HOW TO EXPLICATE A POEM (with thanks to Betsy Draine of the University of Wisconsin-Madison)

A good poem is like a puzzle--the most fascinating part is studying the individual pieces carefully and then putting them back together to see how beautifully the whole thing fits together. A poem can have a number of different "pieces" that you need to look at closely in order to complete the poetic "puzzle." This sheet explains one way to attempt an explication of a poem, by examining each "piece" of the poem separately. (An "explication" is simply an explanation of how all the elements in a poem work together to achieve the total meaning and effect.)

  Examine the situation in the poem:

Examine the structure of the poem: Examine the language of the poem: Examine the musical devices in the poem: Has the poem created a change in mood for you--or a change in attitude? How have the technical elements helped the poet create this effect?