Okay, you immersed yourself into a magical world of literature. You felt with the heroes of a poem, hated them, loved them, and it was all about watching beautiful things. But now you’re in real life. And you have the assignment to analyze a piece of poetry. If you don’t know how to write a poem analysis essay and want to get help with assignment writing, we’ve prepared a guide for you. So make tea, sit back and continue to read this article.
How to Do a Critical Analysis of Poem
Poetry analysis is a crucial part and the first step of your essay. To extend your knowledge, you can read books about literary theory where all information is structured and find many literary essay examples. Here are good books you can read:
- An Introduction to Literature Criticism and Theory by Pearson Longman.
- Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory by Manchester University Press.
- A Dictionary Theory of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, Fifth Edition by Wiley-Blackwell.
They will be a great addition to your trip to the land of literary figures. So let’s clarify what a poetry analysis is, why you should do it, and write a poetry analysis. Then, we’ll give you a step-by-step guide on how to do it.
What Is a Poetry Analysis
A poetry analysis consists of multiple components:
- bringing out the main theme and key points of a literary work;
- finding literary figures in this work and defending their role in understanding the main theme and key points;
- finding intertextual relations;
- eliciting the role of the whole literary writing in the cultural and literary contexts.
It’s possible to say that your analysis isn’t complete if you skip one of its components.
Steps on How to Do It: Two Approaches
So if you know the definition of something, it's easier to catch on how to deal with it. Maybe you’ve guessed which steps analysis includes. So let’s see them.
There are two controversial approaches to the poem analysis outline. Their names that we give you aren’t common and aren’t used in textbooks. We use them for ease of understanding.
The First Approach: It All in Sequence
This approach is the most popular. To follow it, you should:
- Read a poem several times.
- Bring out the main idea of it.
- Find the main symbols of the work. What do they mean?
- Start finding literary characters. How do they help you understand the main idea of the literary work?
- After finding characters, consider literary figures. How do they help you understand character behavior and the main theme?
- Analyze the composition of the writing. Why does the author use it?
- Find intertextual relations:
- How do other authors reveal such a theme in their works?
- Are characters in this work similar to characters in other literary writings?
- What similar figures do authors use to reveal the main theme?
That’s all. Such an approach has one big disadvantage when you’re wondering how to write a poetry analysis: in many cases, you can’t find out the main theme because the secret of it is on characters, symbols, and figures. Therefore, it’s better to turn to the second and less popular one called ‘Start From the End.’
The Second Approach: Start From the End
The essence of this method is that you should realize the purpose of structure, characters, figures, and symbols, and only then it’s possible to bring out the main theme of literary writing.
To master this method, you should know the ropes of literary theory because it’s unreal to understand the main theme without such knowledge. So if in the first approach, you find the purpose of literary figures regarding the main theme, in the second method, your task is to understand the goal of the main figures and then sum up all elements and do a puzzle. And this puzzle is the main theme.
So let’s read a structure of a poem analysis:
- Find symbols. What do they mean?
- Find literary characters. What can you say about their appearance, their words, and their speech? Why do they behave in certain ways?
- Try to understand the purpose of figures.
- Then, think about the structure of literary writing. Why is it such?
- Find intertextual relations. What authors did talk about the same events or had the same characters, or used the same figures in their works?
So, after this procedure, you should sum up all that you’ve found. Usually, after such mental work, the main theme of the masterpiece of literature is clear.
Tips on How to Make This Method Easier
To follow this approach successfully, you have to know all the ins and outs of literary theory because it’s the basis of your thoughts. So let’s see examples of how it works in practice.
For instance, your task is to write a poem analysis essay about Fire and Ice by Robert Frost. The first step is to find the main symbols in the text:
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
We see two controversial things: ice and fire. If you’re a pro in literary theory, it’s easier to understand their role. For example, ice generally means withholding emotions such as indifference and loneliness. On the other hand, the traditional meaning of fire is passion, desire, and impulsivity. Therefore, we deal with two opposites. It means that you can interpret such symbols in this context in the following way:
Many people think that humanity dies when focusing on passion and impulsivity, and other people consider that our world ends when humanity melts in indifference.
As you see, it’s okay to use metaphors in your essay on poetry because art requires metaphors and not only them.
So if you’ve analyzed a poem, you did most of the work. A poem analysis essay outline is a small step and is as easy as ABC for you if you have a good analysis.
Introduction. Build up to the main theme of literary writing.
Body. Structure and write about all characteristics of the masterpiece.
Conclusion. Write about impressions of the masterpiece.
If you’ve done all the above steps in this guide, you’ll easily make a structure of your paper. So let’s explore the order of your thoughts!
Such a paper consists of three main parts: introduction, body, and conclusion. Traditionally, the first and the last sections of the essay include only one paragraph, and a body can consist of any number of paragraphs.
The opening paragraph is the crucial part of your paper if you think about how to write a poetry analysis essay accordingly. This is because sometimes students skip this step and write something usual such as:
- the name of the author;
- the name of the book;
- the historical context.
Yes, you can do it, but what if you could write something original and surprise professors? Think about it!
Hence, the best bet for you is to write about:
- your impressions. You can start with them and finish with them by creating a ring composition;
- why did you choose a certain masterpiece for your work;
- comparison with other authors.
Be careful with the two last points because if you overdo explaining and comparing, you move to another theme of your essay.
It doesn’t mean that you may forget about mentioning the names of the author and the book and historical context. Do it but add something original in your introduction.
Now we’re at the main part of your paper — a body text. Suppose you’re interested in how to write an essay about a poem; it’s better to pay attention to how you can tie up all your thoughts because it isn't an easy feat to structure explainings of the main purposes of figures, symbols, characters, and composition.
You should remember the main rule of this section:
The main theme must be at the beginning of your body text.
Follow this tip, and you’ll help your readers understand the direction of your thoughts because the main theme acts as a thesis statement.
The main purpose of the conclusion is to drive home your impressions and the main points. But students decide by themselves what should the conclusion in a poetry analysis do. This is because such essays are pieces of art too. Therefore, it’s okay to show your creativity and demonstrate different approaches and ways on how to write a poem analysis.
Some people believe that a conclusion should include the main theme of literary writing. But it’s a bit of an incorrect belief because the last paragraph should help your readers understand your impressions fully, not the main theme of literary writing. The fact is that readers run their eyes over the conclusion. Therefore, this section of your paper shouldn’t consist of new points.
Reread Your Paper
And the last step you have to do is reread your work and rewrite unclear sentences. There are some steps on how to analyze a poem essay:
- make sure that all sentences are connected;
- add transition words if it’s necessary.
Reread your work several times because you can miss some mistakes and unclear moments in the text.