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How to analyse poetry

Reading poetry is a great way to enhance your vocabulary, improve your writing skills, and learn about the human condition. Poetry can be deeply moving, inspiring or thought-provoking; it's also a great way to relax after a long day at work or school! But if you're not sure how to analyse poetry, don't worry - we've got some tips for you:


Slow and steady!

The first thing to do is to read the poem carefully, paying attention to the words. Read it out loud if you can; this will help with your understanding and interpretation of what you are reading.

The second thing is to read it again, slowly and carefully. Make sure that you understand every word in your own language before moving on in your analysis process. You can read the poem as many times over as you like. Go through with a fine comb brush!

The third step is to look for patterns and symbols. You can do this with the help of a dictionary if you need it, or simply by paying close attention to the words in each line.

Where does the poet use certain words or phrases? Why? What does he or she mean by these things? The fourth step is to consider what you’ve read so far.

What emotions does the poet create? Look for clues in the imagery and tone of the poem.

The poet's use of language and imagery can create a mood or atmosphere that will affect how you perceive the poem. Look for clues in the imagery and tone of the poem, as well as its structure.

For example:

  • In the poem from Ted Hughes' Crow (1971), we see two crows fighting over food on a road near Oxford University campus. This is an example of conflict between two characters; it creates tension in readers because they want to know what happens next but are uncertain if it will end well for one crow or both crows involved in this fight for survival: "Two crows were fighting over food on our road."

Who is the speaker? What's their motivation for speaking?

The next thing to consider when analysing poetry is who the speaker is. The speaker may be the author, a character in the poem or even an outside voice of authority.

Now try to think about why they are speaking. Is it a friendly chat or an angry rant? Is it an observation or an opinion?

Next, consider is where they are. If it’s a person speaking, then you need to think about where they are and what they are doing when they speak.

What is the main idea of this stanza? What does it show about the speaker's character or the situation at hand?

Look at is the main idea of a stanza. What does it show about the speaker's character or the situation at hand?

For example, in this passage from "The Road Not Taken," Frost establishes himself as someone who makes difficult choices and follows through with them. He also seems like someone who has a lot of self-doubt about his decisions and doesn't always trust his own instincts:

I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.

This poem is about the decisions we make and how they affect us. It also shows us that even though our decisions may seem insignificant at the time, they can have a big impact on our lives.

Why are these words used here? How do they contribute to meaning and tone?

You need to look up the definitions of each word. You can look up the definition of a word in a dictionary or on Google, but it's best if you have a good grasp of grammar and spelling so that you know how to spell each word correctly.

Next, think about what connotations (or associations) each word has for people who hear them. For example, if I asked someone what they thought when they heard "dog" and then asked them what connotations came up for them when hearing "cat," there would probably be some differences between those two answers because one person might associate dogs with loyalty while another person may associate cats with independence or cleanliness (and maybe even laziness).

Now think about how denotations differ from connotations--what does this mean? A denotation is simply what something means literally whereas its connotation refers more broadly toward emotions associated with an object or idea; these are often related but not always so! For example: "the sun rises every morning." This sentence has both literal meaning as well as emotional implications; after all no one wants their day ruined by waking up early... unless maybe they're farmers who rely on sunlight throughout most days during springtime :)

Denotations and connotations can be used in poetry but they are not the only tools in a poet's kit. In fact, poets often use these words in order to create more complex meanings that might otherwise have been missed by readers who only focus on the literal meaning of words. For example: "The dog barked loudly."

This sentence has both a denotation--it means exactly what it says (a dog barked loudly), and a connotation--it means that the dog was being annoying and loud. But what if we change it slightly? "The barking of the dog startled me."

This sentence has both denotations--the literal meaning is still there but now it refers to a more specific action (i.e., barking) as well as a somewhat different connotation (i.e., now you're probably imagining a small puppy barking at something instead of an older dog).

Find a favourite line or a line that strikes you as particularly important or moving and reflect on what makes it special - why did it catch your attention or resonate with you emotionally?

Let's say you have a favourite line from a poem. Maybe it's the one that first caught your attention, or maybe it's just an example of how powerful words can be. Whatever the case may be, take some time to reflect on why this particular line resonated with you - what does it mean? What is the context of this particular line? How does it make you feel? Does this poem or passage relate to other parts of your life in any way?

These are all important questions to ask yourself, and they’ll help you get to know your favourite poem even better. If you have a specific question that needs answering, try searching online or at your local library for resources that might be able to help you out.

Reading poetry analytically can be a great way to understand what makes it so powerful.

You can read a poem analytically if you want to understand what makes it so powerful. Poetry has been around for centuries and its forms have changed over time, but there are still many poets writing today who use the same techniques as those used by Shakespeare or Keats. Reading poetry analytically will help you learn more about language, writing and literature as well as yourself.


I hope this guide has given you a better idea of how to analyse poetry. It can be intimidating at first, but with practice and patience it becomes easier. After all, we all started somewhere! If you want more guidance on how to read and understand poems analytically then I recommend checking out some books on the subject - there are many great ones out there with exercises that will help train your brain in understanding them better (and maybe even writing some yourself!).

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