Analyse a poem

We will learn a more about the process of writing your critical reflections in the future, but for now use this quick guide below. Please write 2-3 paragraphs about your poem, analyzing its effectiveness, subject matter and style, and any personal reflections you may have. The links to the poems to choose from are at the bottom of the page.


In the analysis of poetry, then, two important questions the reader must ask himself are: What is the poet trying to say? How does he or she try to say it?

The process of analyzing a poem

The elements of analysis discussed below are designed to help you identify the ways in which poetry makes its meaning, especially its ‘parts’; they do not give a sense of how one goes about analyzing a poem. It is difficult to give a prescription, as different poems call on different aspects of poetry, different ways of reading, different relationships between feeling, i mages and meanings, and so forth. My general advice, however, is this:

1look at the title

2read the poem for the major indicators of its meaning — what aspects of setting, of topic, of voice (the person who is speaking) seem to dominate, to direct your reading?

3read the ending of the poem — decide where it ‘gets to’

4divide the poem into parts: try to understand what the organization is, how the poem proceeds, and what elements or principles guide this organization (is there a reversal, a climax, a sequence of some kind, sets of oppositions?)

5pay attention to the tone of the poem — in brief, its attitude to its subject, as that is revealed in intonation, nuance, the kind of words used, and so forth.

6now that you’ve looked at the title, the major indicators of ‘topic’, the ending, the organization, the tone, read the poem out loud, trying to project its meaning in your reading. As you gradually get a sense of how this poem is going, what its point and drift is, start noticing more about how the various elements of the poetry work to create its meaning. This may be as different as the kind of imagery used, or the way it uses oppositions, or the level of realism or symbolism of its use of the natural world.

Reading poetry well is a balance among and conjunction of qualities: experience, attention, engagement with the qualities which make the poem resonant or compelling, close reading of structure and relationships. It’s an acquired talent, you have to learn it. When you do, however, more and more meaning, power and beauty start leaping out at you.




Lock & Key

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

Abandoned Farmhouse

Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight

Poetry is a Destructive Force

Names of Children

I Wanted to Make Myself Like the Ravine


One thought on “Analyse a poem

  1. Maya Paul

    I personally think that we did not have the time it took to finish this project because we only had one day and there are a lot of other things we have to do AND most of us have after school activities, for example; I had to go to my Jewish learning center until 5:30 and Emma had to go to DI until 6 pm also I think all of us like to pass in the best quality work and I think we did not have time to do that



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