A Model and Illustration of Writing Poetry Analysis

You’re in a poetry club, and one of your friends begins to read a poem, what are the odds that you’ll recognize the writer from the first few lines? Would you recognize the structure of what you’re hearing? If you can easily do this, then you must have mastered the techniques of poetry analysis. This is one skill that we should all aspire to because it has the potential for beautifying and stimulating our intellect and relationships. But this is often hard work. Because analyzing a poem is pretty hard work. Some poems may take a lifetime to be analyzed! Consider novels like A S Byatt’s “Possession” whose plot is a series of poetry being investigated in a bid to pin the love life of a prominent poet.

A poetry analysis entails a kind of writing that is slightly different from that of other kinds of essays. It has its own structure, like the optimal number of paragraphs and even the nature of the content and the limitations of what can be said of the poetry.

There are many online specialists who can help you write a good poetry analysis and develop a deep understanding that will serve you even beyond your career life. The idea here is to stimulate thinking and encourage multiple perspectives to guide the knowledge acquisition and practice of what poets and poetry offer us. Remember, poems are like codes that one deciphers about the soul of mankind intended for sharing. Thus, this kind of analysis is one that the poet expects from any reader.

Defining the Genre

This kind of essay is written for English Composition 101/Literature class, as an exercise designed to help a student in the art of being able to appreciate poetry effectively.

Understanding the poem entails understanding the poet and the context of his/her writing, and even appreciating the poetic conventions and limitations that determined the work too. Therefore, the essay is one designed to help a reader to develop an understanding of a poem, to articulate this understanding and to share that understanding with the world. Normally, this kind of work is assigned when the tutor or professor wants to stimulate the mind and prompt critical thinking and self-development in the student. Another reason and time when the student is given this task is when it’s required of the student to be able to relate optimally with a poem, usually after some instruction.

So the question is; how can one write an analysis that is comprehensive and relevant enough? Here, a trick could be about being sensitive to the human condition. A poet is one who can identify and articulate on the human condition. So, to write a high quality analysis, the student should be sensitive enough to identify the issues and situations prompted by the poet in question. How can one decipher the meaning of the assignment? One can do so by understanding the types of assignment given and the details prompted by the tutor and seeing how they relate. Common areas of intersection offer details that show what the student needs to know about a poem and hence get a tool for one to decipher the meaning the provided poem. That’s the trick behind knowing the details that belong to this kind of essay.

There are three kinds of pieces or aspects or dimensions of a poem that one should be acquainted with. These are:

  •  The artistic piece – This entails the form of expression and how it is used to state an idea and still uphold the idea of beauty.
  •  The functional piece – This is more about the objective that the writer has set off to accomplish with the piece. Is it about narrating a story? Is it about to trigger critical thought?
  •  The Structural piece – What is the architecture of the poem? How many lines are there in a stanza? How are the syllables? How is rhyme achieved?

These are examples of how we can think along a poem’s dimensions and how we can use these dimensions to come up with a good analysis of a poem. Therefore, one should spend ample time to read and re-read the poem from each of the above perspectives. It’s also a great idea to try and integrate these perspectives accordingly to create a holistic picture that would perhaps new understanding of the work provided.

Each of these dimensions constitutes a poem yet each piece matters in its own right. Your objective is to understand and articulate the decisions made by the writer regarding these pieces in the sample poem and try to trace possible reasons behind the choices to get a glimpse of the poet’s mind.

Some critical questions regarding these dimensions are like: what are the features of these dimensions? What conventions exist regarding them? How have the writer’s choices directed the meaning and understanding that we should adopt?

For example, it may be advisable to state the measures and metric elements of the poem and determine how such meter has been used historically. A haiku type of poem, for instance, had its occasion. The occasion or context directs us to understand the mood, the setting and the psychological state of the poet and the poem. Thus, most poems subscribe to a kind of identifiable architecture that serves very specific meanings and effects. Therefore, knowing or sharing your understanding of this architecture is important for the analysis.

