How to Read a Poem

Making Analyzing Poetry Easy and Understandable
Madelene Parks, HS Freshman
Canada College, Redwood City, CA

In high school I remember always being given poem on top of poem that we were expected to annotate, analyze, mark-up and then regurgitate the meaning and write a paper on. All this can seem daunting when you're reading 15th century Shakespearen poetry.

This website is very helpful in that it carefully takes the student through a specific step-by-step process in order to break apart the poem in pieces in order to better understand its meaning as a whole. This website provides questions the student should ask as a reader, such as: "How does the title relate to the meaning of the poem?"; "Are there any consistent patterns of words?"; and most importantly "What is this poem's purpose. What is the speaker trying to convey to the reader?"

It is very important while reading poetry to think of the person in the poem or telling the poem as the speaker and not necessarily the poet. This website explains just that and provides direction so the student can retain focus.

Reading poetry can be fun, but when reading a specific poem for a class that involves an essay or analytical paper afterwards, the key is organization, which is where this website also aids in the question of "Ok, now where do I begin?" I would recommend this website for students in any English class, mostly high school through college.

This source is very successful in walking the student through a thorough process of annotation so that they not only comprehend the work as a whole but also appreciate poetry as a literary art in itself. When students have sources such as this in a subject as demanding as English composition and literature, doing such assignments can be more rewarding and less of a hassle to get through.

Reading Poetry direction
Amy Dutcher, College Freshman
Austin Community College, Austin, Texas

This was very helpful .I think it allows you to see the poem from different views to help you get into the writer's mind.

Lost in a Poem
College Sophomore
Sierra College, Rocklin, CA

I have never been very strong with the written language. Therefore Poetry is my kryptonite.

The last time I was learning poetry the teacher focused all of her efforts on two of the sections in this article, "Examine the basic subject of the poem" and "Consider the context of the poem." For this teacher, the key to understanding every poem came directly from understanding the social issues that were prevalent during the time frame of when it was written or what personal hardships the writer was experiencing.

This was good and fine for her, she had practically memorized the biographies of the poets we discussed... It did nothing good for the students who had never even heard of the poet before. (The entire class)

It would have been very helpful if the teacher could have gone over all of the 6 suggestions in this article. Than I still might not have gotten a complete understanding of what we read, but at least I would have gotten something more than what I ended up with.

Understanding Poetrey
Slavko Tkalec, College Junior
Sierra College, Rocklin, California

Art is something that needs to be studied in order to be understood. Each branch or aspect of general art has its rules, regulations, and techniques, which we should follow in order to understand the artistic message in it. An artist, being inspired by something or someone, did encode his message into his piece of art, which we as people who are trying to understand it, have to decode. It is not an easy road to decode the message in any aspect of art, so it is the case with the poetry. Poetry is where the poet in an interesting and unique way expresses his feelings on the topic that is a subject of his writing. The reason why it is so hard to understand poetry in particular, is that the poet writes or describes his emotions using figurative language. We need to learn and understand it in order to understand the poem. Just like every piece of art, a poem has its title. We need to look at the title, should try to memorize it and as we read the poem. We should try to reflect back to the title to see how it is related to the topic of the poem. Every piece of art has its composition that we need to follow as the artist intended it, in order to understand it. We need to look at in what language the poem was written and what subject it talks about, to estimate what was the rough time that the poem is talking about. We need to see if the writer’s subject is based on comparison or analogy, and how the writer relates to the subject of his writing. Does he show his anger, humor, is he satiric, reverent or maybe ironic or just serious? Also we should read and understand if he is appealing to our intellect or emotions. We should pay attention to the form and the words it was written in, is there any confusing or difficult words involved and are there any patterns that we can follow. When we come to the end of the poem, we should go back to the title and see how it relates to the content. Did we understand the message, and were we successful in decoding it? If we could see the imaginary string that was guiding us through the entire piece of art, than we were able to follow the composition of the poem and understand the message, the artist tried to convey to the reader through his poem.


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