Not everyone can be a poet, however, anyone can decipher the language of poetry.
Classic masterpieces are full of harmony and music thanks to simple tools (for example, rhythm, rhyme, figures of speech).
How to Analyze Poetry?
To analyse a text, you should study the poem's content and form.
Well, let's begin.
History of Creation
When was the verse written and published? Who is the author of the poem? Did he have any special views of life? Perhaps, he was a politician or a traveler?
Knowing something about the author's biography helps readers understand the poet's frame of mind.
If the verse was written by a foreign author, it is useful to learn more about his culture.
Sometimes the author does not equal the speaker.
Who is the speaker? Is that person a man or a women, “I” or “he/she”?
Theme and Idea of the Verse
Read the poem from beginning to end. Try to understand both its literal and symbolic meaning.
What does the text praise? What is the goal for this poem?
Classic verses usually deal with the great themes of motherland, beauty, nature, love, friendship, death.
Some of poems are more obviously lyrical than others (i.e. they talk about personal experiences).
You should also define the poet's tone (playful, somber, satiric etc.).
Poetic Forms and Rhyme Scheme
Poetic forms are different. There are closed forms and rhythmical free verse.
The compounds of sonnets, limericks, sestinas are strictly defined. They follow specific patterns.
The open form poems, on the contrary, let the structure grow out of the subject.
Determine the rhyme scheme of the text:
AAAA - monorhyme;
ABAB, AABB, ABBA - classic schemes;
ABAB CDCD EFEF GHGH - alternate rhyme;
ABAB ABAB CDC DCD - Italian sonnet;
ABBA ABBA CCD EED (CCD EDE) - French sonnet;
ABAB CDCD EFEF GG - Shakespearean sonnet;
AABBA - limerick;
ABCDEF FAEBDC CFDABE ECBFAD DEACFB BDFECA - sestina;
AABA - rubaiyat;
free verse etc.
True rhymes are words that rhyme exactly - for example, “big” - “pig” (but there are many kinds of nonstandard rhymes).
Most of famous poems have a rhythm. The rhythm depends on word stresses.
A stressed and unstressed syllabic pattern in a verse or within the lines of a poem are called “meter (metre)”.
|Type||Syllable count||Syllable count|
|Spondee||Two||Stressed + Stressed|
|Trochee||Two||Stressed + Unstressed|
|Iamb||Two||Unstressed + Stressed|
|Dactyl||Three||Stressed + Unstressed + Unstressed|
|Anapaest||Three||Unstressed + Unstressed + Stressed|
|Amphibrach||Three||Unstressed + Stressed + Unstressed|
Poets use a lot of "twists and turns" for artistic effect, such as:
prosopopoeia/anthropomorphism/personification: Applying human qualities to inanimate objects;
parallelism: Using of similar structures in two or more lines;
analogy: A comparison between objects that have similar features;
metaphor: A word or a phrase used to compare two different objects or thoughts to provide an exact description;
metonymy: A trope that replaces the name of one thing with the name of another thing with which it is closely associated;
antanaclasis: A rhetorical method in which a phrase or a word is used repeatedly;
hyperbole: An intentional exaggeration;
litotes: An understatement;
oxymoron: An original combination of words that have opposite meanings;
anaphora: A repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of two or more lines/stanzas etc.;
polysyndenton: A repetition of conjunctions in close succession;
asyndenton: An omission of conjunctions between related clauses;
inversion: A reversal of standard word order.
Try to find those devices in the lines of the poem.
Pay attention: the list is not full; we recommend you to turn to special manuals for more information.
Language of the text
Answer the questions:
How are the thoughts presented? Does the poet use archaic, highly specialized, slang words or not?
Which parts of speech dominate?
Are the pictures created by musical repetition of sounds?
Draw conclusions about the meaning of the poem and its artistic value. You can also summarize your personal responses.
Is that difficult? More practise and one fine day you will be good at poetry analysis!