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Guidelines for Analysing Poems / Poetry

How do we Analyse Poetry? What do we need to identify?

Subject matter - the question to ask here is; what event, situation or experience does the poem describe or record? (e.g. many 'love' poems record a break up of a relationship or stages of a relationship, many 'personal' poems are written because the poet is trying to understand themselves or some part of their own thinking)

Purpose - or theme, or message of the poet. The question to ask here is; what is the poet's purpose in writing this? What message does he or she want to communicate? (i.e. a poet may simply wish to express emotion, to get something off their chest, to purposefully try to create a type of poem, to try to make us see things from their pint of view, to change our thinking about certain things)

Emotion - or mood or feeling. What is the main emotion, or mood of the poem? Does the mood change during the poem? What emotions does the poet want the reader to feel? (e.g. emotions may include love, hate, anger, frustration, confusion, determination)

Craftsmanship - or technique. This aspect of the poem deals with specific skills the poet has used in creating their work of art. How is the poem written? Does it use specific poetic techniques? What rules has it followed which define the type of poem it is?

Finally - What is the poem's total impact on you? (How do you feel after reading it? Can you relate to it? Do you feel the same way/have the same opinion as the poet?)

Poetic Techniques

There are many specific techniques that poets employ in their poems. The use of these techniques has certain effects on the audience. These techniques include;

1) Similies

- where the poet compares two things that are not alike in many ways but have at least one similarity. The comparision is made using the terms LIKE or AS
- e.g. as fast as a cheetah, as light as a feather, tall like a building, she was violent like a storm

2) Metaphors

- this is another form of comparison but rather than saying one object is like another object, the metaphor implies the comparison by saying that the object IS the other object
- e.g. saying to someone who eats in a messy way - 'you pig' (obviously they are compared to the pig because of their eating habits - not because they are pink and have curly tails!!)


Why write poetry? Why study poetry? Why is it that for thousands of years human beings have been creating and thinking and writing doen their thoughts in the form of poetry? These are all good questions?

The answer is that we are alive. To be alive is to be full of emotion and passion and opinions and beauty and anger and hope and dreams and fears. To be human is to have the desire to express one's self in any form we can find.

Poems are expressions of what is inside each of us. Each poem is written for a very good reason, whether it be because someone close to us has died and we are suffering or because we have just had our first child and bringing them into the world was an event we will never forget. We all have experiences that can be translated into poems. You might ask, "why write poems when I can write a story or something else?" Good question. Some people do find it easier to tell stories than write poetry. If it were not so then the libraries would be full of poetry books and have no novels! The fact is that poetry is a form that allows for more specific expression than stories. Stories have a beginning, middle and end. They are written because there is a complete story to tell. In the case of poems, there is no beginning, middle or end. There is just a theme that runs throughout the poem from the first word to the last verse. This theme or emotion or recollection is expressed as truthfully and carefully as possible so that the reader can feel the essence of the passion behind it.