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How do I analyse a poem?

There are many different steps of poetry analysis. A poem may be shorter than a novel or chapter but you still must spend just as much time analysising it and understanding it as you would do with a longer literary work.

Firstly, read through the whole poem without analysing it too much. Just gain your own understanding of the context of the poem and what is happening. Write down any notes of your intitial interpretation of the poem.

After reading it once, read it again for a second time for in-depth analysis. Research the context of the poem, such as the time period it was written in and also any historical or cultural context within the poem. This will help to shape your understanding of the poem.

Then move onto a close reading of the poem. Underline any words you don't understand and find the definition for them. Underline any words of significance and words that have literary techniques, such as metaphor, similie, onomatopoeia, allegory, alliteration or hyperbole. There are lists of rhetorical devices and their definitions online. This will help your understanding of how poetry is written and how meaning and emotion is conveyed through these rhetorical devices. 

It may seem difficult at first to spend this long on a particular line of poetry, or even a word, but it is important for your understanding of literary works and poetry analysis. The more you practice poetry analysis, the less tentative it will seem.

Sophie L. 13 Plus  English tutor, A Level English tutor, GCSE English...

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