips above, you know how to start a poem analysis essay. The only thing left for you to do is to practice that knowledge. Start writing that analysis!

If you need help with it, you know where you can get it, right? XpertWriters is here for you!

Any student studying at a UK school or an International school will have to analyse poems in English Literature, because the GCSE and IGCSE exam boards have a collection of poems (anthologies) to be studied. At least one of these poems will need to be analysed in an exam. Most boards will also expect a GCSE student to be able to analyse an unseen poem, which means that students cannot simply repeat from memory what they know about a poem. They will have to demonstrate their skill at analysing it. Furthermore, students who are taking IB English Literature or A-level English Literature will also have to analyse poetry.

Understand your child’s GCSE, IGCSE or A level

What is SMILE?

SMILE is a simple, but very effective, acronym that will help your child to analyse poems. Used properly it will help them to get high grades in the poetry exam questions and for GCSE or IGCSE it is the only tool they will need. Similarly, A level and IB students can still use SMILE as a basis for analysing poems, but they will have to develop each section further and will probably need to add context too. SMILE stands for:

S = Structure and Form
M = Meaning
I = Imagery
L = Language
E = Effect

Each element of SMILE is a component of a poem. Therefore, if we use the acronym we will ensure that every aspect of analysis needed for GCSE and IGCSE is covered

5 ways to help your child raise their grade

Working with SMILE

Whilst it is essential to cover every component of SMILE to analyse poems, it is not necessary to do it in any particular order. In fact, it is usually easier and makes more sense to start with ‘M’ for meaning. First of all decide what is the meaning of the poem, then the work on imagery, language and structure/form can each be related back to the poem’s meaning. It is very important to keep talking about the ‘E’ for effect – so your child should do this for every point they discuss. Whilst they should get marks for spotting imagery, language and structural devices, they will only score high marks if they talk about the effect this has on the reader.

PEE paragraphs: why are children taught PEE?

How to analyze poetry

How to use SMILE to analyse poems

Start with ‘M’ for Meaning: your child should ask themselves
• What is this poem about?
• What is the poet’s main message?
• Does the message change?
• What are the main ideas in this poem?

The next step is to understand exactly how the poet gets his/her message and ideas across to the reader. How are they doing it? If there is a change, where and how does it change?

‘L’ for Language:

How is the poet using language choices to get the message and ideas across? They are likely to be using figurative language, so look for
• Simile
• Metaphor
• Lexis
• Semantic or lexical fields
• Personification
• Symbols

What is the effect of this? How does it help shape the meaning of the poem?

Poets play with sound, so look for language that creates sound
• Alliteration
• Plosive
• Sibilance
• Assonance
• Consonance
What is the effect of this? How does it help shape the meaning?

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‘I’ for Imagery:

How is the poet using imagery to get the message and ideas across? It is highly likely that they will be using language to create an image in the reader’s head and that this will relate to the five senses. Therefore, look for ways the poem relates to the senses

• Visual imagery (sight)
• Auditory imagery (hearing)
• Olfactory imagery (smell)
• Gustatory imagery (taste)
• Tactile imagery (touch)

How to analyze poetry

Here, in the first lines of the poem Preludes by T.S. Eliot he is appealing to our sense of smell to create an image. He is also using sibilance – the repetition of ‘s’ sounds – to enhance the image.

The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.

What is the effect of Eliot’s use of imagery?

‘S’ for structure and form:

The form of the poem should also relate to the meaning. Therefore your child should analyse the form of the poem and then ask themselves how this relates to the meaning or the imagery. Look for:
Number of stanzas
Enjambment
Rhyme
Rhythm
Caesura
Sonnet
Couplets
Free Verse
Narrative
Dramatic Monologue
Elegy

When you put all the elements of SMILE together your child should have a comprehensive and detailed analysis of the poem, which will get higher marks. Finally, the technique also fits very well with the analytical PEE structure that children are taught at school.

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A great deal of classical and contemporary writing is a pleasure to indulge in. A few of the best examples are included in the list below.

A great deal of the poetry produced since we started putting our thoughts on paper drowns itself out in complex metaphors, indecipherable decades after they were written. Or, contains language that has fallen out of common use or is a better example of a poet’s desire to sound educated, through the twisting and manipulating of syntax, than it is an expression of any theme worth delving into.

These poems were selected for their ease of understanding, their clear representation of various poetic techniques, and their interesting historical backgrounds. If you’re looking for a powerful, but easy, poem to analyze, this article is for you.

Best/Easiest Poems to Analyze

Fire and Ice by Robert Frost  

Not Robert Frost’s best-known work, but wonderful all the same, ‘Fire and Ice’ is the perfect choice for someone who is interested in analyzing a poem that speaks on themes of life, death, and opposites. The text is short, only nine lines, and repetition, juxtaposition and rhyme play important roles. Frost’s diction is clear and the syntax is straightforward.

Read an analysis of ‘Fire and Ice’ here.

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes  

This poem was first published in December of 1922 in the magazine, Crisis. It was also included in Langston Hughes’ collection, The Weary Blues, published four years later. Within the text, Hughes uses the metaphor of a staircase to depict the difficulties and dangers one will face in life. The major themes are determination and wisdom. Told from the perspective of a mother, directing her words to her son, this piece is universally relatable. It clearly depicts themes and issues that are just as relevant today as they were when 100 years ago.

