The art of analyzing poetry lies in the reading of the
How to read a poem:
- Read the poem over several times
- Read it aloud to yourself
- When reading aloud, pay attention to spacing and
punctuation. Periods, ellipses and dashes call for
a verbal pause while commas demand a shorter break.
If there is no punctuation at the end of a line, no pause
should be placed there, continue without break to the
- Keep a dictionary nearby, consult it often to unravel
words with heavy connotations.
- Read slowly
- Try to follow the thought of the poem continuously
through the end
Once the outer meaning has been gathered, break it
down using these steps:
- Title: Decide if the title has connotative
meanings, write down synonyms for words in the title, and
connect the title to as many different things as you can.
- Paraphrase: Rewrite the poem in your own words to deepen
your understanding of what the poet is getting across.
Fit phrases into modern day translations to ensure you
grasp the full meaning.
- Connotation: Painstakingly go through the poem, jotting
down every word that possesses a meaning alternate from the
one assigned to it in the poem. This kind of
analysis can reveal hidden meanings and plays on words
that might otherwise have remained unseen.
- Attitude: What is the general attitude of the
poem? What feelings does it arouse in you, the
reader? What emotions do you think the poet wanted
to awaken? Watch punctuation, word choice and sound
usage for clues. (Soft words like slide,
feather,laughter usually add a
gentle feel, while words with harsh sounds like corked,
guzzle, battled can lend a clipped,
- Shift: Where does the shift in thought arrive?
There should be a break, when the speaker ends one manner
of speech, changes point of view, or pauses to consider
something other than the subject. This is known as
the shift, referring to the shift in thought. That
place is generally the turning point of the poem, and its
important to understand where and why the shift occurred
in your poem.
- Title: After unlocking the puzzle of the poem itself,
return to the title. The connotations you uncovered
before analyzing the body can now be matched up to your
results to see if they apply, or add any fresh
Also, identify the tone and the theme of the
poem. Discover how each is established, what kinds of
melodic devices and imagery were used to bring them to life.
Consider who the speaker is and take the setting into
account. Define for yourself the central purpose of the
poem and be sure to take notice of symbols and figurative speech.