How do I do a close reading of a poem?

Relevant for both GCSE and A Level: Every student will have a different way of doing a close reading of a poem. What is important is that a student finds a style with which they are comfortable and confident with and can replicate under exam conditions. The aim of a close reading is to present a deeper analysis of the poem, so there are some key steps, whatever your style is, that a student must follow in order to write a clear, cogent and close analysis of a poem. Firstly, it is essential to read the poem carefully. Then read it again. Read it whilst keeping in mind key terms such as ‘voice’, ‘form’, ‘register’, ‘rhetoric’, ‘genre’ etc and make a note of or highlight what stands out to you. Knowing your key literary terms is essential for a good close analysis. Especially in poetry, word placement (syntax) is often used to emphasise a word or phrase, so consider what message the poet is trying to relay. Gaining an understanding of the general message of a poem can help before delving into close analysis. Remember that no close analysis will aim to cover everything; that’s neither possible nor desirable! Choose a few key points and really focus on them. Although close analysis can be tricky, a little bit of practice with breaking down poems line by line can help to make it an easier process.

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