Read an analysis of ‘Mother to Son’ here.

A Dream Within a Dream by Edgar Allan Poe  

Lovers of poetry, and even those who only enjoy it occasionally, will immediately recognize the line, “All that we see or seem / is but a dream within a dream.” Many examples of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry are complex, filled with seemingly indecipherable images and mental landscapes, this piece is much simpler. The speaker knows that life is purposeless, there is no love nor is there reason to keep going. It has all turned into a dream state that he floats, and at the same time struggles, through.

Read an analysis of ‘A Dream Within a Dream’ here.

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou  

At its most basic level, ‘Still I Rise’ is a poem about confidence and empowerment. The speaker stands up to prejudice and preconceived notions of who she should be. Through the refrain, “I rise,” the reader should sense power building in the text. Repetition is used skillfully and effectively. This is likely Maya Angelou’s’ most anthologized work, making it a perfect option for those interested in analyzing a piece of her poetry.

Read an analysis of ‘Still I Rise’ here.

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas’ best-known work, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ is a universally relatable poem that has appeared multiple times popular media since its publication. ‘Do not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ was first published in 1951. Through powerful and skillfully composed language, Thomas encourages his father to realize the importance of his life by fighting back against the dark. Additionally, this piece had an important personal meaning to the poet, adding another layer of information you might choose to write about.

Read an analysis of ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ here.

The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus  

With an important historical context, Emma Lazarus’ ‘The New Colossus’ is another example of how poetry does not need to be complex and filled with complicated images to convey deep meaning. In ‘The New Colossus’ Lazarus speaks about the Statue of Liberty and the fundamental beliefs the statue is supposed to represent. Plus, with all the historical details connected to this piece, there is a great deal for a prospective analyzer to write about.

Read an analysis of ‘The New Colossus’ here.

If You Forget Me by Pablo Neruda  

This is a love poem for those who aren’t interested in analyzing traditional stories of loss and heartbreak. Within ‘If You Forget Me’ Pablo Neruda speaks from a first-person perceptive and addresses his lover. He uses metaphors to compare their love to natural imagery and challenges them to forget him. If they do, he’ll have already “forgotten them”. Neruda uses accessible images and diction that makes this poem an interesting read and a great piece to take a deep dive into and analyze.

Read an analysis of ‘If You Forget Me’ here.

The Tyger by William Blake

Usually read alongside ‘The Lamb,’ this piece is William Blake’s famous description of the darker, more dangerous side of God’s creation. Within the text, he juxtaposes the tiger with the kinder elements of the world, such as the lamb. Blake’s speaker asks the tiger where its eyes were made. As well as how any divine being could’ve made the decision to craft it in such a way. Although admitting his own fear of this creature, he also acknowledges its beauty and the skill it would’ve taken to create it. This piece is likely Blake’s most commonly anthologized. This means there is a great deal of information available about its composition and publication.

Daffodils by William Wordsworth  

Also known as ‘I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud,’ this piece is one of William Wordsworth’s most popular. It describes one speaker’s progression through fields and hills on which he observes a “host, of golden daffodils”. The natural imagery is quite strong and depicted clearly. Using metaphors and similes Wordsworth also speaks on his own state of being while in natural environments. Then, how he takes that experience back into his less invigorating moments. The consistent rhyme scheme imbues ‘Daffodils’ with an even rhythm, taking the reader calmly and smoothly through the lines. As with most of the poems on this list, there is information readily available about this poem making analyzing it all the simpler.

Trees by Joyce Kilmer  

With its straightforward syntax and clear diction, ‘Trees’ is the perfect poem to analyze if you’re interested in themes of nature, poetic writing, and creation. The poem was written in February of 1913 and was first published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. It was then included in Trees and Other Poems, one of Joyce Kilmer’s most popular volumes. Within this piece, Kilmer depicts a single tree standing in as a representative for all trees. It is, he states, lovelier than any poem he, or anyone else, could ever write. Throughout the text, he praises God’s creation and speaks on man’s inability to create anything close to as majestic.

Any literary analysis is a challenging task since literature includes many elements that can be interpreted differently. However, a stylistic analysis of all the figurative language the poets use may seem even harder. You may never realize what the author actually meant and how to comment on it!

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While analyzing poetry, you should pay attention to the form of writing and its content. The purpose of this article by Custom-Writing.org experts is to give you a hand in understanding the rules and structure of poem analysis. First of all, there is some general information regarding the topic. Then, you will find a detailed step-by-step guide, followed by a poetry analysis essay example.

So, don’t worry, you can definitely rock a poem analysis essay! Knowing is half the battle, and practice is the other half!

How to analyze poetry

So, don’t worry, you can definitely rock this assignment! Knowing is half the battle, and practice is the other half!

❓ What Is the Purpose of Poetry Analysis?

Sometimes you may find yourself lost in the structural elements and metaphors of the poems. You start wondering what the purpose of poetry analysis is. In fact, it’s a matter of your personal opinion. The aim is to review someone else’s understanding of the poem, appreciate it, and maybe introduce a new point of view.

👣 How to Analyze a Poem: Main Steps

The fact is that poetry has a lot of exciting stuff to offer. However, it can seem quite overwhelming when you don’t know where to begin. The secret tip is to break it down into small tasks. That is why we suggest you look through the following steps when you need to write a poem analysis essay.

