Poetry Analysis Essay: Tips, Steps and Structure

 From rhythmic verses to flowing words, poems have a sublime quality that’s pleasing and appeals to the ear. However, to truly understand a poem, we need to unpack it and understand the elements that power it.

Analyzing any poem is THE central aspect of developing a perfect poetry analysis essay and requires deep thinking. The article itself is a typical one with an introduction, body, and conclusion. So, without any further ado, let’s look at the nuances of developing a stellar poetry analysis essay.

Poetry Analysis 101

A poem comprises various independent elements, and each must be analyzed carefully to understand the subject within the form.  

We start by breaking down the poem into its constituent elements to study its structure, form, language, metrical pattern, and underlying theme.  Only then can we understand and appreciate the content on a deeper level.

Five critical elements to be considered when analyzing poetry are as follows.

  1. Theme: The theme of a poem is the basic idea or context that defines it. The central vision or the subject matter that the verses talk about and needs to be understood in-depth.

A specific roadmap is necessary to unearth and understand all these intricacies in depth. So, let’s take a look at those steps and tips in detail.

Steps and Tips For Writing A Great Poetry Analysis Essay

Poetry analysis essays are akin to analytical essays, as writers need to interpret a poem in-depth and review all the different artistic, functional & structural pieces. Here are some great tips on how to analyze poetry perfectly.

1. Begin By Reading OUT LOUD

Read the poem thoroughly at least twice. First, read it out loud as it is supposed to be read and listen to it minutely.  Follow the structural, functional, and rhythmic elements while reading out loud. Then, go through it slowly and appreciate all the nuances and features that make the content unique.

The rhythmic patterns in a poem can be understood by reading out loud. When reading aloud, one can understand how the words, syllables, and essential elements shape the rhythm & flow. If possible, get your hands on recording the poems’ recital and listen to it with rapt attention. Listen carefully to the word flow within the rhythm, from line to line, among breaks and wherever there’s stress.

Also, go through the title and understand how it relates to the meat of the matter.

2. Map The Rhyme Scheme, If Any

It does not take much time to understand whether a poem has a rhythmic scheme or uses free verse, that is, without any rhythmic elements or regular meter.

If a poem has a rhythmic scheme, map it out by assigning a letter to each line that rhythms the same. Then, read it aloud time and again or listen to recitals carefully to identify the rhythm patterns. Take note of any distinct design or formal rhyme scheme or any formal rhyme schemes, such as alternate rhyme, ballade, monorhyme, coupled rhyme, terza rima, triplet, etc.

3. Scan The Poem’s Metrics

Scansion is the process that involves scanning and analyzing the meter of a poem. The Meter of a poem is the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables on each line. Mark every stressed syllable that’s paired with at least one unstressed syllable.  Next, mark the pattern of stresses throughout a line and identify the meter based on your observations.

4. Break Down The Whole Structure

Next up, take a look at the written structure of the poem. Look at the details of the poem’s design, such as the white spaces around the words. Notice all the structures within the content and find out if they align with the idea & thoughts they are meant to represent. For example, does the end of a line signify the end of a thought, or does it employ enjambment? Are all verses in sync with the overall tone & rhythm of the whole poem?

Note all such things as they form the crux of the subject matter of your essay.

5. Determine The Poem’s Form and Study Its Language

Poets employ a variety of diction, literary devices, and specific elements purposefully to build tempo, develop rhythm and express different things.

Identify all such elements of poetry and literary nuances to determine the form of the poem. For example, if the poem has three four-line stanzas followed by a couplet, the poem is a sonnet. There are many other formal types of poetry, each having its specific features.

Examine each word in a specific line. Note if it has any particular significance on the line and overall story & them of the poem. Take note of how the poet plays with the language using metaphors, similes, alliteration, assonance and other figurative languages to sculpt the poem.

6. Study The Content Carefully

As you study the poem, interpret the message it delivers meticulously. Look at the content and the message it tries to get over.  Uncover the theme and learn when the poem was written to understand its historical context.  Find out where it was written and the background of the poet.  All such information will aid you in realizing and acknowledging the poem deeply.

Your poetry analysis essay needs to deliver all such information in accurate detail.

7. Determine The Poem’s Protagonist

Try to determine who the speaker of the poem is. Is the poem told in first-person, second-person or third person? What tone does the narrator employ to convey information? Identifying these things will help in analyzing the poem from a personal perspective.

8. Paraphrase The Whole Thing, Line By Line

Finally, it is time to paraphrase the poem line by line.  Start right from the start and transform each line. Paraphrasing involves writing down the summary of the poem with appropriate interpretation as you go. Once done, go through the complete paraphrase to understand the meaning of the poem.

The paraphrase and analysis will be the source material for your poetry analysis essay. However, before rounding up this article, let’s look at the generic template of a poetry analysis essay.

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