How do you analyse a poem? There is a common notion that writing poetry reviews is for intellectual geniuses and critics alone. But the fact is that anybody who can read and enjoy a poem can write a very nice poetry review. The first step in analysing a poem is to read it many times. Reading some poems can be just like peeling an onion. There will be layers after layers of meaning. Each reading can provide you with new insights. If possible read the poem aloud so that any rhythmical movement of the poem will become evident. It will also help to bring out the beauties of things like rhyme, alliteration, assonance, etc.

OK. Let us learn how to analyse a poem. The following are a few questions you can ask yourselves after your reading of the poem:

  • What is the poem about? OR What is the theme of the poem?
  • Who is the speaker?
  • Who is the poem addressed to?
  • What is the tone of speaking?
  • Does the poem belong to any particular category? (Ode, sonnet, ballad, dramatic monologue, lyric, confessional, modern, post-modern, etc.)
  • What is the mood of the poem? (Happy, sad)
  • How does the poem begin? (Most poems begin either with a description of something or a statement)
  • How does the poem proceed? (When writing, include a short summary of the poem.)
  • Does the initial mood change? Why?
  • How does the poem end?
  • What is the philosophy of life expressed in the poem? (Optimistic, pessimistic, religious, pantheistic, mystical, cynical, etc.)
  • Are there any autobiographical elements in the poem?
  • Has the poet used any figures of speech? Are they apt and suitable to the situation? How do they enhance the meaning? (One great quality of good poets is to find similarity in quite dissimilar things.)
  • Are there things like a rhyme scheme, alliteration, assonance, etc.? Do they add to the charm of the poem?
  • Has the poem got any contemporary significance? Is the theme universal?
  • Does the poem remind you of any other poem? What are the similarities and differences?
  • What feeling has the poem created in you? Is it touching, for example?

Include answers to all the relevant questions and organize your answers neatly with relevant extracts from the poem. And voila! You have a good poetry analysis in your hand!

Poetry Analysis: A Sample

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