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10 Questions To Ask When Critiquing Poetry

Updated on May 13, 2011

Poetry can be one of the hardest forms of literature to critique properly because of its abstract forms and expression of personal feelings from the author. Poems can express a description of a physical object of the emotion behind an obscure yet universal idea such as love. Below is a list of questions/directions to consider when responding to poems by your colleagues or famous authors. Whether one or all, respond only to the ones that seem the most pertinent to the poem you are reading.


  1. Paraphrase the poem if you can. You may have a different understanding of the poem than the poet does. This can by very helpful for addressing any problems with clarity.
  2. What do you think the poem is attempting to do? Educate the reader, create nostalgia , or fear, evoke a mood, etc? Is the poet effective?
  3. What is the occasion that prompted the poem?
  4. Who is the speaker? What kind of person is the speaker? Is this clear? Is the tone apparent?
  5. How is the poem constructed? What are the units of organization? Is the poet making good use of form?
  6. Can you identify the author’s theme or themes?
  7. Discuss the diction of the poem. Point out words that are particularly well chosen and explain why. Point out words that seem overused or particularly bland. Does the diction help support the theme?
  8. Discuss the imagery of the poem. What kinds of imagery are used? Is there any structure to the imagery. Is it inventive? Are there any cliches that need to go?
  9. Point out examples of metaphor, simile, personification, or any other literary device and explain their significance and/ or appropriateness. Also point out significant examples of sound repetition and explain their function.
  10. Point out and explain any examples of paradox, overstatement, understatement, and/ or irony. Why are they used? Are they used effectively?

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    • blondey profile image

      Rosemary Amrhein 4 years ago from Boston, MA

      Good to know. I don't follow any rules and I know much of my poetry is not terrific but at least I write to express! Thanks