How Do You Analyze Poetry?


Analyzing poetry begins with a careful reading of the text to find themes, poetic language, genre, rhyme and meter. In addition to language, the cultural context of the time in which the poem was written is necessary to analyze its meaning.

One of the best places to start analysis is by finding the theme. Common themes include love, death, war and peace. Look for historical events or concepts discussed in the poem to strengthen your theme argument.

Next, discover what the genre and versification of the poem are. Genres include epic poems, sonnets, odes, satires and elegies. Literary movements influenced poetic style as well, including Modernism, Romanticism, and Neoclassicism. Versification describes the poem's rhyme and meter, or the specific number and pattern of syllables in every line of the poem.

Finally, literary devices affect how a poem is meant to be read. Some common figures of speech are metaphor, simile, irony, synecdoche and personification. Many authors use these poetic devices to describe what was then a current event in a way that compares the event or climate of the times to something else. For example, Walt Whitman used an analogy of the last bloom of lilacs when he wrote about the aftereffects of the Civil War.