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Step #1:
Read the poem
Let’s start with small things. Read the poem and focus on it as a whole, catching the overall mood. To have a more profound feeling of the lines, reread it. This time, do it slowly and try to see if you can notice something new.You may find taking notes beneficial. What is your first impression of the poem? What do you think is the main idea? Think about the shape and size of it. Can you feel its rhythm?
Step #2:
Focus on the title
Now, go back to the title. Think about why the author decided to identify the poem with it. Usually, it serves as a hint for the core idea of the whole piece. However, sometimes, it may be precisely the opposite, to bring in some irony.How does the title affect your impression of the poem? Does it set some specific expectations regarding the setting or action? Or maybe it’s ambiguous and introduces multiple possibilities, so you can’t tell how it relates to the text?
Step #3:
Understand the speaker
Even though you may not be able to identify the speaker, there is always some specific point of view present. Understanding it may help you feel the message of the poem better. Answering the following questions can help you imagine the speaker behind the pretty words.Who do you think tells the story? What are the clues about the speaker’s personal traits?Who is the poem addressed to? How is the speaker connected to what he says in the poem?
Step #4:
Focus on the poem’s form
Now, let’s take a look at the structure of the chosen poem. Classical poetry usually follows a set of rules and has an entirely predictable form. But don’t forget that modern poems are famous for being free of any rules, so don’t get frustrated if you can’t see a pattern. There is a slight difference between a verse and a stanza, but both of them indicate a group of lines in the poem. The piece that you chose to analyze might have a form of blank verse with no rhythms or a sonnet of fourteen lines. Some of the other most popular formats include couplet, tercet, quatrain, and sestina.
Step #5:
Think of the poem’s tone
After we’ve talked about the speaker, we can’t miss looking into the tone of the poem. The author tries to convey a specific mood and attitude via the speaker and poetic devices. Moreover, see if any events bring up the themes.For instance, some poems may sound like songs; others may set a grieving mood. Does the tone switch at some point in the poem? Why? Are there any words that cause your feelings to change? What is the role of syntax in the poem’s tone? Don’t forget to note down the setting details here (time and place).
Step #6:
Analyze the poem’s figurative language
We have already seen that the author uses language to set the mood and tone. However, there is a specific tool that can be found in almost every poem – figurative language. It is precisely the opposite of the literal meaning of the phrases. So any time the words don’t make sense to you, it’s probably figurative language. It adds one more layer of understanding of the poem. Usually, it comes in the form of comparison.Can you identify where the author uses it? What is the true meaning behind those words? Why does the author choose to use this figurative language?

📑 Poetry Analysis Essay: Outline

Nothing can help you with the writing process more than creating an outline for your poetry analysis essay. It can help you organize your ideas and thoughts better so that you don’t get lost. After completing the outline, the only thing you need to do is to follow the plan!

✔️ Introduction It is always better to start your essay with a hook, which is meant to grab the reader’s attention. Then proceed with some general information about the poem. The last sentence should be your thesis statement.
✔️ Main body Include all the steps mentioned above in the main body.Write about your first impression of the chosen poem.Describe how the title is related to the content.Answer the questions from the section above and write down what you understand about the speaker.Work through the structure and form of the poem.Present your findings regarding the tone.Include a detailed analysis of the figurative language used in the poem.
✔️ Conclusion Paraphrase your thesis statement and add a few sentences about your main findings. If possible, make the last sentence memorable so that it will provoke a discussion or leave some food for thought.

Finishing this part of the writing process is basically half of the job. After this, you can complete your paper in no time!

👀 Poetry Analysis Essay: Examples

Go through this example of a poem analysis essay to better understand how it should look. Note that the sample is structured according to the outline and the writing steps described in the above sections.

The best way for students to begin analyzing poetry is for them to make a note of the things they notice. Making use of the margins of the poem, students can take notes on the structure of the poem and various poetic devices they find. Students can also take note of the parts that interest them or the various elements that contribute to the theme. Annotating a poem allows the student to understand further precisely what the poem is saying, and it also forces students to take a deeper, closer look at the poem. My Annotating Poetry Made Easy lesson provides students with a systematic way to annotate poetry to make it more accessible to students.

2. Identify recurring devices and images

Identifying the details that are repeated throughout the poem gives students a better understanding of the poem, especially since poets tend to repeat certain elements for emphasis. Once they begin to notice the commonalities among the poem, the poem can be better analyzed. Identifying these recurring devices can be done through annotations in the margins or through other note-taking methods. My Poetry Analysis with Sticky Notes unit helps students identify various poetic devices.

3. Read the poem multiple times

4. Ask questions

Questioning what is being read is a great way to analyze poetry. Students will always have questions about poems, such as what is this poem really about? What do these images represent? Why is this poem important? Poetry lends itself to questions and questions help to create and build the analysis of a poem. When students spend time asking themselves these questions, they are already analyzing the poem, without even realizing it and their analysis overall will be better for it.

5. Read the poem out loud

Poetry is meant to be read aloud. Having students read the poem out loud will allow them to hear the poem as it is intended to be heard, and this will enable them to analyze it even better. Hearing different rhythms and rhymes aloud will give them the chance to notice parts for their analysis. Reading it out loud makes students notice the little details that make this poem different than any other they have read.

