Writing a Poetry Analysis Essay that Will Impress
Poetry Analysis Essay
Appreciation of poetry is not something that most students have. In fact, of all the literary genres, poetry is usually listed as the least favorite by students – those who are majoring in literature and those who are not.
Aside from epic poems (e.g., Beowulf, Iliad) and Shakespeare (poetic drama), most poetry is rather short in comparison with other literary forms. A poem, in fact, is an author’s attempt to make a point, a comment, or express a feeling about something in a much abbreviated way. It is the task of the reader to discover what the poet is saying and to consider whether that poet has made his/her statement effectively.
There are two aspects to poetry analysis, and any poetry analysis essay must include them both.
- The Point Being Made/The Mood/The Tone
Much of a poet’s job is to condense. The job of the analyst is to absorb the overall effect and to discuss the poem, either line by line, or stanza by stanza, in order to comment on what the poet is saying to us all. And in the writing of that poem, the author has also established a mood and tone – it may be lighthearted, like much of the poetry of Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss; it may be calmly reflective such as the poetry written by Robert Frost; it may be enlivening and active such as much of the poetry of Walt Whitman; or it may be dark and depressing such as that written by Edgar Allen Poe. So the first task of analyzing poetry will be to determine the overall statement being made and to comment on the impact of mood and tone on that statement.
Say, for example, that you are tasked with writing an essay that analyzes Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven. Here is how you will develop the first part of you analysis essay.
- Read the poem in its entirety, possibly several times. What is going on in the poet’s life that has him depressed an unable to sleep? What could the raven represent, and why won’t the raven leave when told to? The poem clearly reveals that the poet has lost a loved one, that he is grieving over that loss, and that the raven may represent death or grief – something that will be with the poet forever.
- The next step is to go through the poem stanza by stanza and discuss what is happening. How is the poet responding to the raven? How does his response to the raven change throughout the poem? What is the final resolution of the interaction between the poet and the raven?
- What is the mood and tone? Does it fit the subject of the poem? In this case, certainly it does.
2. The Mechanics
Poets use a variety of devices and language to make their works appealing and to complement the statements they are making. Thus, there may or may not be rhyme, meter and rhythm. There may be certain uses of repetition and figurative language to enhance the mood and tone. The second part of your poetry analysis will address these things. Again, looking at Poe’s The Raven, you can see several devices. There is definite rhythm and rhyme. There is repetition of words and phrases. You job will be to discuss how these devices contribute to the overall mood and tone of the poem.
Finding Examples to Assist You
If you have not written many poetry analysis essays in the past, it may help to take a look at a poetry analysis essay example or two, to understand how such an essay is developed. If you are able to find one on the poem for which you must write an essay, that “find” will be extremely helpful, so long as you avoid the temptation to plagiarize.
If you are not an English major, take heart. Poetry analysis will not last forever!
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