Method for Writing a Poem Analysis

We can know how to write a good poem analysis by two ways: we may take a standard manual from tutors, and describe emergent patterns, and or take a sample of grade A’s and trace for patterns. Both have their advantages and disadvantages and even limitations. For example, the sample of grade A’s may tend to show a bias towards a certain flavor of expression that may not be mentioned in the tutor manuals or schemes of work. Looking at student samples has its limitations and advantages as well. A limitation is that the student’s work may not have the finer details of what entails a good analysis. So, how do you choose from the above? For our present case, we believe that a synthesis of the two approaches is beneficial.

It would seem obvious that one can only begin to understand a text after repeated reading and critical thinking. So the analysis is a dynamic work that may pass through several drafts like most other essays. But all this can happen when one begins by developing a tentative outline to articulate the strategy of how the essay will be developed and to what end it is being developed. An outline serves as a resource that the writer can use to keep going even when ideas seem to cause the ‘writer’s block’.

Figuring out the outline

This kind of essay is normally 5 paragraphs long, so this is the first thing to remember when outlining. It doesn’t matter whether the rubric says that one should remember it or not. How you come up with an outline is simple:

  1.  Create a title and write it at the top of the page. Then, using a numbering system, state the elements of the essay in order, with the first element being the thesis or main argument of the paper. Derive a short description that supports this thesis. Take some moment to reflect on what you have. Is it reasonable? Is it captivating and relevant? If you have doubts, try to imagine alternative theses and articulate them.
  2.  Then create a strategy for the main presentation. How does the argument flow? Proceeding with the numbering, refer to the various aspects of the poem. How well can you articulate the salient features about them? How do they connect and how does this connection influence your thought? What other ideas come to mind? Subtopics may need to be ordered differently by using letters to define them.
  3.  Finish the elements with a ‘summary’. Here, an alternate but equivalent version of the main argument is reiterated and elaborated, and then a brief explanation to support the summary is written.

The finishing paragraph may also be used to mention about other aspects of the poem that may not have been mentioned earlier like how stylistic devices add to the weight of the thesis. Details on the preceding information regarding Poetry Analysis and their outlines.

There are two basic approaches to writing outlines. How a student will select the approach to use is a matter of discretion. The two approaches are as follows:

1. You could begin with an introduction that briefly articulates a description of the work in focus. Then state a relevant context and avoid taking a personal view that claims to demonstrate the writer’s intentions. It’s not always necessary to base the analysis on personal opinion.

2. Then create a main body analyzing the poem and either describing:

  •  The patterns or themes with suitable examples in the form of direct and indirect quotations and allusions that offer relevant proof of what is being asserted Or you could take steps 1 and 2 with the following variation for the second step:
  •  Articulate an estimation of the impact or structure of the main parts of the poetry under analysis.

3. Finish with a summary that follows normal convention. That is, reiterate the main statements or arguments and show how the statement(s) are connected to the writer’s goals and using text-based evidence to show the author’s inclinations. Complete the summary with a statement that affirms the thesis and points to possible future developments.

How to Choose a Good Essay Topic

The topic you choose for your essay is important since it sets the standard and difficulty one has to overcome in order to come up with an analysis of the expected quality. If you select a very technical topic, then be prepared to work more intensely and carefully. It’s all a matter of how one views risk and challenges and probably what objectives one has in mind while getting on with the task. One should try to keep off poems that he/she is not acquainted with, for example.

This only increases the time and effort required to deal with the work accordingly. Again, it’s important to consider poems that offer you adequate space and resources for creative expression. Poems that resonate with your personal experiences or thoughts and that have been written in a more accessible language may be the best bet. Once you’ve chosen your poem, try to understand it by reading it over severally, and write down any relevant points, queries, and possible alternative approaches to the subject that emerge.

