How to analyze a poem

Poems 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?

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.


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