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Analyzing poetry?


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I think I decided to post here because its a place where you discuss about poetry and drama. Well...I have an english exam plus 3 others coming right up real soon so I'm constantly studying now. Analyzing poetry is my weakest aspect, how do you analyze your poetry? I'm just curious.
Thanks heaps for your replies!
-A student with issues to fix. :confused:

Wait...Am I at the wrong place?

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I can't give you any sort of studenty, academic answer, only a personal one.

 

For me, it's something to do with looking for patterns in the poem and asking questions about them. So: are there any patterns to be found in the use of rhyme, or the line lengths? Are the patterns in the sounds of the words, or in the choice of words? Are there common themes or contrasts making patterns in the imagery used?

 

If you do find patterns, (and I reckon it wouldn't really be poetry if there was none of that), then are they consistent through the poem, or are they interupted or do they evolve?

 

Then ask yourself "why". How do the patterns of language and thought and sound add to or change or underline the surface meaning of the poem? Why did the poet make those choices?

 

It was only when I had to study poetry for an A-level course that I first realised, "Hey, this isn't boring, this is AMAZING" - so I hope you have the same experience!!

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Top advice there from Claire.

 

It's important to read the poem many times - don't expect it to become clear in just one or two read-throughs. Remember that poetry is the most expressive genre for emotions, so try to establish what the mood of the poem is (and that may change throughout). How does it make you feel?

 

However, for a nuts 'n' bolts approach you can't beat what Claire says about patterns. Often a rewarding thing is to consider patterns that are broken. If an expected rhyme doesn't materialise or a line is suddenly shorter than the others or a line runs on to the next when previously they all had punctuation at the end - then you have to ask yourself why the poet did that. Is there something he or she wanted to stress? Was it helpful to the meaning/mood to make the reader feel jarred at that point?

 

Also, you should consider the choice of words the poet makes. Think about how the language of the poem is different from what we would use in normal speech (part of poetic diction). Where poetry is strongly different from the ordinary then again you have to consider what effect that has.

 

Anyway, there are lots of helpful sites on the net if you search. You could start with this one.

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Quite a few students have problems writing about poetry. But love it or loathe it, if you're 'doing' English you can't avoid it. All we know is that it something in words that is rather special and demands more than one reading.

 

What is 'special' about it is that the words don't reach to the end of the line. Or it would have to be a very special poem in which this occurred.

 

Another strange thing about it is that you remember bits of it after you've read it - not so much what the poem is 'about' but the words themselves.

 

Thirdly, it defies logic and commonsense. I know that Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water, but why did they go up, when water flows down? This seems bizarre and I want to know more about this couple whose names begin with the same sound. And another poet tells me that the Hindu weaver (whoever he may be) has flowers growing out of his fingers. Frankly, I don't believe it.

 

And then again, all this repetition! How many times does Lord Tennyson tell me that the Light Brigade advanced half a league?

 

And poets are liars too. 600 horsemen charged according to Tennyson, but 673 according to a reputable historian. 'When can their glory fade?' asks the poet. But there was no glory. The Charge was 'a badly bungled manoeuvre and an appalling catastrophe' according to Herbert Tingsten. What's more Tennyson's surviving heroes, about whom all the world wondered, 'spent the night exhausted, cold, hungry, in nervous and physical shock, talking in low tones of the catastrophe and grieving for their lostcomrades and horses.'

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