How to Write a Poetry Analysis – Step By Step Guide with Examples


The poem analysis we meet for the first time in school and often the first steps are not easy and make sure a challenge. After all, we need to examine not just some formalities in the poem analysis, but the poem on items such as a stylistic device , rhyme scheme and of course the meter to analyze.

This is difficult insofar as all of the areas mentioned naturally contain a lot of things that we have to learn by heart or at least fundamentally understand in order to be able to analyze a poem independently and then interpret it.

However, we should have a little fun with the matter for a well-founded poem analysis, because in addition to the pure analysis, we of course also have to interpret and discuss the respective poem and read a little between the individual lines ( verses ) of the text.

Note: In this article we would like to show an example of how such a poem analysis is structured, which things must be observed and how we can best write and formulate the analysis. Then we go into the most common sources of error.

What is a poem analysis?

The word analysis comes from the Greek and roughly means resolution . An object (in our case a poem) is broken down into its individual components and then systematically examined. Then the individual elements of the object (poem) are sorted, ordered and evaluated in some way by us.

In principle, one could compare this step with all other sciences, such as natural science. Because here, too, an object is broken down into its individual elements (analysis) in order to be able to understand or interpret (interpret) it with pinpoint accuracy.

The poem analysis is not limited to making individual parts of a work, but also includes the poem interpretation. This means that the subsequent interpretation of a poem is always part of the poem analysis itself. In this interpretation we try to give meaning to the results of our analysis.

Conclusion: A poem analysis is the breaking down of a poem into individual parts (stanzas, verses or syllables). We ascribe a function to these elements, which we show based on our observations (rhyme scheme, stylistic devices, meter). We then interpret our findings from the analysis and use them to create a poem interpretation.

Preparing the poem analysis

Now that we know what the poem analysis is all about, we could start working now. However, it is advisable to make some preparations for the analysis so that you can really find all the details in the relevant work and analyze them safely.

  • Obtain the relevant work material . Ideally, we have a pencil, a ruler and colored highlighters to mark eye-catching passages in the poem. A dictionary can also be helpful.
  • At first, read the relevant poem carefully. Ideally, we look at the work several times and try to understand the individual verses exactly. What could be meant by a formulation and what is the content of it all about?
  • We can note ambiguities in the margin of the individual stanzas and also try to bring the individual elements into context.
  • Do the verses and stanzas have anything to do with each other and how do they relate to each other? Do some of the stanzas deal with the same subject? We should definitely look up unclear words in the Duden!
  • Also, try to time the poem. In which literary epoch is it set and what are the typical features of this time? Can these be found in the poem and can we learn something about the meaning?
  • In addition, we should now try to put the individual words in context and interpret them for ourselves.
  • There is no right or wrong . Because if we prove something with our poem analysis, our interpretation can also differ from the opinion of other people. It is important that we create a coherent overall picture.
  • Important! We should note and underline all abnormalities. In no case just start, read the text as often as necessary until the structure and content are clear to us. Otherwise, an interpretation can quickly backfire.
  • Note: In school it is sometimes required that we also take into account the life of the author in the analysis and see whether we can establish a connection in the poem.In literary studies this is avoided, however, since a work should stand for itself. So it mainly depends on our approach whether the author’s life should play a role.

Structure of the poem analysis

The structure of the poem analysis follows a very strict scheme and is usually always the same. Of course we can exchange individual elements and sub-items, but basically we stick to the given pattern when writing a poem analysis.

  • Initiation of poetry analysis
    • Poem title
    • Author’s name
    • Year of publication , if indicated
    • Poem type ( sonnet , ode , haiku, etc.)
    • Subject of the poem (nature poem, love poem, etc.)
    • chronological classification (in which literary epochs it falls )
    • Brief description of the content (write table of contents )
    • Intention of the poem ( interpretation hypothesis )
  • Main part of the poem analysis
    • content
      • Subject of the poem
      • What does the poem describe (season, experience or a time?)
      • Relationship between title and poem
      • The lyrical me . Who is speaking in the poem and how can you tell?
    • construction
      • Verses and stanzas
      • Rhyme scheme ( pair rhyme , cross rhyme , etc.)
      • Determine meter. Is there a meter at all ?
      • What are the final syllables in the poem?
    • language
      • Abnormalities in the language (many adjectives , only nouns , vowels etc.)
      • How does the lyrical me speak (happy, sad?)
      • Which stylistic devices and rhyme forms are used?
      • Sentence structure ( hypotaxes , parataxes ?)
      • Tense (present, past, future)
    • Poem interpretation
      • What do the results of our analysis do?
      • How can that be determined?
      • What mood and feelings are evoked by language?
      • What is the relationship between content and function
      • … and what do they mean?
  • Final part of the poem analysis
    • What does the plant want? (Intention)
    • Has our initial guess been confirmed?
    • Are there any unanswered questions that the poem doesn’t answer?
    • What is our opinion? (Only if a teacher specifically requests it!)

Notes on the structure of the poem analysis

Above all, it is important to establish a connection between the individual elements and not stubbornly work through the given scheme or enumerate individual stylistic devices and features. We have to try to form a unity between analysis and interpretation, which means that all abnormalities in the poem analysis have to be functionalized.

The structure described gives us a pattern that we can simply work through. This is always useful when we cannot find access to a work. Nevertheless, there are many sources of error when we analyze a poem strictly according to the given structure.

This also means that we cannot always adhere to the rigid structure in the analysis. The structure is just a guide for poem analysis, not a dogma!

Sources of error in poetry analysis

  • Wrong: The form and the content are often not related to each other. After the description of the structure, only a reproduction of the content follows.
  • Correct: the form and content of a poem must always be related to each other during analysis. In most of the works they even determine each other.
  • Wrong: conclusions on content are often drawn too quickly. We have an opinion and do everything we can to interpret it in the poem.
  • Correct: Ideally, we read a poem several times and then analyze its structure in order to allow us a well-founded opinion in the poem analysis.
  • Wrong: Often there is hardly any subdivision in the respective poem analysis. This means that the individual sections of the shape are not visibly separated from each other.
  • Correct: You don’t necessarily need subheadings in the poem analysis. Nevertheless, a clear structure is important and sections of meaning that we can separate using paragraphs.
  • Wrong: Assertions are often simply made in the work without being able to prove them exactly in the text or at all.
  • Correct: We have to be able to fully justify every interpretation or assertion that we make, not because we want it, but rather find a correspondence in the poem itself.

Final words on poem analysis

Admittedly, some poems are really tough and cannot be grasped in a few minutes. But sometimes they shouldn’t, which is why we make them the subject of poetry analysis in the first place.

It is therefore important to just start with the preparatory work (reading and understanding) and sift through the poem as often as necessary until you really understand it. Always make sure that we note down all features and abnormalities so that we can interpret and use them later in the poem analysis.

And even if we are writing an exam and are confronted with time pressure, it makes no sense to simply write carelessly.

It is better to take your time and only do an analysis or interpretation when we have grasped all the essential things. Have lots of fun with it!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here