While students may not always appreciate poetry at the time of studying it, poetry analysis can prove to help their writing and literary careers. These methods of poetry analysis will help students in many valuable ways.

How to analyze poetry

Becoming a poet is not something you wake up and decide to do. Different poets and authors have distinct styles and their poems anchor on their way of thinking as well as what they are trying to portray. One important aspect of studying poetry is to analyze them. When dealing with poetry analysis essay, you have to examine the form, content, and syntax of the work. Poems are created to explore diverse ideas or theories that are in their minds. If you can master the poetry analysis essay, you can ask questions, see their multiple meanings, and develop your figurative thinking. If you have no idea of how to write a poem analysis, worry not, because, by the end of this article, you will have the right tips on how to come up with the best poetry analysis essay.

Understanding the poetry analysis essay

The question in your mind by now is; what is poetry analysis? In a simple definition, it is the process of reviewing various artistic, functional, and structural pieces that constitute a poem. This mostly happens within the structure of a literary analysis essay. In its nature, poetry tries to express complex feelings, which have multiple meanings. If you want to decipher them, you have to go beyond analyzing words to encompass rhythm, obvious meaning, and images as well as implied meaning. If you are writing a poetry analysis essay, you must take an incisive look at both choices made by the poet as well as the general effects of those choices. As such, you must do a detailed analysis of all the parts that contribute to the formation of the work of poetry.

To get a better understanding, you can take examples of poetry essays that you can go through. This makes it easier for you to handle this assignment. More so, there are reasons as to why poetry analysis essay is important.

How to analyze poetry

Important pre-writing steps

The following steps are necessary, as you understand how to write a poem analysis.

For you to construct an excellent poetry analysis essay, you have to read the poem carefully. You can read it aloud so that you can get a better and full experience of it. Remember that poetry is wordplay that utilizes rhyme and rhythm to influence the meaning of the piece. This is also a chance to note any other poetry techniques applied by the poet.

From analyzing poetry examples, you will find out that all these aspects are important. Poems are meant to convey a narrative, describe feelings or objects. It is unlikely for you to be presented with a hard poem, especially during exams, but still, you need to know how to write a poem analysis. For you to understand the meaning of the poem, you can search for pronouns to tell you the characters therein.

You also need to follow the punctuation. You can break the stanzas into sentences, especially if you are confused. Read them as a sentence. Search for recurring images or symbols because they are directly related to the meaning of the poem. It is also seemingly self-explanatory that the person enhancing the comprehension of the poem will have an easier time trying to create a poetry analysis essay.

As you write your poetry analysis essay, always remember that poems have rhythm and meter. Both aspects set the poem apart from regular literature. Analyze this during the time you are trying to determine the theme, mood, tone, and the meaning of the poem. Sometimes people have different opinions that regard the message of the poem with regard to the way the poet tries to say using the subject title. If the message has been stated implicitly, you can only report multiple possibilities about the meaning of the poem and include evidence for your theories.

However, you must state your stance on the theories that you have created. Since you are writing a poetry analysis essay, refrain from using opinions and instead use facts and conjectures backed by evidence from the poem.

Choosing the best topic

Many examples of poetry essays abound, and they can give you an idea of how you can choose a topic. The best way to choose a topic for your poetry analysis essay is to deal with information that you are familiar with. If you are choosing between subject areas within a poem, it will be easier to choose and focus on dealing with an area in which you are more strong. This will enable you to communicate effectively, clearly, and confidently in your poetry analysis essay.

Writing a poetry analysis essay may seem like an uphill task at face value, but if you have the right topic, outline, and paper all done in the steps mentioned above, you will have an easy time with the task.

How to analyze poetry

Understanding and analyzing poetry is one of most difficult and taxing exercises in literature. A single poem can hold many different meanings for people, and there is no one correct way to read a particular poem. If you’re tasked to analyze a poem, or if you want to find the meaning of a poem that you really like, here are some ways to do it.

Exegesis versus Eisegesis

The critical reading of any poem is required to understand the deeper images and meanings to be discovered in it. The same goes for reading any other kind or form of literature; analysis requires your active attention and engagement. There are two important concepts that you should know about:

In exegesis, the text is understood critically. The meaning is drawn out from the text only, and the interpretations also come from the text. Exegesis is a very difficult reading, but it is the best way to analyze a poem.

In eisegesis, the reader makes the mistake of putting his or her own ideas in the reading and analysis of text. Eisegesis is useful in some instances, but definitely not for poems. The goal of analyzing a poem is that the meaning should be drawn out naturally, instead of the reader implying and imparting ideas not found in the text itself.

For some, naturally understanding poetry is inherent and doesn’t need to be “taught” in a traditional manner. For others the ideas are harder to grasp as poetry is often not black and white. Private tutoring at home can help you if you are having trouble understanding. Personal coaching in a relaxed atmosphere can greatly enhance the way someone understands and feels poetry.

Poets and critics debate on form, and there are many opinions about form and its importance. Here are some important things to remember about form:

Rhyme may be considered obsolete and passé, but many poems are still written with rhyme considered as part of the form. Literary devices like rhyming words, alliteration, and repetition are used in many poems; however, it’s important to note that not all verses that use a stylistic device can be properly considered as poems.