Once the topic has been selected, the student should get down on specific aspects of the poem. Is it the artistic, the functional or the structural aspect that you prefer? The best way is to choose the aspects that are most familiar to you. But an analysis that has something of each of the 3 dimensions stands to be of a higher aesthetic value.

Another good idea is to test yourself to see if the topic suits you. For example, is it easy to offer a cogent argument to support the topic? If the answer is negative, then it is better for you to find another topic. This time, you could start from the end by asking yourself, “What kinds of ideas or issues would I be most comfortable to answer?” Then work iteratively to find a poem that fits your intentions.

An Illustration of This Kind of Analysis

Providing examples is often a good way to clarify ideas. So we can do an example from a middle school. Try to check against what we’ve discussed above to evaluate the quality of the analysis provided.

“Auto Wreck” is a poem by "Karl Shapiro, a native of Baltimore Maryland. His main issue is that as a Jew, he’d experienced lots of discrimination even at his alma mater the University of Virginia. The tension was too great for him that he tried to disguise his name and make it to sound more German. This made him to experience inner guilt since it was a tacit denial of his identity.

Like the title suggests, Shapiro describes an accident in a way that doesn’t exactly detail how he was part of it. He could even have been a secondary witness watching it over the news. But it details his ideas on what equalizes us all, the unexpected and perhaps unsolicited death of all people irrespective of ethnicity and race. “Auto Wreck” is quite long with 36 stanzas and 39 lines all of them covered with 259 words.

It opens with details about paramedics rushing to the scene of an accident and trying to prevent the deaths of the humans involved. The paramedics begin their tasks, but it all seems like a futile task or a simulation of power and order in a context where humans are helpless in the face of nature that apportions death almost irrationally since many kinds of death appear to be the same in the final analysis. The poem is mainly focused on furnishing the details of the scene in a lyrical fashion, yet the tone is somber and perhaps full of despair and desire for self-destruction. The artistry exhibited in the poem is poignant of the many beautiful souls who go through pain yet their plight is often unappreciated and the insensitivity has crept into the mind of the victim till the latter has been desensitized of his own pain. Now all that is left is an over the distance description of what is happening in the here and now. Bodies and relations to bodies are ambivalent. The paramedics are rushing to the rescue, yet at the back of their minds they don’t really care about the humanity they wish to preserve. In fact, the whole rescue incidence appears to be a ritual that is mixed with the desire to earn a living and justify the life of the selfish and isolated individual rather than a communal sharing of life and experience. From another angle the poem appears to be a warning or a nudging to the audience to wake up and confront what unites all humans- death, and reformulate a way of life that would take account of the common destiny we all share and figure out a way we can change relations and allow individuals to flourish despite their uniqueness.

I must have been one of the people that Karl Shapiro intended to speak to, given my reactions to the realistic descriptions and the innuendos they carry. These expressions have allowed me to get connected to my inner pain that I may have been desensitized from accessing and understanding. It has given me the opportunity to have a fresh look at humanity, and by studying the various stages in life that we all have to go through and what ideas we ought to have about them. We all meet death accidentally, we all try to avoid it, yet all we can do is “Douche ponds of blood with a bucket”. The police, who are the keepers of law and order and protectors of life, can only try to erase evidence of the horror and try to recreate a reality that resembles order and predictability. It’s more about questions like that of St. Paul like, “death, where is thy sting?” For Paul, the matter of resurrection is an antidote to the horror of death yet for Shapiro it is a moment of dazed cognition and helplessness if not hopelessness.


Poetry analysis is intensive in preparation, yet brief in expression. One should be aware of the mechanics and structure of a proper analysis, how to conduct a preparation that develops an effective outline. The task of writing this kind of essay helps the reader to get closer to the poet and his/her intentions. Then the understanding is spread to a third party –the examiner who is invited into a discourse on humanity and beauty. One can easily access many examples of poetry analyses on the internet, and it is also advisable for the student to get into contact with any kind of professional support provided by the many teams that exist to help you solve and create the best works.

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