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How to Analyze a Poem

You don't need to be an English major to dissect poetry.


  • Step 1: Research Research the author to understand the poem’s context. The period of time the author lived in and the author's personal experiences often influence their writing.
  • Step 2: Determine the form Determine the form of the piece, whether it is a fixed poem that follows a specific structure or written in free verse.
  • TIP: Look for breaks in the form. Poets break a poem's form to emphasize a word or a line.
  • Step 3: Break down the meter Read the poem and break down the meter, or the stressed and unstressed syllables of each line. Notice if stressed words have significance.
  • TIP: Read the poem several times, and take notes on particular words or phrases that stand out.
  • Step 4: Identify devices of sound Identify how the poet uses devices of sound such as rhyme, repetition, assonance, and alliteration.
  • Step 5: Identify devices of sense Look for devices of sense, such as figures of speech, metaphors, similes, visuals, and symbolism. Determine the meanings of these devices in the poem.
  • Step 6: Determine speaker Determine the speaker of the poem, and the tone of the piece. Notice if the poet is speaking from personal experience or from another point of view.
  • Step 7: Form a thesis Form a thesis, or an argument for the meaning of the poem using what you've observed.
  • FACT: Did you know? Walt Whitman comforted soldiers in the hospital during the Civil War, and their suffering provided him with inspiration for his poetry.

You Will Need

  • A poem
  • A biography of the author
  • Focus
  • A notebook
  • A pen

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