2 Step 1: Consider the Title The poem’s title is the author’s first communication with the reader; therefore, spend a moment considering what meaning the poet is suggesting by their choice of words.What images or pictures come to mind? What do you expect from the title?What is the poet communicating about the subject of the poem, and what is the poet’s attitude about their subject?What possible connotations does the title have?
3 Step 2: Study the form of the poem on the page Is the poem arranged in stanzas?Is there anything to note about the stanza arrangement (how long they are, etc.)?Is there anything to note about the length of the lines?Look at capitalization?Look at punctuation that is used.Look for any end rhymes - is the author making certain connections between words?Stanzas: If so, how many? What relationship might there be between the number of stanzas and the subject matter of the poem?Are the stanzas of a standard length (same number of lines in each stanza), or do the stanzas vary in length? What possible meaning does this suggest about the relationship or importance of the ideas in the stanzas?Consider the length of the lines. Are the lines uniform in length? Are they short, long, varied in length? What possible meaning does this suggest about the relationship or importance of the ideas in the stanzas?Look for any unusual capitalization. Remember that it is standard in poetry to capitalize the first letter of each line. If there are any words unusually capitalized, what possible meaning does the capitalization have?Examine the punctuation used. What types of punctuation are used? Commas? Periods? Exclamation points? Question marks? Dashes? What does the use of punctuation suggest about the poet’s ideas?Look for any end rhyme. Look at the last word in each line for a regular pattern of rhyming. Remember that rhyme forms a connection between words. What possible meaning is the poet after by forming a connection between the words which rhyme?
4 Step 3: Read the poem aloud. Listen to the sounds. Are the sounds smooth or harsh? Do you have any emotional reaction to particular words or sounds?Repetition: Do you hear any repetition of particular sounds? What might the poet be trying to communicate through the repetition?Remember that a poet is communicating through the sounds of the words they select, as well as through the literal meaning of the words; therefore, it is essential that you read the poem aloud to fully appreciate the poet’s use of sound.
5 Step 3: Read the poem aloud, cont’d. Listen to the rhythm of the poem. Is there a standard rhythmical pattern? Is there a recurring beat or rhythm? What’s the emotional reaction to the rhythm?Listen for any internal rhyme. (Internal rhyme is when a word within a line rhymes with the word at the end of the line.) Is there a connection between the words which are being rhymed? What might it be?First Impressions: Do you have any first impressions of the poem’s subject matter and tone from the oral reading?
6 Step 4: Second Reading! (if you are done with steps 1-3 then you are ready for thorough reading of the poem)In poetry there is an economy of words and often times there is a masking of the meaning.To uncover the meaning - we need to read carefully:Read the poem line by line.Read sentence by sentence (if there are sentences)Consider ALL the possible meanings of the wordsRemember, the poet has chosen words consciously to reveal greatest meaning in fewest words; therefore, you must read precisely and thoroughly to understand their ideas.Consider each stanza as a unit. What divisions has the poet made in their subject matter? What is the relationship between the ideas in each stanza?
7 Step 5: Analyze the entire poem. Consider the entire poem as a unit, recalling what insights you have gained from Steps 1-4.What is the poet’s intention? What vision did they present in the poem? What idea did the poet convey? What meaning does the poem have?What is the total effect of the poem?
8 Step 6: Evaluation of the poem. Evaluate the poem objectively. Try to distance yourself. Avoid personal prejudices. Is the poem well written? Does the poet use their language and form effectively in communicating their ideas?Evaluate the poem subjectively. This is your personal response to the idea, form, and sound of the poem. Did you like the poem? Did the poet communicate something which was relevant to you?