What to consider when analysing poetry

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The list is endless when it comes to what you can say about poetry, however for the purposes of an exam, it is often helpful to have a mental checklist of key concepts to look out for. 

 

1. Tone/Narrative Voice: Who is speaking? Is it the author or a character? Why are they saying what they are saying? Is there no voice at all, and if so, why is this? Whose voice are we not hearing? In answering these questions, you delve deeper into the poem and uncover the tone of the poem, whether it be a romantic sonnet or comedic limerick 

2. Form/Narrative: What is the physical form of the poem, what type of poem is it? Is it a sonnet and therefore follow the general rules of a sonnet? Or a ballad telling you a story. This is crucial in analysing the poem successfully as often the form can tell you a lot about the primary concerns of the poem.

3. Rhythm and rhyme: Often the use of rhyme and rhythm has a huge impact on the tone created in the poem, helping you to see the message the poet is attempting to put across. Does the poem rhyme? If so, why? Does this make the poem humorous or alert us to a repeated word or concern?

4. Themes/language: This is where we need to consider the choice of language, is it violent, romantic, religious? Are there recurring themes or ideas such as the changing of seasons, or reference to something specific that shows us more about what the poem is about? 

It is useful to make a list such as this for yourself to check off when approaching a poem. This is also a very helpful revision tool as you can ask family or friends or tutors to test you with flashcards on what you remember about a poem considering these points.

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