KOLEC Lesson 25: How to Analyse a Poem

KOLEC Lesson 25: How to Analyse a Poem




The poems are analysed in various ways. When analysing any poem, you should consider the following:

Reading the poem all the way through at least twice. Read it aloud and listen to it.

Literal meaning and theme. First, understand the meaning of individual words. If possible, get a dictionary and look up the difficult words and write down their meanings. Second, after understanding, the literal meanings, now try to determine the theme of the poem-the purpose the poet has in writing the poem, the idea he wants to express. To identify a theme of a poem, you need to look at the poem as a whole and the ways the different parts of the poem interact.



The following are the twenty (20) steps of analyzing poetry. These analysis features are important for both literature students and teachers.

20 Steps of analyzing poetry: 

(1) About the Poet. This is the history or background of the poet. 

(2) Title of the poem. 

It is a good idea to start searching for the theme of the poem by looking at the title of the poem. If it was carefully chosen, it probably brings about the theme. What information does it give you? What expectations does it create?

(3) Brief Summary/Paraphrase of the poem. 

(4) Speaker. This is the voice that is talking to us in a poem. Sometimes the speaker is the same as the poet, but the poet may also create a different voice, speaking as a child, or even as an object.

(5) The persona. Who is speaking? Is it a man or a woman? Someone young or old?

(6) The addressee. This refers to the audience of a poem. This is a person or people to whom the poet aims to speak to.

(7) Tone. What is the speakers tone? Is he/she sad, angry, happy or cynical? What is the mood of the poem? All these are related to the subject of the poem (that is, what is the speaker talking about? And the theme (why is the speaker talking about this? What is the speaker trying to say? About this subject?)

(8) Mood. The mood is the overall atmosphere of the poem. The mood of a poem may create an atmosphere of fear, happiness, or other emotions to the reader. 

(9) Structure of the poem. How is the poem organized? How is it divided up? How many stanzas? How many verses per stanza? What each stanza discusses?

(10) Kind of the poem. This implies the type of the poem whether it is a traditional or modern poem, or if it is a lyric, Sonnet or ballad. 

(11) Sound devices. Because poetry is all about music, you need to learn how to scan a poetry and break it into accented/unaccented syllables and feet per line. This is all about meter in poetry. The most common meter is iambic pentameter, which is a 5-beat line with alternating unaccented and accented syllables. Also here, the aspects like alliteration, assonance, rhyme, rhythm, repetition, parallelism, enjambment, refrain consonance, and onomatopoeia are taken into consideration.

(12) Language. After understanding the denotative meaning of the words in the poem, now you need to understand the connotative meanings. In general, this is a point where you should state whether the poetic diction is simple or complex for the readers. 

(13) Figures of speech. Here you need to deal with symbols, images and other figures of speech used by the poet. 

(14) Themes. These are the central issues of the poem. Every poet writes to convey a certain message or numerous issues of the society. As you read the poem, pay attention to the issues expressed in the poem. 

(15) Message of the poem. Here you should consider what the poet tries to let us know. That is, the information or what does a poet wants us to get rid of?

(16) Lessons/teachings of the poem. These are the teachings or moral lessons we get after reading the poem. 

(17) Relevance of the poem. This implies the relevance/relation of the poem to the contemporary societies. Is the poem relevant to your society?

(18) Failure of success of the poet. This is your evaluation on whether the poet has succeeded or failed to use his style and to deliver what he/she is trying to communicate.

(19) Vocabulary of the poem. Some poems use difficult words. This is true because the poets choose words carefully to convey their meaning and message to the audience. Thus, it is also important to understand the vocabulary used in the poem for the fuller understanding of the poem. 

(20) Practice Questions. Revision questions are also essential tools for comprehension of poems. By reviewing and attempting various questions of the particular poem, students can understand the poem well. 


These are wider and inclusive steps of analyzing a poem. However, not every poem can be analysed by applying all these 20 steps. It's important to understand all these steps, but the reader can decide how many steps to go with when analyzing a particular piece of poem. All in all, these 20 steps will help you touch almost every area as far as appreciation of poetry is concerned. 


(1) Mention all steps of analyzing the poem.

(2) Read the poem 'Eat More' and analyse it by using the steps of analyzing the poem you have learned under this section. 

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Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

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