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9 Tips to Analyzing Poetry


As we close out the month of April and Poetry Month, I wanted to give one last poetry tip. Very often I have heard people say, "I don't get poetry", "I don't understand it", "What are they trying to say?". So today we are going to look at how to analyze poetry. 1. Read the poem one time through without stopping. Read the poem one right through before you analyze it. The initial reading is to get a sense of the poem, paying special attention to the tone. Don't worry about unfamiliar words or references, it's ok if you don't understand everything. 2. Determine the tone of the poem The first reading is to identify the tone of the poem. The tone refers to the feeling or mood of the poem. It can be positive, negative or neutral. More often the not the poem is not neutral, but is either positive or negative. 3. Read the poem again, ALOUD


Now that you have gotten a sense of the poem - whether its about love, death, family, it's time to analyze the meaning of the poem. Read the poem one stanza at a time (a stanza is a group of lines, like a paragraph), paraphrasing each stanza as best as you can. If the poem is not organized into stanzas, then read and paraphrase 1-2 sentences at a time.



4. Read the poem in sentences, not by lines.


This is really helpful for analyzing poetry. Instead of pausing after each line, read the poem like sentences by following the poem’s punctuation marks. In other words, pause at commas and end at periods; don’t pause at the end of a line unless there is a punctuation mark there. Reading a poem like this removes some of how it sounds, but you’ll be able to better understand it – which is the whole point.



5. Look up unfamiliar words


If there’s a word you don’t know, look it up. If a word has multiple meanings, determine which definition best fits the poem.



6. Pay attention to symbols, connotation and allusions.


Poets love symbols, so look for common symbols as you read each stanza. Common symbols might be a cross (symbolizing faith and God), water (cleansing and new beginnings), plants (Mother Nature), darkness (heavy emotions), light (happy emotions).


Connotation refers to a word’s association, not its actual dictionary definition. For example, while the dictionary definition of rose is “a prickly bush or shrub that typically bears red or pink, the connotation of rose is love and romance.


Allusion is when a poet makes an indirect reference to some idea, figure, other text, place, or event that originates from outside the text. For example,


"Chocolate cake is my Achilles heel." The allusion here is to "Achilles' heel," or the Greek myth about the hero Achilles and how his heel was his one weakness. In this case, the speaker's "weakness" is chocolate cake.




7. Pay attention to capital letters


Poets sometimes capitalize the first letter of words that normally wouldn’t be capitalized. In a line from Aphra Behn’s poem Untitled she writes

Unconcern do’s Life destroy, Which, without Love, can know no Joy.

In this line, the Life, Love and Joy are capitalized to signify importance.



8. Read through your paraphrases and put them together


When you are done analyzing the poem, one stanza at a time, read through your paraphrases. See if you can put your paraphrases together to find the meaning of the poem.



9. Consider the use of rhymes and repetition.

After you’ve paraphrased the poem and understood most of its meaning, reread the original poem and consider the rhyme scheme, if there is one. Think about how the use (or absence) of rhyme impacts the meaning of the poem. Also, look for repetition. Think about why the author may have repeated certain words or images. Repetition signifies that something is important, so pay attention to anything the author uses more than once. Finals tips for analyzing poetry

  • It’s okay if you don’t understand every part of the poem

  • Don’t be afraid to look up definitions and references

  • Knowing something about the poet and the context of the poem can help you understand it (Google it!)

  • Analyzing poetry for meaning is a different process than reciting poetry for auditory appreciation

We hope these tips help you as you delve into the world of poetry and the poetic mind.

Happy Reading!

From IABX ***Source Internet

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