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How do you analyze a poem?

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Quick Answer

To analyze a poem thoroughly, read it several times. The first few times, consider the poem's literal meaning. The next several times, watch for different literary techniques the poet may have used to convey that literal meaning and also imply a deeper, metaphorical meaning.

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Full Answer

Two key techniques poets use are metaphors and similes. Both are instances where the poet compares two seemingly unrelated concepts. In similes, poets use words such as "like" or "as" to make the comparison, and in metaphors, they do not. For example, "His braces were like barbed wire fences in his mouth" is a simile because it contains the word "like," but "His braces were barbed wire fences in his mouth" is a metaphor because it does not.

Poets employ many other literary techniques as well. Personification is a technique in which the poet gives human qualities to non-human entities, including animals, inanimate objects or even abstract ideas. Diction is another way of referring to word choice; that is, whether the poet chooses long and formal phrases, short and punchy words, or slang and colloquial language. Imagery refers to the poet's use of words or phrases that evoke any of the five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch or smell.

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