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Tips for poem analysis

If you have been given the assignment to analyze a poem, don't panic! Works of literature are not easy to write about, especially when it comes to poems, but here we are to help with a couple tips for your essay! Analysis is something logic-based and poetry is usually something obscure, so they do seem hard to combine. However, there are plenty of angles you could analyze a poem from.

Place it in the context

It is always useful to know the personal background of the author – what he was doing at the time of his life the poem was written, where he lived, who his friends and enemies were and who he was in love with, what his political views were and what literary trend he belonged to. Poets often use obscure images to describe and judge things that are very real, so place the poem in the context, and you can understand more about it. The innocent-looking piece about flowers blooming in spring may turn out to be the call to start a revolution!

Apply your knowledge of theory

Remember everything you’ve learned about literary theory and use it in your analysis. Look for literary tropes, like metaphors, irony or hyperboles, and think why the author needs to use them, what he wanted to lay emphasis on. Whether the author belongs to a certain literary group or has a unique style, look for the characteristics of his poem that can prove it – in particular, in different literary styles the form of the poem will also be different. So, you are looking for the presence or absence of rhyme and rhythm, the length of the lines and so on. If this seems too complicated, you could always ask us to help you with your essay!

More tips

Don’t try retelling the plot. Even if you do find a plot in a poem, which won't always be easy, it's not what the analysis is about. If you feel you absolutely need to dwell on the sequence of events the poem describes, don't spend too much space on it. However, you can quote a lot, as long as you analyze the quotation after. When it comes to poems, it is easier to directly quote four lines, than to beat about the bush paraphrasing them. Finally, you could spare a paragraph on how the poem influenced you personally – what it made you think and how it made you feel. Including some personal experience would balance your essay and make it complete.

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