Analyzing & Understanding Poetry


When analyzing poetry, how do I know whether or not I am correctly interpreting the author’s themes or messages?


It is typically advised to read the poem several times to gain a fuller understanding of the poem, its content, and the figurative language that may be used to contribute to the poem’s meaning.  During your first reading, it’s always a good idea to read the poem out loud.  What do you notice?  Is there a specific rhyme scheme?  Is repetition used?  What is the tone of the poem?  Who is the speaker and who is the intended audience?  You may need to read the poem 2-3 more times in order to answer all of these questions, and to consider why the author chose his or her particular writing style.  Another great tip would be to research the author and the time period that the poem was written, since oftentimes the reader must know the historical context of the work in order to interpret the intended message.


In addition to the above tips, remember that literature is an art form. We each might take something different from what we read. Poetry can be very challenging to dissect! If you think you’ve discovered a theme, ask yourself, “Can I support this theme with textual evidence?” If the answer is yes, chances are good that you can make a case for your theme being valid.