How do I analyse an unseen poem in the exam?

First of all - don't panic!

Read the poem through once.

Then read it again, underlining any parts that stick out to you. Think about whether you can spot any figures of speech such as metaphors, similes, repetition, alliteration - if you can see them underline them!

Read it through a third time, and make some annotations about these things you have noticed. For example, if there is a metaphor - what is the author comparing to what? What is the effect of this comparison - for example, if a person is being described in the poem, what does the use of the metaphor suggest about the person?

As well as thinking about figures of speech and poetic techniques, it is always helpful to jot down, or at least make sure you understand the message or story of the poem. This is a bit easier - ask yourself questions like 'who is speaking or saying this poem?', 'who/what is about?', 'what happens?', 'is there a message that the author is trying to convey?'.

In terms of then writing your answer, I would suggest using the 'PEED' method (Point, Evidence, Explanation, Development). It makes writing an essay so easy! Each paragraph you write will consist of a Point sentence, an Evidence sentence, an Explanation sentence and a Development sentence.
If you break it down in this way, it will seem much less daunting.

To write your Point sentence, take one of the annotations that you have made on the poem, and try and summarise it's main point in one concise sentence (for e.g. The use of the metaphor in verse 2 comparing the woman's face to a ... suggests she is ... ). Keep this sentence short and consise - there will be time to develop your point later.

Then, for your Evidence sentence, quote whereabouts in the poem you have got this information (e.g. In verse 2, the speaker says "....")

For your Explanation sentence, explain why you think that the evidence means what you said in the Point. (e.g. This suggests that the woman is ... because the comparison links her to .... , suggesting they are similar).

For the Development sentence, try and develop this further to some of the other themes or topics you have noticed in the poem.

Aim to write at least 3 and no more than 5 of these 'PEED' paragraphs about your poem, and you will be on to a winner!

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