Poetry analysis fact sheet

Poetry Analysis
Fact Sheet

Fact sheet for Fiction
Literary terms


Title-- Ponder the title before reading the poem

List words and Phrases-- List the important Nouns, Verbs, Phrases, and Clauses in separate columns.

Paraphrase-- Translate the poem into your own words

Connotation-- Contemplate the poem for meaning beyond the literal

Attitude--Observe both the speaker and the poet attitude (tone).

Shifts-- Note shifts in speaker and in attitudes

Title-- Examine the title again, this time on an interpretive level.

Theme --Determine what the poet is saying.


Title: Ponder the title before reading the poem; predict what the poem may be "about."

Paraphrase: Translate the poem into your own words. Focus on one syntactical unit at a time, not necessarily on one line at a time. Or write a sentence or two for each stanza of the poem.

Connotation: Contemplate the poem for meaning beyond the literal. What do the words mean beyond the obvious? What are the implications, the hints, the suggestions of these particular word choices?

Devices: Examine any and all poetic devices, focusing on how such devices contribute to the meaning, the effect, or both, of a poem. (What is important is not that you can identify poetic devices so much as that you can explain how the devices enhance meaning and effect.) Especially note anything that is repeated, either individual words or complete phrases. Anything said more than once may be crucial to interpretation.

Attitude: Observe both the speaker's and the poet's attitude (tone). Diction, images, and details suggest the speaker's attitude and contribute to understanding.

Shifts: Rarely does a poet begin and end the poetic experience in the same place. As is true of most of us, the poet's understanding of an experience is a gradual realization, and the poem is a reflection of that epiphany. Trace the changing feelings of the speaker from the beginning to end, paying particular attention to the conclusion. To discover shifts, watch for the following: key words: but, yet, however, although; punctuation: dashes, periods, colons, ellipsis; stanza and/or line divisions: change in line or stanza length or both; irony: sometimes irony hides shifts; effect of structure on meaning, how the poem is "built"; changes in sound that may indicate changes in meaning; and changes in diction: slang to formal language, for instance, or postive connotation to negative; the crux, the one crucial part of the work that stands out, perhaps presenting the complete idea all by itself.

Title: Examine the title again, this time on an interpretive level.

Theme: In identifying theme, recognize the human experience, motivation, or condition suggested by the poem. Use this theme chart:

    PLOT: A summary of the "plot" or events of a poem written in a short paragraph form

    SUBJECT: Subjects of the poem are listed as words or phrases

    THEME: After combining subjects where appropriate, write a complete sentence identifying what idea the poet or speaker (narrator) is conveying about each subject.

NOW THE POEM SHOULD BE CLEAR! WRITE THAT INTRODUCTORY PARAGRAPH : Be sure to include the title, the author, an immediate explanation of the speaker's position, any title significance, an overall statement of "meaning," and a clear statement that answers every aspect of the prompt.