How to Write a Poem Analysis Essay Example
Both, a poet and an author, have their own characteristic style, whatever their influences may be, and whatever culture they’re from. Poetry can take many different forms: from a three-line Haiku to a fourteen-line sonnet, there’s something for everyone. Poetry is an expressive form of art, which is highly bound to style and literary finesse, so there’s a lot to discuss to each individual poem.
Poetry analysis encompasses an investigation of the form of a poem, the structural semiotics, the contents and the literary history in a well-informed manner. Often poetry reviews are conducted and structured in the form of a literary analysis essay, which requires digging deep into a poet’s use of language and the meaning of the text. In order to carry out a robust analysis, you've got to do more than describe what's on the plate. An in-depth analysis should reference something about a tone, a structure, a sound and rhythm, themes, a language, imagery and much more.
Set yourself up in the correct way to be able to read a poem for analysis by re-reading the piece several times so that you’ve fully grasped all the concepts and ideas that are on the table. Once you've understood the face of the poem like the back of your hand, you can move on to understanding the more nuanced ideas and all the detail in between the lines. What kind of rhyming scheme is there and what kind of poem is this? Step one will be to determine answers to these questions, so if you don't know, here’s a good overview:
- An ode is a poem of ten line stanzas that rhyme in succession.
- Free verse poems don’t have a regular rhyming structure or rhythm. Take a look at some of Charles Bukowski’s poems as a great example of this.
- A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem that’s written in an iambic pentameter made famous by Shakespeare.
- A haiku is a short Japanese poem consisting of three lines, the first of five syllables, the second containing seven, and the third containing five again.
- Lyric poems are short and do not feature a narrative. The voice of the poem, usually, presents an emotional state of mind rather than telling a story, which helps to convey thoughts and meanings.
- A limerick consists of five lines, the first, second and fifth rhyming together and consisting of three sets of three syllables for each line. The third and fourth lines must also rhyme in the same way but only have two sets of three syllables per line.
Once you’re aware of what kind of a poem you're about to analyze, you'll have a good understanding of the poem's structure and content, but what inspired the poem in the first place? The background is very important to consider before making analysis, not only of the setting in the poem if there is one, but also of the poet’s background. Take a moment to look up some other work of your author and try and determine the cultural context that inspired this poem you wish to analyze. It's highly likely that the poet drew inspiration from the culture surrounding them, and so you will have more of an idea how to analyze the poem if you know some information about this culture.
Now that you're armed with sufficient cultural understanding, you can really dig deep into the roots of analysis by considering the subject matter. It could be that your poem is straightforward or rather abstract in its subject matter, so in order to determine the mood, theme, tone, and meaning of the poem, you'll need to get your postmodern thinking cap on. What’s the poem really about?
With a highly abstract poem, you could find that many people disagree with what you think the poem is about, yet this is the beauty of poetry. If you can find out all the different opinions people might have, you can line them up and analyze your poem. It's all subjective at the end of the day, with multiple possibilities for interpretation, so it’s up to you how to guide your analysis, but also keep in mind that you should try and pick one side from all the opinions you’ve considered. The key to a good analysis is the evaluation of the strongest points and reasons behind that.
Even though poetry is incredibly subjective, some people are more skilled and knowledgeable, and so their opinions should count more than those that aren't. The point here is that it's important to back up ideas and points with logical opinions or well thought out ideas, ideally from reputable poetry interpreters and reputable sources. If we’re looking at one of Shakespeare's sonnets, we won't be interested in what six-year-old Sam has to say!
Choosing That Key Topic
The best way of choosing a topic is to think about what excites you the most, or where your poetry passion lies. Try and do something that's familiar as well, to make it easier for you to write about. If you like sonnets, analyze a sonnet or, if free verse poems are your bag, write about them instead. It should start to really get interesting when your creative juices begin to flow.
It may seem like a daunting aspect when you're confronted with an endless stream of poetry available to choose one and then choose a topic within that poem, but it shouldn’t be taxing. As you’ll want to work hard on the analysis, pick something that you’ll enjoy spending time on rather than thinking about what kind of marks you can get.