POETRY ASSUMPTIONSReaders of poetry often bring with them many related assumptions:That a poem is to be read for its "message,"That this message is "hidden" in the poem,The message is to be found by treating the words as symbols which naturally do not mean what they say but stand for something else,You have to decipher every single word to appreciate and enjoy the poem.There are no easy ways to dispel these biases. Poetry is difficult because veryoften its language is indirect. But so is experience - those things we think, feel,and do. The lazy reader wants to be told things and usually avoids poetry because it demands commitment and energy. Moreover, much of what poetry has to offer is not in the form of hidden meanings. Many poets like to "play" with the sound of language or offer an emotional insight by describing what they see in highly descriptive language. In fact, there can many different ways to enjoy poetry; this reflects the many different styles and objectives of poets themselves. For an overview of the many ways to read a poem, click here. Finally, if you are the type to give up when something is unclear, just relax! Like we just said, there can be many different approaches to examining poetry; often these approaches (like looking for certain poetic devices or examining the meaning of a specific phrase) do not require a complete and exhaustive analysis of a poem. So, enjoy what you dounderstand!FIRST APPROACHESRead the poem (many students neglect this step). Identify the speaker and the situation. Feel free to read it more than once! Read the sentences literally. Use your prose reading skills to clarify what the poem is about.Read each lineseparately, noting unusual words and associations. Look up words you are unsure of and struggle with word associations that may not seem logical to you.Note any changes in the form of the poem that might signal a shift in pointof view. Study the structure of the poem, including its rhyme and rhythm (if any). Re-read the poem slowly, thinking about what message and emotion thepoem communicates to you.
STRUCTURE and POETRYAn important method of analyzing a poem is to look at the stanza structure or style of a poem. Generally speaking, structure has to do with the overall organization of lines and/or the conventional patterns of sound. Again, many modern poems may not have any identifiable structure (i.e. they are free verse), so don't panic if you can't find it!STANZAS: Stanzas are a series of lines grouped together and separated by an empty line from other stanzas. They are the equivalent of a paragraph in an essay. One way to identify a stanza is to count the number of lines. Thus:couplet (2 lines)tercet (3 lines)quatrain (4 lines)cinquain (5 lines)sestet (6 lines) (sometimes it's called a sexain)septet (7 lines)octave (8 lines) FORM:Apoem may or may not have a specific number of lines, rhyme scheme and/or metrical pattern, but it can still be labeled according to its form or style. Here are the three most common types of poems