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Poetry Analysis for Beginners

By Jiye Back

 

Poetry is a unique and expressive form of writing that has been used for centuries to convey a range of emotions and ideas. However, for beginners, analyzing poetry can be a daunting task. It can be challenging to understand what the poet is trying to say, let alone to break down and analyze their work. But fear not, with a little guidance, anyone can learn how to explore poetry.


Tip 1: Read the Poem Several Times

The first step to analyzing poetry is to read it several times. You cannot interpret what you do not understand, so take your time and read the poem carefully. Start by reading it silently to yourself, then read it aloud. This will help you to hear the rhythms and sounds of the poem, which are often an essential part of its meaning, and to identify the meter, whether it's iambic pentameter, trochaic tetrameter, or another rhythmic pattern.


Tip 2: Identify the Theme

The theme of a poem is the main idea or message that the poet is trying to convey. To identify the theme, ask yourself, “What is the poem about?” Look for recurring ideas, symbols, and images that help to convey the poem's message.

Tip 3: Analyze the Language

The language used in a poem is critical to its meaning. Look for literary devices, such as metaphors1, similes2, alliteration3, and personification4, and think how they contribute to the poem's overall meaning. Consider the choice of words, their connotations, and the poet's use of imagery to create an emotional response in the reader.

Tip 4: Examine the Structure

The structure of a poem can also provide insight into its meaning. Look for patterns of sound, such as rhyme and rhythm, and examine the poem's form. Does it follow a traditional form, such as a sonnet or villanelle, or is it free verse? Consider how the structure and form contribute to the poem's overall meaning.

Tip 5: Consider the Cultural or Personal Context

The personal and cultural context in which a poem was written can also provide insight into its meaning. Consider or imagine the poet's cultural background or personal experiences. For submissions in Polyphony Lit, it is difficult to know anything about the author. However, since the only reason you have to identify context is to understand the poem on a deeper level, find your evidence from the poem and imagine what kind of experiences could be associated with this poem!

Tip 6: Formulate Your Analysis


Once you have studied the poem's theme, language, structure, and historical context, it is time to formulate your analysis. Consider what the poet was trying to convey, how they used language and structure to convey their message, and how the poem fits into its historical and cultural context. Remember to support your commentary with evidence from the poem itself. This could be something you include in your Specific and General Commentary!

Final Thoughts

Analyzing poetry can be a rewarding and enriching experience, but it does take time and practice. As you become more familiar with the elements of poetry, you will find it easier to appreciate the work of poets. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to do it. What is important is that you engage with the poem and develop your own interpretation of its meaning. With practice, you will become a skilled and confident poetry analyst.


1 a figure of speech that equates or compares two seemingly unrelated things to create a new and vivid meaning

2 a figure of speech that compares two things using "like" or "as" to highlight their similarities

3 a literary device that involves the repetition of initial consonant sounds in neighboring words or stressed syllables to create a rhythmic and melodic effect

4 a literary device that attributes human qualities or characteristics to inanimate objects, animals, or abstract concepts, allowing them to engage in human-like actions or behaviors


 

Jiye Back is a Junior Editor at Polyphony and a blogger and content editor at Voices.

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