Meter, or prosody, is the structure of the poem. Rhythm is important in poems, especially if the poem is read aloud.

Many poems follow a specific metric structure; sonnets, for example, have 14 lines with a rhyme structure followed all throughout the verse. Haiku follows a metric scheme of at least 17 syllables.

Free verse is a popular form of poetry. Poets and critics agree that verses need to have a particular form to be considered a true poem; free verse considered as poetry should still be part of the whole poem. A mishmash of verses and words in free verse can only be considered “poetry” if the meaning drawn out of it is poetic.

Meaning

Meaning in poetry is often ambiguous. Some poets may choose to write poems that are ambiguous, but most poets use many literary devices to convey a meaning to their verse:

  • Style. For a work to be considered “literary,” it has to use literary language. Style is very important not only to establish the poet, but also to establish the poem. Style controls the form and the meaning of the poem, and is the reason why some people appreciate a work.
  • Images. When you analyze a poem, it’s important to look for images and other elements to help you visualize the event taking place. Like fiction, good poetry shows the event instead of telling it, and allows the meaning to be drawn out naturally from the verse.
  • Feeling. Emotions are very important elements of poetry. For a poem to be of a significant value to the reader, it has to evoke certain feelings and emotions naturally. The keys to a good poem is that the emotion – like the meaning – should be subtle and moving, and it should be retained in one’s memory.

The analysis and critical, careful reading of poetry is an art in itself. With these tips, you can find a deeper and more moving meaning to any good poem that you read.

Obviously there is no set single way to analyse poetry. Just like the poem itself, the way you analyse is open to interpretation and can be done differently by everyone.

It is important to remember a few things when analysing a poem for the first time:

  • This poem was not written to be studied, it was written to be read for pleasure
  • There is no right answer
  • There is also no wrong answer (as long as you can find evidence in the poem to support your arguments)
  • There is no secret of the poem for you to unlock

It is important to read the poem a few times before you begin your analysis. This lets you get an impression of how the poem tries to make a reader feel and what the intentions of the poet might be. The first reading of the poem is the closest thing you will get to reading the poem for pleasure.

As you read through the poem, perhaps note down particular lines or phrases that catch your attention first time round. It is no mistake that theses lines caught your attention, everything a poet puts in their work is deliberate.

On the second reading of the poem, ask yourself some questions about the poem. These will be answered for you as you delve deeper into the poem and as you become more familiar with it.

On the third and fourth readings you can begin to analyse the poem properly, looking for techniques and elements that could be used in an essay. I use MITSL as an acronym to use.

Obviously these are not the only things you should be looking for when analysing your poem but they are certainly a good start. You need to think for yourself of other elements of the poem that are noteworthy, techniques that help create meaning that could be written about in your essay. The “MITSL” acronym doesn’t include themes, form or anything about the narrator so it is not something to stick to.

It is important to have an open mind when analysing poetry so that you can look at the wider consequences of poetic techniques and devices, and so that you don’t stay focused on the poem as purely material to study in an A-Level.

I feel that the conversation above is a classic staple in every English 10 classroom. The second that you introduce poetry, the walls goes up, the attitudes come out, and the eye rolls begin. What is it about poetry that frightens our students? Why has poetry got a bad rap? The Bad Reputation poetry has been given leaves Bad Blood between students and these poems.

So how do we create a Love Story of poems for our students and make them feel Fearless when it comes to analyzing poetry… The answer in case you haven’t guessed is my favorite glam girl and singer.. Taylor Swift!

How to analyze poetry

How to Analyze the Poem

The inspiration behind this idea must be credited to The Daring English Teacher‘s Poetry Collaboration Poster which you can check it out HERE. In her post, Christina shares how she uses the S.W.I.F.T. method to have her students analyze a poem. In order to go with my Taylor Swift theme, I have created the T. S.W.I.F.T. method.

Tone focuses on the author’s attitude towards their subject. Taylor Swift is great because almost all of her poems are about love. I tell my students to think about the tone that T Swift is taking towards love in a particular songs. She does not always feel romantic, sometimes it’s hatred, frustration, gloomy, lackluster. By using her songs, students grasp this concept with ease.

Structure

We study the form of poems in my poetry unit and the form is of course at its base is a song. Just in itself, students forget that songs are a type of poetic writing. Songs are the best place to start with poetry because they are easier to grasp and more relevant to today and our students… even if they hate Taylor Swift (but really who could hate her). Students will also examine stanza formation and rhyme scheme in this section of their analysis. This is also the place to observe sound devices such as onomatopoeia, alliteration, rhyming etc.

Word Choice

Students struggle with author’s style but one of the best ways to help to overcome this hard concept is to examine word choice. Students will look at the types of words used by Taylor Swift in her lyrics and while her word choice may be simple the way that she describes things creates a vivid picture and shows her style. We also focus on connotation and denotation and how Swift creates new meaning to this word LOVE.

Imagery

Imagery is key when analyzing a poem, and Taylor Swift creates vivid images within the lyrics of her songs. Students will search with all of their senses to find imagery in Swift’s songs. Imagery is always the easiest element for the students to find and is always a good starting place if a student is stuck.

