How might I begin to analyse a difficult piece of poetry?

Difficult poetry can be intimidating and overwhelming at first, so the most important thing is to take it slow. Read through the whole piece twice and get as much of a general understanding of the content as possible. Now, with a pencil in your hand, go through the poem line by line. Underline any words or sections that you find analytically significant, personally like or just don't understand. Read each line until you generally understand the basic meaning. Then pick out key poetic techniques that you recognise - simile, metaphor, alliteration, allusion, imagery, repetition, personification etc. Also be aware of the poem's rhyme scheme, stanza structure, meter and point of view. Furthermore, if possible, it is always useful to discuss your ideas with another person, to compare and share thoughts. Once the poem is full of your penciled annotations, writing a detailed analysis will be easy as you will have so much to work with. You can notice patterns and repeated themes and ideas. Simply discuss these, notice them, provide examples and quote directly. Then give a reason why the poet might have chosen to write in this way and what affect it has on the poem and the reader.

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