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Technique in Writing Poem Analysis

Updated on November 8, 2016
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Erwin Cabucos writes from Brisbane, Australia. He has Masters in English Education from the University of New England.

Image by E.C.
Image by E.C.

How to write a poem analysis essay?

By Erwin Cabucos

Writing poetry analysis is a part of life especially among high school and university students. Often writer's block occurs when one actually starts to sit down and begin tapping on the keyboard. Questions arise: what should be in my introduction? What should I talk about in my essay? How do I conclude my essay? This article should give a hesitant writer something to begin with.

Introductory paragraph. Your first sentence should introduce the poet, the title of the poem, the era and place from which the poem arose and a hint to the overall meaning of the poem. The next sentence should clearly states what you wish to argue for or discuss in the essay; this is where you write your hypothesis. Often, what you want to discuss is the exam or assessment question turned into a hypothesis statement which you will prove in your essay. Then preview points or sub-arguments that you wish to elaborate in your body paragraphs. For example, “John Donne’s ‘A Valediction forbidding mourning’ is a poem about lover’s argumentation for stronger love when the loved is going away. The wit of the poem rests in the notion that real love is tested in the absence of the partner for if the relationship is strong, challenges, including absence of a partner should not diminish the feeling. The concept of parting, the idea of special and spiritual love and the meaning of ‘leaning and hearkens’ in relation to the loving relationship will be discussed.”

Body paragraphs 1, 2 and 3. Your body paragraph should start with a topic sentence that contains a specific point about your hypothesis. You will then explain that point and prove it using evidence from lines of the poem. Show quotes from the poem that depict such idea or perspective. Elaborate and discuss further so that a certain depth of explanation and insights could awaken, enlighten, challenge, move or simply inform your reader. The final sentence for the paragraph should wrap up your point and relate it to the hypothesis.

One thing that a poetry analytical writer should always include are the poetry techniques that are present in the poem – ways that the poet is able to convey meaning, impact and feelings to the reader. Examples of these poetic devices include: imagery – the meaningful picture painted in words, metaphor and similes – the meanings created from comparisons, the use of persona – the character that speaks in the poem (not the writer of the poem), the use of narrative – the story in the poem, the striking descriptions – the adjectives and phrases used in the poem, the symbolisms and emotive language in the lines, not to mention the alliteration and the rhymeS. All these techniques contribute to the signification of the work.

Another thing that poetry analytical writer needs to remember is the relationship of literature to society. A poem is a work of literature that may reflect and illustrate values in our society. A poem might also mock and challenge pertinent issues and practices in our culture and politics. A poem might evaluate, consult or affirm our society’s values for one another and for our future as a community or nation. Various themes through which perspectives or messages are depicted in the poem, including: condemnation of war, promotion of family values, love of sport and country, abhorrence of prejudice and racism, mocking of shrewd politics, celebration of romantic love, enjoying the frivolity of youth or learning about the mystery of life.

Throughout the essay, write in present tense, place the title of the poem in single quotation marks, use lines from poem as evidence and explain your ideas clearly using good verbs. Examples of such verbs include: ‘contends’, ‘argues’, ‘portrays’, ‘illustrates’, ‘proposes’, ‘demonstrates’, ‘satirises’, ‘denounces’, etc. “Line 32 illustrates true love as a fact when the loved returns home and the other does lean and hearkens to the direction of the first.”

The conclusion should reiterate the introduction, restating the hypothesis, summarising the main points and leaving the readers with a holistic statement that will have lasting impression about the poem and the hypothesis. Do not discuss anymore. Simply end your essay there.

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