Figurative Language

Finding examples of figurative language is one of the easier tasks for this activity. Simile, metaphor, hyperbole, personification, etc. have been taught to our students for a long time so I tend not to believe my students who share that they do not know what figurative language is. I also provide a Poetry Cheat Sheet that lists figurative language examples that students can look for in their poem.

Here is the list of figurative language that I give them:

  • Alliteration
  • Simile
  • Metaphor
  • Repetition
  • Personification
  • Irony
  • Symbol
  • Allusion
  • Hyperbole

Theme

Theme is perhaps the most important part of poetry analysis and is the most common literary element that students will be asked to identify in their standardized testing. Taylor Swift’s messages are clearly stated in her songs which helps students to understand and identify theme.

Taylor Swift Poetry Day

So now that I have shared how I have students analyze the poem, I will share the set up of Taylor Swift Poetry Day.

  1. Have Taylor Swift music blaring when the students arrive.
  2. Divide students into self selected groups for this activity (2-3 students per group to ensure that everyone participates)
  3. Allow students to pick any Taylor Swift song for this activity.
  4. Students will then copy and paste their T Swift lyrics onto a word document. Students should then print the lyrics out and glue to poster board.
  5. Students will read and annotate the song their own.
  6. Complete a T. S.W.I.F.T. analysis on their song that includes a cited example for each of the elements and an explanation of how that example proves the element.
  7. Create a gallery walk where each student can display their poster creations and examine the song analysis of their peers.
  8. Make Taylor Swift song references for the rest of the day.

While not all of my students will leave my classroom loving Taylor Swift, they will have the confidence to analyze the harder poems that we will encounter in this unit. So give your students a Blank Space and watch them become Enchanted with poetry.

GCSE English Language Revision

How to Analyse a Poem

Poems have been a part of our literary tradition since ancient times and existed even before humans could write them down. Understanding poetry and its purpose can be very easy once you know how. Here are some helpful tips and tricks for analysing a poem for an essay or an exam.

AUTHOR AND CONTEXT

  • Who wrote the poem, do they have some strong views?
  • Where was the poet from or living then?
  • Was it written in a time of war or social change?
  • Was there something important that they wanted to share/express?

STRUCTURE AND STYLE – Types of poems include:

A Sonnet – It has a rhyming style, sometimes with the structure A,B,B,A

A Ballad – is a poem which tells a story, sometimes about love

Free verse – are poems without rules or structures

Blank verse – is in a structure but doesn’t have to rhyme

A Haiku – is Japanese, with 3 lines and 17 syllables

An Ode – is written to show respect or love to a person, place, idea or time

THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR

  • What does the title tell us about the poem?
  • Who is the speaker and who are they speaking to?
  • What is the mood of the poem and why did they chose that style?
  • What is the theme- e.g. nature, love or loss or something political?

IMAGERY – What kind of imagery (the sea, war, nature, urban landscape) is used and what’s the atmosphere?

STRUCTURE- What kind of punctuation and stanza shape and length is used? Does it have a certain rhythm?

He uses a metaphor – That’s the POINT.

The metaphor is …– That’s the EVIDENCE.

By using the the metaphor the poet creates…That’s the EXPLANATION.

Whenever you want to make a point you can use this helpful structure.

What is the subject matter of the poem- what is it really trying to say?

How to analyze poetry

P oems have been around since the beginning of history, and for almost as long, teachers have been trying to teach students how to analyze a poem. Any newbie to the world of poetry will find it difficult, but once you know the basics of how to analyze a poem, it would be a pleasure reading and analyzing poems.

Here’s how to analyze a poem:

We have prepared some points and questions to consider when analyzing a poem.

Read the poem

Chances are you will not fully understand the poem at first reading. You will have to read the poem at least two or three times. It would be beneficial if you take down notes about your initial thoughts about the poem. You may also want to underline lines or parts that you think are interesting or may be important. Likewise, now would be the time to look up any words or images you are not familiar with. Another detail that you may find handy in your analysis is researching the context of the poem. The context of the poem will reveal the time when it was written, which could give you a clue as to what the author means.

Title

Often, the title reveals a lot about the poem. The title is always carefully chosen by the poet, and so it could reveal the subject of the poem, set the tone of the poem, or even reveal what type of poem it is. In some instances, the title even serves as the first line of the poem. So, it’s important to pay attention to the title of the poem. For example, Sylvia Plath’s famous poem “Daddy” reveals that the poem is about the persona’s father. However, upon further examination, you will find that the poem is talking to the father.

Subject

Before you can learn how to analyze a poem, you need to first understand the situation in the poem. Who is talking in the poem? Is it the poet or is it a character other than the poet (a persona)? What is happening in the poem?

How to analyze poetry

Theme

The theme of the poem is the topic or the larger idea or issues that it explores. These include love, death, loss, power, and such. You can spot the theme of the poem by asking yourself what the poem is really talking about underneath the situation. For example, William Wordsworth’s poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” is about a cloud wandering the skies, but its theme is loneliness.

Language

Language is the vehicle through which the meaning of the poem is conveyed. Aside from the actual meanings of words, you should also watch out for the literary devices, symbols, and images. Poets use one or the other, or a combination of these, to beautify the poem and better convey the meaning.

