Poetic texts are defined by their compact language, emotional intensity, and semantic depth. Poetry analysis helps to unpack a poem’s meaning by breaking it down line by line, word by word, and examining its individual elements, for example, rhythmic structure, sounds, images, figurative expressions, etc.
Although it sounds a bit clinical, it helps you understand poetry better and appreciate it in full.
In this post, we shall learn to ask the right questions to interrogate poetic texts, go through the analysis process step by step, and find out how to write an analysis essay on a poem.
“Yet what if I need to write my essay for tomorrow? Is there a hack to analyze a poem without poring over it for hours?” Well, speed comes with practice. Our experts can write a concise paper with an astute analysis in a couple of hours. If you are in a hurry, just order a customized sample analysis essay and savor your poetry without rushing through it in a panicked search for a deeper meaning. Still, if you want to learn poetry analysis for later assignments, read on.
How to Start a Poem Analysis Essay
Before you start researching for everything you can find about the author’s life, family, political and historical context, and literary rivalries, how about you actually read the poem? That’s the very first step to take!
- You might want to do a “cold reading” just enjoying the text, or consider the prompt first and read the poem with the specific questions in mind. Read it at the very least twice. Go through it slowly, noticing prominent features and details you might have missed when scanning it.
- Then, reread the poem, only this time aloud. Listen to the words as they shape rhythm. Appreciate the nuances like rhymes, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. You might want to look up a recording of the poem or a video showing someone read it – and listen instead.
- Study the language, content, and form of the poem closely. We will talk about the details of this step in the next section. However, always look out for the repetitions and pay close attention to the opening and closing lines.
- After making notes about the poem’s attributes and artistic means, paraphrase the verses in ordinary everyday language. This way, you will make sure you understand every word. Removing sounds and rhythm is also a great way to notice how they contribute to the overall impression.
- Now it’s time to draw a conclusion. What do all the elements of the poem work toward? Does the author paint a colorful picture, tell a story, describe an intense experience, define something, or try to change your mind about something?
How to Analyze a Poem: Questions to ask
The subtle art of analyzing poetry is all about asking the right questions. When you study the poem’s text closely, here is what you should focus on.
- The title
The title can hold an important clue about the crux of the poem. Think about how it relates to the text. Is it obvious or cryptic? Is it ironic? Does it set a specific frame? Does it have a tension: a conflict or antithesis like Sharon Olds’ Ode to Dirt poemwith a “high” genre and “low” subject?
- The style
Is it a lyric, epic, or narrative? Dramatic or confessional? Does it fit a specific category, such as haiku, limerick, or sonnet? Is it a monologue or a dialogue?
- The speaker
Whose voice do we hear in the poem? Is it a man or a woman? Human at all? Is it an animal, like in Margaret Atwood’s Bull’s Song? Is it an inanimate object like in Sylvia Plath’s Mirror? Does this narrator speak in the first person? Is it a direct address to the reader or some other second person like in Langston Hughes’ Mother to Son poem?
Pay close attention to the speaker’s tone. Is it serious, ironic, humorous, solemn, angry? How does it influence the overall mood of the poem? Is it cheerful, brooding, mysterious, ominous, provocative, scathing, heartfelt?
This is the most crucial bit. The theme is the essence; it’s what the poem is about. For example, it can be about love, loss, the passage of time, vanity, or the value of nature, as in Andrew Marvell’s The Garden. Pay attention to how the theme is emphasized, through which means it is explored. For example, metaphors and similes like the multiple comparisons of dirt in the Old’s Ode to Dirt to the sky, skin, and democracy.
Are there vivid pictures and concrete images painted in the poem? How are they created? For example, through personification, symbols, and similes, like comparing the speaker’s soul to a bird singing in the boughs in The Garden.
Now concentrate on how the poem sounds and its rhythm. Scan the poem to analyze the meter – the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in each verse. How does it influence the rhythm? Is it stern like a march, light like a waltz, melodic like a song? Is it conversational and lively or monotonous? Does the pacing increase or decrease throughout the poem?
Are there any dominant sounds in the poem? Does it use alliteration (repetition of the same letter or sound), sibilance (repetition of hushing and hissing sounds), onomatopoeia (words that sound to imitate the meaning, like sizzle, whoosh, clamor, clip-clop)?
- Reality vs. Fantasy
Is the poem rooted in reality, using senses to create impressions (taste, smell, touch, sound, sight)? Is it a complete fantasy? Does it go back and forth like Marvell’s The Garden, where the speaker walks through the trees of an actual garden, then starts thinking of eternity of nature, Greek gods, Christian Garden of Eden, and then returns again to the physical garden from the metaphysical plane in a sudden volta?
- Miscellaneous clues
Are there any preface, notes, comments, or dedications that might shed light on the author’s intent? Are there any cultural details in the poem itself that help to date it or place it in a particular context? Is there any slang or patois that identify a specific group, like the AAVE in Langston Hughes’s Mother to Son poem? Do the names of the characters suggest additional meaning?
Example of Poem Analysis Essay Outline
Of course, an outline depends on the details of the specific assignment: the allowed word count, questions your prompt asks you to answer, prominent features of the poem itself, etc. However, the usual way to plan your analysis is to start on the surface and get deeper as you go. For example, here is a sample outline for the analysis essay on Andrew Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress:
General information about the poem: the title, the author’s name, the time it was written and first published, whether it’s a standalone piece or a part of a collection/series, and what is known about the author’s life (country and language, artistic creed, political affiliation, personal struggles, etc.) Touch on the central theme. Make sure your introduction ends with a thesis statement (a direct answer to the prompt question), leading to a more detailed breakdown in the essay’s body.
- Summary of the poem
- Main themes: love and death
- Prominent symbols: heart, desert, dust and ashes, morning dew
- Poetic devices and figurative language: personification, hyperbole, metaphor, simile, allusion, syllogism.
- Rhythm and sound: alliteration, assonance, consonance, enjambment, end-stopped line, caesura.
- Form, meter, and rhyme: iambic tetrameter couplets, rhymed AABBCCDDEE
- Speaker: anonymous lover persuading his reluctant mistress to consummate their relationship
- Setting: entire Earth from England to the Ganges River in India
- Literary context: metaphysical poetry
- Historical context: the Interregnum
Sum up your analysis: what is the meaning of the poem? Provide your personal take on it: how does it make you feel? Are you moved, terrified, or entertained? How does the poet achieve this impression? You might also put the poem into a broader context: does it speak to a modern reader? What is the secret of its staying power?
As you can see, there is quite a lot to unpack in those mere 46 lines!
Benefit from Customized Poem Analysis Essay Examples
Now you can analyze away and find hidden depth even in a nursery rhyme. However, while you hone your analysis skills, you can benefit from expertly written model papers. The beauty of personalized samples is that they are tailored to your needs and requirements of each specific assignment. They show you different approaches, formats, and styles. You can give as detailed instructions as you need by:
- providing a title of your paper, for example, “Invictus by William E. Henley poem analysis”
- adding a note, such as “Write my assignment from a Christian perspective” or “Write my paper with a more conceptual, metaphysical slant rather than focusing on features and form”
- pasting your assignment details or attaching a file (PDF, doc, txt, etc.) with the prompt and concrete questions from your class instructor
- directly communicating with your writer and discussing how the analysis should be executed and the paper formatted
However, you can also leave the analysis entirely to the expert’s discretion without even pointing out a specific poem. Your assigned helper will pick a piece of poetry that best fits the academic level you have requested. Hope this will allow you to enjoy the poetry on a new, more profound level. Stay curious and enthusiastic, practice, and love writing! We are here to lend a hand