poem analysis

poem analysis Essay Examples

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Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013

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.

Before Writing

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.

A Good Outline

Any decent poetry analysis must include a suitable outline or plan. This outline alone should be simple and carried out for the purposes of guiding your thoughts. Once the online is written, the fleshing out will, hopefully, come naturally.

First thing’s first, get that title down!

Ahh, that’s better. Now you know what you’re going to plan.

Next comes the actual plan. The introduction should present the text and summarise, describe and amalgamate any necessary contextual arguments. Be quite basic with the introduction and give a cracking thesis statement. It should serve as the bread and butter of your analysis, allowing the audience to know exactly what’s to come in the rest of the essay. What are your points of view and what are you trying to express through this essay? Your thesis statement should be short and to the point so that it introduces the rest of your analysis.

The main body of your analysis serves to identify themes or patterns, using examples from the text and appropriating context as evidence. Throughout the body, you can restate the thesis statement, relating it to larger issues. How does the text work? What does it mean? The flesh and bones of your essay lie here.

The conclusion is the final part of the essay. By this point, the audience really ought to understand your main points and so there’s no reason at all to introduce any new information within this final section. This is a wrap-up, not a place for introducing new ideas, so keep that in mind. Remember to go over what the most important points were, and to weight them up in a way that’s easily understood by the reader. It’s important that the audience is aware of your thesis statement, and how this relates to the body of the text – has your essay delivered it? Make this known to the audience.

Analytical Techniques

Most people have a good understanding of what analysis means, but how should text be analyzed specifically? Let’s consider some useful techniques and tips.

Meaning

When you’re reading your poem, take note of both what’s literally being said, and what could be understood from a non-literal perspective. What phrases could point to other things and what could be illusory? Can you see any patterns in the diction or through the phrases used? Are there any expressions or parts of the language that sound ambiguous? Think about the points of view that others might have if they read this poem, and help this develop more of an analytical mind. Grasping the literal meaning and the themes of the poem will help you understand its purpose. Was the idea of the poem to express a certain meaning or theme? These are things that you have to consider when writing an analysis.

Tone

Determining the tone of voice can help you understand if the poem is trying to make a point, make someone do something or, perhaps, win the audience over in an argument. Perhaps, the poem is just a descriptive account of someplace, incident or concept. If it doesn’t seem like one is speaking in the poem, the tone can still be gauged. Why has the author written about this and what is he trying to say?

Structure

Take note of the structure, the lines, the standards and the syllable numbers if needs are. How this poem structured and what is the composition trying to tell the audience? If the poem follows line by line but, suddenly, there are a few blank lines to provide the space for a couple of words, perhaps, the poet is attempting to get you focused on these particular words. Some abstract poems about water may resemble waves with line lengths. A structure can really play on a person’s mind and establish strong emotional links, telling you a lot about the poet’s attitude, which will be important in an analysis.

Imagery and Language

Every word in a poem has been carefully chosen to represent something. Words together denote meaning and your job, as a literature analyst for the evening, is to understand how language plays upon meaning. Look around in your poem for any pictures, images or symbols that help bring sense. These aren’t literal pictures, of course, but a picture is most usually drawn in the reader’s mind using devices such as similes, symbolism, personification, and metaphors.

Get Analyzing

So now that you are gripped with some decent tools for analysis, you can work on what the poem means as a whole. Understand every word, phrase and literary device to think about what the poet has tried to say. Once you’ve collected all your ideas, think critically and try to tap into the mind of the author when they sat down to write from the heart and soul.

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