Poetry Analysis Questions

Who is talking?
What can you tell about the speaker’s age, gender, station in life, opinions, and feelings? What, if anything, does the poem reveal about the speaker’s character?

To whom is the speaker talking?
To the reader only? To someone else? If so, to whom, and what is the listener’s relationship to the speaker.

What is the dramatic context of the poem?
Is there a reason or occasion for the poem? Is there any evidence of a setting, a time, place,season, or situation?

What happens during the poem?
Is there a conflict? If an event occurs, is it in the past or the present? Is it external or internal? Why is it important to the speaker or to a character in the poem? From what perspective does the speaker describe events: as an omniscient narrator? as a participant? as an observer?

What motivates the speaker to speak now, in the tone he/she uses?
Does the speaker evince an attitude or bias regarding the subject matter of the poem? What imagery, diction, figures of speech, and choice of details contribute to the speakers tone? Does the speaker use comparisons made via metaphors, similes, personification, or metonymy? Do you see any shifts in tone or perspective? Any contradictions?

How does the language of the poem contribute to its meaning?
Is there anything distinctive about the poem’s diction? Does the poet repeat words, sounds, phrases, and ideas? If so, to what purpose and effect? Which figures of speech and images are particularly potent? Do alliteration, assonance, consonance play a role in the poem?

How is the poem organized?
Does it adhere to a closed form, such as a sonnet or villanelle? Or does it take liberties? Is it free form? Is it grammatical? Is the poem constructed with complete sentences? With phrases? With a mixture of usages? are the form and meaning of the poem related in someway? Does the ending contain some sort of resolution? How does organization, including syntax, contribute to the poem’s meaning and effect?

Do patterns of rhyme and rhythm contribute to the meaning and effect of the poem?
How does rhyme function in the poem? Are there patterns of sound that help to convey meaning or create effects? What does the meter contribute to the poem’s meaning?

What themes does the poem contain?
Are themes stated or are they implied? Can you make a generalization about life or human nature from the poem? In short, what idea is the poet communicating to the reader?

What was you initial response to the poem?
Did the poem speak to you? Touch you? Leave you cold? Confuse you? Anger you? Blow your mind? Cause you to tell a friend?

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