Analyze a Poem in 10 Steps

Analyze a Poem in 10 Steps

Mar 01, 2019

Many men, many minds. It can be quite challenging perceiving what someone meant to say by using these or those words. The same goes with literature - the author could have written about yellow curtains, but a professor makes you confront a lot of questions to think about: "What the author is talking about in the poem? What do the yellow curtains stand for?". Thus, you find yourself on the way of writing a poetry analysis, and your main objective is to deal with it appropriately. This assignment has its particularities and pitfalls, but its overall purpose is teaching you to:

  • Perceive the intention of the author
  • Turn on your critical and analytical skills
  • Prove your ideas and assumptions
  • Find the sense between the lines
  • Develop your imagination

If you ask yourself how to approach the analysis of the poem in order to meet the requirements and express your own vision of it, our simple 10-step strategy can come in handy. Here, we'll teach you what elements need to be highlighted in your analysis assignment and explain how to prepare it step-by-step.

Analyze a Poem in 10 Steps

Every poem is unique. Through this kind of literature, the authors express their perception of the world around, influence the readers, and share their most intimate emotions with the audience. This literary work is always a masterpiece that can be analyzed through different approaches, and you will find something new about it every time. But, there are important aspects you shouldn't omit while analysing a poem. If at this point, you ask yourself: "Are there any rules on how to prepare this writing?", explore our simple strategy and succeed with analytical assignment easily!

1. Start with Background

To perceive the overall writing better, devote your time to the research. Before reading, we suggest you find any information about the author or historical grounds of the work. This way, you'll get a better understanding of the poem's basis. What if there was a particular event in the author's life that inspired them to create this work? Or, what if it was influenced by someone or something from the poet's surrounding (as in the case with the Destruction of Sennacherib that was based on a Bible)? For these purposes, you can use different books, articles, surf the Web, etc. Organize the information you've found into a list with important points or groups (they can be useful for you later).

2. Read a Poem

Although this suggestion is obvious, many students prefer to read short descriptions of the poem on the Internet, and a simple overview is enough for them. But, that's not so. If you read a poem, you will stand on solid ground - know the plot from A to Z and can answer any of the prof's questions. While writing an analysis, you have to work with what you've read and describe the poem from your own perspective. Without thoroughly reading the work, you'll have to blur the text by using a pity amount of facts you really know about the poem.

3. Define the Type

Look for any specific features of the poem. It can be a lyric, a narrative, or a sonnet, and your task is to understand what exactly is a type of the poem you are working in. Be ready to explain your choice by providing reasonable evidence (signs of a poem's type that you've found). For instance, if a poem has 3 quatrains and one heroic couplet, it is definitely a sonnet, etc. Be attentive since your competence in defining the right type at this stage can influence the overall analysis.

4. Explore the Narration

Consider the tone set by an author. Is it a first-person narration or does the poet tell us about someone/something else? Pay attention to the words that can help you in defining the mood - is this poem sad, melancholic, or inspiring? Think: does the poem use any calls for actions or questions that need to be answered by the reader? Why do you think the poet decided to use certain words or phrases? This way, you can identify the accents of the literary piece and see what was emphasized by the author the most.

5. Deal with Non-poetic Details

Define the meter and rhyming scheme of the poem. Check if your previous investigation coincides with what you've got. That will help you with a precise understanding of the work's type and fix any uncertainties before they can affect the entire analysis.

6. Find the Main Theme

It's time to find out the core of the plot. If you read the poem, it would be easy as 1, 2, 3 for you - here, you can describe the setting, the period, and the major theme of the work. What is it about in the first place? But, be attentive and ask yourself whether a plot has the literal meaning that lays just beneath the surface. What if you have to dig deeper and discover an absolutely new aspect of the plot that can change the entire purpose of that literary piece? Here, the next stage can help you.

7. Study the Characters

While working on the characters, you kill two birds with one stone:

  • You find various images and explain what they stand for.
  • The study defines major and minor storylines by analyzing the interrelations between the characters.

Symbols found in the work assigned for the analysis are also important and can be considered as a separate character at this stage. Sometimes, a worn-out hat can represent a whole society, and a pair of wings can be associated with a flight of fantasy, etc.

8. Describe Your Impression

It is important not only to guess what was on the author's mind but express what an assigned literary work means to you personally. What are you thinking about while reading? Are there any interesting images or memories that are popping up in your head? If a poem inspires you, and you feel a strong desire to do something - mention it. Ask yourself how the work resonates with your personality - that is a sign of a good analysis.

9. Formulate the Intention

When you have gone through all the major points, it's time to dot the i's. Sum up everything you have investigated about that literary piece and pinpoint the main intention of the author. It could be an attempt to turn the reader's attention to a specific social issue, a chance to express the feelings through words or persuade the audience about a certain viewpoint, etc. And, what is more interesting, does this intention coincide with your own impressions? You can express your opinion about whether the author has used the appropriate means for their purposes, and here, you can use a citation needed to back your thoughts or refer to the other reliable sources (don't forget to mention them in the bibliography).

10. Structure the Writing

Don't forget that all the parts of your analysis should be arranged logically and coherently. The writing will definitely have an introduction and conclusion, and your task is to state all your thoughts appropriately with smooth transitions between them. Sometimes, it is even possible to diversify your project with different materials (presentation, images, videos, etc.) and make it interesting for the audience.

Keep in mind that although in our guide, we have step-by-step instructions with extensive explanations, the structure of your writing can vary according to the prof's requirements. Hence, don't neglect discussing your preparation of the analysis with a monitor to prevent any mistakes.

We think this guide will be helpful for you on the way to the highest grade!

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