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How to Write a Poetry Analysis Essay

December 04, 2017 Types of essays
How to Write a Poetry Analysis Essay

Every author and poet have their own unique style that cannot be replicated. Based on how they think or what they are trying to portray, they create various poems to explore several ideas or theories that were on their mind.

Poetry analysis is simply the process of reviewing the multiple artistic, functional, and structural pieces that make up a poem. Normally, this review is conducted and recorded within the structure of a literary analysis essay. This type of essay writing requires one to take a deeper look at both the choices that a poet made and the overall effects of those choices. These papers require an in-depth analysis of all of the parts that were used to form a work of poetry.


Table Of Contents

Steps To Take Pre-Writing

In order to compose a poetry analysis essay, one must first read the poem carefully. It is definitely important to reread the literary piece several times so as to get a full grasp of the numerous ideas and concepts. This also gives you an opportunity to make note of the rhyme scheme (if there is one), the type of poem (limerick, ode, sonnet, lyric, haiku, free verse, etc.) and other poetic techniques that the poet used (such as enjambment, meter, end-stopped lines, figurative language, etc.).

  • Limerick: Limerick is a stanza of five lines, with the first, second and fifth rhyming with one another and having three feet of three syllables each; and the shorter third and fourth lines also rhyming with each other, but having only two feet of three syllables.
  • Ode: Its structure - 10-line stanzas rhyming, with the 8th line iambic trimeter and all the others iambic pentameter
  • Sonnet: A fourteen-line poem written in iambic pentameter. Was made famous by non-other than Shakespeare! (Shakespeare invented the word "swag"... just saying)
  • Lyric: A lyric poem is a comparatively short, non-narrative poem in which a single speaker presents a state of mind or an emotional state. Rather than tell a story, the speaker talks about his thoughts using a specific rhyming style.
  • Haiku: Invented by the Japanese, a haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count.
  • Free-Verse: Rather simple, free verse is poetry that does not rhyme or have a regular rhythm.

All of those elements of the poem are essential to know when one is writing a poetry analysis essay because they are a part of the poem’s structure and can affect the content.

After covering the technical aspects of a poem, it is best to learn about the background of the poem. This means that one may find it beneficial to look up the poet, the date that the poem was written, and the cultural context of the work. All of that information typically gives the reader a more in-depth understanding of the poem, and it seems self-explanatory that one who has an enhanced comprehension of the poem would have an easier time conducting an analysis of that poem.

Poetry Analysis Essay

The final element of writing a poetry analysis essay is a part of the composition dedicated to the subject matter of the poem. This can be analyzed during the reader’s quest to determine the theme, tone, mood, and meaning of the poem. The subject matter – and the thematic elements that support the intended message behind the subject – is often an interpretive minefield.

Often, people have different ideas about what a poet is trying to say by their use of a subject, so unless the message is implicitly stated, it is best to state multiple possibilities about what the poet may have meant and include evidence for these theories. However, it is important to generally pick a side among the various theories that you have created. Though the author could have tried to portray several different ideas in theories, the central goal of the writer is to state the one he feels is mostly the case. The writer should be careful to not mistake this with choosing a favorite opinion or biased one. They should be defending the one that carries the most weight or offers the most validation! As the essay is to be an analysis, opinions are to be avoided in favor of facts and conjectures that are backed by evidence from the work.

How To Choose A Topic

A great way to choose a topic for a poetry analysis essay is to decide on a topic that would deal with information that one is already familiar with. For example, if the choice of the poem to analyze is up to the writer, then it may be beneficial for the writer to choose a poem that he/she has encountered before. If the choice is to be made between different subject areas within a poem, then the writer could find it easier to choose to focus on writing about an area that plays to his/her strengths, so that the statements made in the essay are conveyed clearly and confidently.

A poetry analysis essay may seem like a daunting writing assignment at first, but if the topic, outline, and paper are composed following the aforementioned steps, the paper will no doubt, turn out very well.

Quote Robert Frost

Poetry Analysis Essay Outline

An outline for a poetry analysis essay can be very simple, as it is just a guideline for the writer to build upon as the first draft is written. It would probably be best to put the title of the paper at the top of a page, then place a Roman numeral one (I) underneath, preceding the word “introduction”.

Under this, one can list brainstormed ideas for the introduction paragraph of the paper. The final portion of this section should be dedicated to the thesis statement of the paper.

After that portion of the outline is finished, one can move on to the body paragraphs. Each of the Roman numerals used to label this part of the outline should denote a different subject area in respect to the poem that will be discussed in the essay. Letters under these numerals may be followed by subtopics within each subject area that are to be dealt within individual paragraphs (or sentences, if it is to be a shorter essay) within the body of the paper.

The final section of the outline is where the last Roman numeral is used in front of the word “conclusion”. The conclusion of the paper should contain a restatement of the thesis, preferably in different, yet recognizable wording. It should also include and overall concluding statement about your summarized viewpoint of the analyzed piece.

Poetry Analysis Essay Outline

Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team

When it comes to poetry analysis, the tricky thing is to pinpoint literary devices and explain their meaning. When you pinpoint a literary device used in the poem (e.g. an anaphora) you want to explain its effect in the poem, not simply state that the author of the poem used an anaphora. As the article articulates, the structure and background of the poem is very important, but in case of analysis, it is of utmost importance to stress how background, structure, and literary devices influence the overall meaning of the poem as a whole. What message is it sending and what is it trying to say? Other literary devices that you should pay attention to are diction, imagery, and allusion. The background of the author will not always be available to you. For example, while you are taking an AP exam, pay attention to specific images and words that they use or the cultural references they make can really help you pinpoint where the author is from and assist you in writing your essay.

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