52 How to Analyze Poetry

Poetry is a form of expression. The poet uses his/her own personal and private language which leaves poetry open to different interpretations. Although the poet may have had one specific idea or purpose in mind, the reader’s response may be completely different. Nevertheless, this does not mean that you may interpret poetry any way you wish. All interpretations must be supported by direct reference to the text. As with any type of literary analysis, you need a basic knowledge of  the elements of poetry. The following guide and questions will help you.

  • Read the poem in its entirety to get a  general impression.
  • What is the poem about?
  • What is the title of the poem?
  • Who is speaker or narrative voice of the poem
  • To whom is the speaker speaking?
  • What is the purpose of the poem: to describe, amuse, entertain, narrate, inform, express grief, celebrate or commemorate?
  • What is the tone of the poem? Sad, happy, melancholy, bitter?


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Introduction to Literature Copyright © by William Stewart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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