How to Analyse a Poem?


What is Poetry Analysis?

A poem conveys something to the reader. There is a message and meaning behind the words of a poem. When you read a poem in your English literature class, you do not always understand what the poet is trying to tell us in the first go. In this blog post, you will learn how to analyse any poem.

Before You Jump Into The Analysis

Here are a few points to consider for poetry analysis:

  • Understand the life and background of the poet.

    For example, Maya Angelou was an African American and civil rights activist. Thus, when you analyse her poems you find that they often expose and touch upon topics such as racial discrimination. Her poems appeal to people of all races however they often talk about the prejudices against the Black people and their resilience. Her poem “I know why the Caged Bird Sings” is a great example. It talks about freedom. Hence, if you understand details of the poet’s life, it will also help in analysis of the poem.

  • Have a look at the title of the Poem.

    The title can reveal a lot. For example, in the poem “Haunted Houses” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow the title itself indicates that the poem is about ghosts and spirits.

  • Understand the sound and rhythm of a poem.

    Here, you need to look out for how many syllables are stressed and how many are not. Thus, you can get an idea of what the poet is emphasising on.

  • Have a look at the theme of the poem.

    In the poem Daffodils, the poet is talking about the beauty of nature and the comfort of remembering it in the “bliss of solitude.” Read the poem and watch out for the imagery and figures of speech used by the poet to emphasise the theme.

  • Check the supplementary details provided.

    As ICSE students, you might have read a great number of lessons which not only provide the poem but also various other details. For example, check when the poem was written and in which country. Is it a translated poem or is it original? Being curious about these things will help you understand the poem better.

Do these before and while reading a poem.

Poem written on typewriter
Poem written on typewriter

Step By Step Guide To Analyse A Poem

Here are the step-by-step guide to go about the process:

  • Read the Poem Once

    The first time you read a poem, go through it slowly. Observe the type of poem. Is it a confessional poem or a mere three line Haiku? Is it about a great person?

  • Read the Poem Aloud

    Read the poem aloud so you can hear it in your own voice. Check the sounds and rhythm. You can also ask someone else to read it aloud or listen to a recording online. Observe the pauses and stressed syllables.

  • Map out the Rhyme Scheme

    There are a few types of rhyme schemes. For example, in the ABABCC rhyme scheme, the alternate lines are rhyming and each stanza ends with a rhyming couplet. In the ABAB rhyming scheme, the first and third lines must rhyme and similarly, the second and fourth lines must rhyme.

  • Scan through the poem

    Scan through the poem and have a look. Ask yourself if it is written in first person, second person or third person. Is it a sonnet, couplet or some other type of poem? What is the mood of the poem? Is it cheerful, sad or puzzling and mysterious?

  • Write down your interpretation line by line

    Bring a pen and piece of paper. Read every line and stop. Interpret your thoughts and write down your opinion after every line. Complete line by line analysis of the entire poem.

Finally, read what you have written and try to grasp the meaning in its entirety.

What Have We Learned?

Poem analysis can be an enriching and rewarding experience. It will teach you a lot. You will find how all the elements of a poem blend well together. The quality and characteristics of the poem will be evident.

You too will be inspired to pick up the pen and write a poem.