Structure

Poems always follow a certain structure. Some types of poems are stricter than others, like the sonnet. It should be easy to spot which structure the poem follows, just look at the rhyming scheme. Here are some links to the common types of poetry: sonnet, haiku, and the 3-stanza poem. These are just some important pointers for you to consider, you just need to practice your new knowledge of how to analyze a poem. These will help you write an A+ literary analysis.

How to analyze poetry

Students unfamiliar or uncomfortable with poetry often struggle to understand new poems. In many cases, students do not know how to analyze a poem, let alone the most effective steps with which to approach a challenging poem. When this is the case, simple mnemonic devices like SMILE can help them get started, and makes analyzing a poem easy and fun.

SMILE is an acronym that helps students remember important aspects of a poem to interpret. Each letter stands for a separate poetic element as outlined below.

S Structure
M Meaning
I Imagery
L Language
E Effect

The elements in SMILE are certainly not an exhaustive means of analyzing any particular poem, but they provide a useful basis for understanding. The various steps of SMILE do not need to be completed in any particular order, but can build on one another as a student’s understanding unfolds.

An easy way to engage your students in SMILE is to have them storyboard the five elements. By combining textual analysis with visual representation through storyboards, the students will demonstrate a concrete understanding of the poem’s nuances. Consider the storyboard below for Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays”. Use this example and its template as a springboard to get your students SMILE-ing!

How to analyze poetry

Structure

The structure refers to the physical and grammatical composition of the poem. For this element, students should consider the following for their poetry analysis:

  • number of verses/stanzas
  • comparative length of verses/stanzas (regular or irregular)
  • line length
  • rhyme scheme
  • repetition, including refrains
  • enjambment
  • sentence structure and grammar
  • punctuation or lack thereof

Meaning

In identifying the meaning, students should be able to articulate the basic subject of a poem along with its deeper significance. To truly capture meaning, a reader must also be able to accurately identify a poem’s message or theme. Often this requires working out a poem’s figurative meaning. In Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, for example, the basic subject conveys a man walking in the woods who has difficulty deciding which path to take. To fully understand the poem, however, readers must recognize that the forest paths represent the journey of life, and the poem’s message reminds us that each choice in life has irrevocable consequences. It is often useful to establish a poem’s basic meaning and then revisit step M for a poem’s deeper significance following further analysis of other elements (steps ILE).

Imagery

Imagery refers to language that appeals to one of the five senses – touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight. Imagery helps strengthen a writer’s description by providing physical details that enable the reader to better imagine the scene or understand the speaker’s feelings. Imagery can contain figurative language, but does not have to, as in the examples below, taken from “City Autumn” by Joseph Moncure March.

No figurative language: A thin wind beats/ Old dust and papers down gray streets

Figurative language: A snowflake falls like an errant feather

Both examples of imagery in “City Autumn” give us a visual picture of the autumn weather. One does so with a literal description and the other with an effective simile.

By adding imagery to a particular object, person, or scene, the writer heightens the importance of that detail and helps add negative or positive value to it.

Language

Language refers to a writer’s diction, or word choice. Use of figurative language should be noted here and interpreted, along with sound devices, repetition, the speaker’ dialect, and particularly significant words. Students may find the questions below useful when analyzing poetic language.

  • Does the poem contain metaphor, simile, personification, hyperbole or other figurative language?
  • Does the poem play with sound using alliteration, assonance, repetition, or rhyme?
  • Are there any words that are particularly sophisticated or especially basic? Does the rhyme, for example, depend on words like “hog” and “dog” or “absolution” and “circumlocution”?
  • Does the poem contain formal or informal dialect? Does the speaker seem to come from a particular region, country, or cultural background?

Effect

In determining a poem’s effect, readers can include their initial reactions. How do they feel after reading it? What is the mood of the poem? The readers should also review this element after studying the other four (SMIL). In this way, students can consider the effect of the poem’s structure, imagery, language, and message as they work together.

Get to know how many of each part of speech are found in your text, or get a thorough analysis and interpretation, with neat explanations with the help of this text analyzer

Poetry ANalyzer or shortly, P.A.N, is a free application that is perfect for users who need to analyze text, poetry, and understand the core mechanisms of the phrase structure.

An interesting application with text analysis functions

At first sight, this tool might seem extremely simplistic or a bit outdated. Indeed its interface isn’t quite appealing, but the program is a valuable resource. Why is that? Well, first of all, it allows inserting text, using templates that have already-formatted content, or editing the existing texts (using the classical cut, copy, and paste functions).

After deciding upon the piece of data you want to analyze, you can perform several actions. For example, you can analyze the text or re-analyze it (using the dedicated command). The second text iteration is useful because, after the first analysis, the tool’s engine might signal and require the addition of newly-used words (these would need to be added to the tool’s dictionary/database). As a consequence, in a second iteration, you would include the results obtained from the user-defined variables, previously inserted.

Examining your text analysis results and managing data points

After performing one or more text interpretations, you can export the results in summary reports — POST Results (Part of Speech data, for the more technical individuals who want to see an analysis of the words favored by the text’s author), Theme Results (displays a compiled list of the themes found within the text; e.g. love, revelation, desire, etc.), and Motive Elements (to identify certain patterns in the text, motive elements).

On top of the features previously mentioned, with Poetry ANalyzer, you can even add different clause points into the tool’s database, search for duplicates in your texts, edit, and repair different word categories (nouns, adjectives, prepositions, etc.), check the data files quality, or add a specific symbolism for individual text files.

