How to Analyze Poetry

Analyzing poetry is crazy difficult to do–and even more difficult to explain.  So let me introduce you to someone who has taught me a lot about it during my time at the Center for Writing Excellence.  this is normnorm loves his dogsnorm is a poetry god

Norm is amazing at helping writers understand poetry.  From eavesdropping on his consulting sessions, I’ve learned how to help writers analyze a poem.


So here are the top three tips I’ve picked up from Norm on how to understand and write about poetry (thanks Norm!):

  1. Every word in a poem is intentional.  You can’t ignore a word or line to fit your interpretation.  Everything in a poem is carefully chosen for a very specific reason, and it’s your job to figure out why.
  2. Poems are a lot more complex than you think.  If every word matters, a short poem can be just as complex as a novel.  Consider the meaning of every word, rhyme, alliteration, and double entendre.  Suddenly, a poem that seemed too simple to write a 2-3 page paper on could be the subject of a dissertation.
  3. What isn’t being said?  If something strikes you as strange in a poem or if something is left unsaid, explore why.  Omissions can be just as intentional as what is written.

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1 Comment »

  • Heather says:

    So I think the CWE should have togas for uniforms. (I love this post, Vanessa! Norm looks perfect!)


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