Poetry Analysis: think before you write

Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker

  1. Read the poem first, slowly, taking care of the punctuation. Remember that the end of a line of poetry may not be the end of a unit of meaning, a thought, an expression.
  2. Look up any unfamiliar words and write their meaning above the word on the poem.
  3. Form a theory – what do you think the poem is about?
  4. Annotate: What I get/What I don’t get yet.  The bits you don’t get are likely to be important.  Don’t ignore them; take the time to ponder them. Come up with a theory to test on your next read-through.
  5. Read the poem again. Annotate  using the question: ‘What does this suggest?” to interrogate each unit of meaning (reading between punctuation) and hopefully support your theory!
  6. Annotate the poem using the question: ‘What does the speaker of the poem think or feel or do?’
  7. Annotate the poem using the question: ‘What is the reader supposed to think or feel or do about this?’
  8. Highlight the evidence from the poem (words or phrases) – look at the poetic techniques being used and how that contributes to the poem’s message or impact.
  9. Think about HOW the poet achieves these things or WHY they create the effects they do.
  10. What does the poem  suggest about what it means to be human?

Now you are ready to write up your response in a concise piece of prose.

HOW DO I STRUCTURE MY ANALYSIS?

Introduction: identify the purpose of the poem – the poet’s subject matter and message and a brief outline of the intention of the poem so that you can outline how this is achieved in more detail.

Body paragraphs: Use your common sense when organising your response.  You could allow your paragraphs to follow the structure of the poem chronologically (stage by stage) – this may not be delineated by stanza or line but by units of meaning (read between the punctuation!).  Your paragraphs might be based on the presentation of key people, places or ideas in the poem, or by the structure itself.  You will PEE on your work, naturally.

Point. Evidence. Explanation.

 (or an alternative acronym if you are more genTEEL)

Your analysis will get to word-level.  This is not an essay to spot poetic device; this is to provide an interpretation of what the poet is communicating and how and why the poem is so written.  You will quote key words and phrases and link these to the poem’s message and the poet’s techniques.

Conclusion: return to your introduction’s assertion – sum up how the poet’s intended impact is achieved and place this in a broader context: what the poem might be suggesting about what it means to be human.

 

GET THINKING

What does this suggest?”

‘What do I get/What don’t I get yet?’

What does the speaker of the poem think or feel or do about…?’

‘What is the reader supposed to think or feel or do about….?’

‘How does the author achieve this?’ (techniques, language choices, structural features)

‘What does the poem suggest about what it means to be human?’

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