Reading and commenting on a poem is a new adventure for many of us in the 12 Poems in 12 Months Challenge. We are here to learn and grow as writers and poets and we all want to give and receive valuable feedback. Here are some basic guidelines that I hope will help you.

How To Analyse A Poem

  1. Read the poem.

What are your first impressions? How does it make you feel? What is the tone?

Can you identify a theme? Try to say what the poem is about in one line.

  1. Read it again.

Slow down this time. Are there any identifying features? Is it a specific kind of poem? Sonnet, free verse, or haiku? Count the stanzas and lines.

  1. What is the context of the poem?

Who is the poet and when was it written? What do you know about the poet’s life and work? Was it written at a specific time? Do you need this knowledge to understand the poem?

  1. What does the poem look like?

Has the poet used any typographical devices?

  1. Now, read it aloud again.

Did you notice any sound devices? Alliteration, assonance, rhyme and metre and repetition of sounds.

  1. Diction and sentences:

Have they changed the word order in the sentences? What do the words they chose tell you?

  1. Can you identify any devices used in the poems?

Metaphors and similes, euphemism, hyperbole, symbolism, personification, irony, puns, metonomy etc.

  1. Take note of any layering?

Are there any double meanings? Can you identify any connotations and denotations?

  1. Look at the title again?

Does it add to the meaning of the poem?

It is useful to number the lines of a poem before you start analysing and writing feedback. Use specific examples and as always, be kind.

This is a basic guideline. I’ll be discussing the specific devices and tools as the year progresses.

The aim of this feature is to provide a few pointers to people who want to better understand and experience a poem when they approach it.

Poetic analysis

Why bother to analyze poetry?

The Muse Of Literature offers a few suggestions on how to get the most from reading or hearing a poem.

A poem of substance is an expression of art. Where poetry is concerned, art appreciation is partly the act of gaining insight into the qualities of a poem and giving them their proper value; partly, too, art appreciation is the act of gaining a clear perception of a poem’s aesthetic qualities and experiencing them as a totality.

After you analyze a poem, you know it for what it is. You clearly understand its meaning and message; you see its beauty; you react more keenly to its emotion and gain insight into its spiritual, intellectual, and aesthetic properties. You appreciate it as a whole.

Benefits like these come from deconstructing and reconstructing a poem. In other words, they come from analysis.

the approach

The Muse’s approach consists of two elements: 1) a checklist, and 2) a procedure for approaching a poem with the aid of the checklist. The checklist cites a few aspects of poetry to think about before, during, and after you read a poem.

The checklist and procedure probably won’t revolutionize your approach to reading poems but they will give you a few things to do that will increase your enjoyment, appreciation, and insight with only small cost of time and effort. Try them and you will discover the value of approaching a poem with an analytical mind-set.

The Muse’s pointers are not a method for analyzing poetry. If you want to get more from the poems you read, perhaps you should consider exploring a poetry analysis resource developed by a literary scholar or educator. Such resources typically consume an entire book, school semester, or seminar; they are much more robust than the approach The Muse offers here but they demand a greater personal investment of time and energy.

If you see a future for yourself that includes poetry analysis, The Muse suggests that you investigate the poetic analysis resources shown in the ETAF Recommends section, below on this page.

the checklist and procedure �how they work

The Muse’s way of approaching poems consists of two parts: 1) a checklist, and 2) a procedure for reading a poem with the aid of the checklist.

Checklist

See The Muse’s checklist, below on this page. Every poem you will encounter can be described by the aspects of poetry that are on this list; all poems demonstrate every one of these aspects.

Each aspect on the checklist is followed by a few samples that illustrate its nature. How do these samples help?

Take as an example the aspect of structure. The structure of a poem is its organization, arrangement, or framework. Every poem has a structure and there are certain kinds of poetic structures that are particularly well established in Literature. One such structure is called the sonnet.

Any poem that follows the organization scheme for sonnets is called a sonnet. Therefore, a sonnet is a kind of poem as well as poetic structure. The sonnet appears on the checklist under the aspect of structure.

According to accepted literary practice, to be a sonnet a poem must have the following structure:

All sonnets must have 14 lines and each line must be written in iambic pentameter. In addition, its rhyme scheme must be one of the following: either 1) three quatrains followed by a couplet (called the common English or Shakespearean sonnet), or 2) an octave and a sestet (called the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet). (A quatrain is a group of four lines, usually with alternate rhymes. An octet is a group of eight lines; a sestet is a group of six lines.) The rhyme scheme is considered part of the structure.

The samples under the aspects help by clarifying what the aspects mean.

To approach a poem in the manner The Muse suggests, it’s not necessary to be able to give a name to its every aspect, although naming a poem’s aspects helps. Nor is it necessary to know every detail of every aspect of a poem, although the more you know about the aspects of a poem, the more benefit you will receive.

In The Muse’s approach, it’s not necessary to know the difference between a Shakespearean and Petrarchan sonnet; but it is important to recognize the general nature of each of a poem’s aspects. For example, it is important to know that every poem has a structure and to be able to deduce it for the poem you’re reading; it’s important to know that every poem has rhyme and imagery and to be able to spot the rhymes and the images.