• Maria Li

The Shortest Poetry Analysis Guide Ever

Poetry likes to wear a mask. Despite its small size (ignoring epics here, which can be an entire book), poetry can take a long time to understand. Often a poet’s message is obscured by their experimentation with rhyme, tone, line and stanza length and all sorts of poetic techniques. Simply English has worked to put together the shortest poetry analysis guide to give you the advice that will quickly help you understand a poem.

1. Google the Context

Reading a poem without knowing who wrote it in what time and for what is as good as not reading it. Google is your best friend. Figure out what time period the poet is writing from and you'll understand the poet's intent and message.

2. Read to understand

Now that you have an understanding of the poet’s motives, the poem will now be a lot easier to understand. Before jumping to analysing each line, read the poem aloud and summarise sections of the poem. Knowing a poet’s main points is crucial to smashing out those killers topic sentences that pinpoint the poet’s messages.

3. Read to analyse

Consider how the poet employed techniques and manipulated form, rhythm and structure to convey their message. Having one printout of the poem for summaries and one printout for in-depth analysis is a good way to go. But one warning: do not go overboard with your analysis. Don't analyse every technique to the core. Only analyse and highlight or underline sections which are important in conveying a particular message. This is to stop you from getting caught up with quotes which seem like good craft but do not add to your paragraphs!

What to consider when you analyse the poem:

  • The tone and mood of the poem

  • The passage of time throughout the poem

  • The speaker

  • The intended audience

  • Stressed words and syllables

  • The poet’s use of language and figurative language

  • Form, structure and rhythm

  • Targeted senses

  • Setting

Then ask yourself:

How has the poet’s use of the particular technique shaped meaning and how does it relate back to their ultimate purpose?

4. Be Holistic

When crafting responses, be sure to address the poem as a whole. Choose major themes to discuss and then quotes that relate to the theme. Choose quotes from the whole poem - some from the start, middle and end to show the progression of the poem and its message. Don’t be one of the many and get fixated on the small details of the poem just to lose sight of the big picture!

And that's a wrap! That concludes Simply English's shortest poetry analysis guide ever. Use this guide as a pair of lens to see through poetry's mask and unlock the secrets of the poet's mind.

Time to get cracking!

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