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How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay

Steps and Structure in Writing a Literary Analysis Essay:

❶Look at these opening lines and see how the images are created and begin to work: It should point out the organization and major part of the argument.

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It analyzes the words, sounds, feelings and topics that the poet uses in the poem. A poetry essay should include analysis of the topic, message, rhythm and word choice. It should have both an introduction and a conclusion. Introduce your poem with an introductory paragraph. Write the title of the poem and its author. A brief summary on Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven," for example, would state that the speaker of the poem is longing for his lost love and becomes beguiled by a raven that speaks only one word, "nevermore.

Write about the poetic language and imagery. Does the poet use precise and vivid vocabulary to create detailed images? What literary devices are used to enhance meanings? Answer these questions by explaining and analyzing specific examples from the poem. Tell how the poet creates those images. A good example of this would be the poetry essay found at Bookstove. The poetry essay analyzes Poe's use of simile and metaphor in "The Raven.

Write about sound and sense. Does the poet use rhythm and meter to create meaningful sounds in the poem? Which word sounds does the poet use to create pictures? Does the poet use vocabulary that appeals to the five senses? Write about emotion and feeling. Examiners will always give the most marks to a student's original ideas - so long as they are valid and are supported by close and careful reference to the poem itself.

Whilst it is your own ideas that are needed, it is invariably easier to uncover the layers of meaning in a poem by discussing it with others. Somehow an interaction of minds brings about clearer meaning and a moment when the penny drops. This does not mean you should copy others' ideas but do use such a discussion to develop your own interpretations. You might be one of the many who feel discussing poetry is not cool. Well, keep in mind that it's your grades that are at stake.

The exam is not a practice and you need to get the highest grade you can. So, what to do? For once, ignore being 'uncool' and get boosting those exam grades Many students lose marks by going off at a tangent and misreading their poem. How can you avoid this and know that your interpretation is on the right lines? Here's a very worthwhile tip. Most poems are unified and coherent - and keeping this in mind can help more than anything else. All it means is that the poet will be using the poem to develop a single central or 'controlling' idea or theme.

This means that when you interpret what you think one part of the poem means, you need to be quite sure that, in some clear way, what you think fits into and adds to the overall idea being explored by the poem.

If your interpretation doesn't fit, the chances are you've found something that isn't there. Misreading is a trap to avoid - and one you can avoid by applying this acid-test! Once again, discussing the poem with a friend is an excellent way to avoid misreadings! How does all this work in practice? Below is an example to help show you. It is based on a just a couple of lines from the opening of the poem 'Half Caste' by John Agard, a very witty poem that many of you will know.

Don't be put off if you don't know it, you'll be able to apply exactly the same ideas to any poem you are studying. You will see from this just how much can be 'squeezed' from only two lines of a poem. This is a key thing for you to appreciate.

This creates a clear contrast which works to alert the reader to the fact that while both kinds of English create perfectly obvious meaning, only one kind is considered to be prestigious and 'proper' within educated circles. Ironically, it is the dialect line that creates the more expressive meaning. In this way, Agard manages to open his poem and introduce a key theme. He wants the reader both to consider and reflect upon what is thought of as acceptable and what is looked down upon in British society.

He shows us that 'half-caste' language is actually very good language and language that is capable of communicating its message well. Poetry Poetry has, as has been said above, been called the art of 'saying the unsayable'. Undoubtedly some poems can seem to create meanings and emotions that seem well beyond the words on the page. Language can be a very mysterious and wonderful thing! Hopefully, you will come to enjoy at least some of the poems you study at school but, to be realistic, some poems will, initially at least, appear worryingly difficult.

Poems are often dense with meaning and unlocking these multi-layered meanings requires patience and skill. But it can be very satisfying - a poem can be like a riddle, fun to crack! This english biz guide will help you 'unpick' a poem and enable you to work out just what the poet is trying to say, how the poem is 'working' and why this is being done - the poet's purpose.

Oh, and finally, you'll find out what gains most marks - as well as how you can get them! Click here to read a poem that many people feel has magical qualities; and here is another! Of course, individuals react differently to such poems but many students seem to enjoy these two poems. Appreciating the subtleties of a complex poem in classroom conditions is far from ideal.

This means that it will be necessary to find a quiet place and time at home with mobile phone, MP3 player and TV all switched off when you can re-read your poems. Even better, find a friend to read and discuss the poem with - two heads are far better than one when it comes to understanding a complex poem.

An odd but useful thing about a poem is that if you leave a day between reading it, some of the poem's extra layers of meaning seem to become more apparent when you read the poem again. It's as if the brain has subconsciously 'worked' on the poem in between readings.

Reading for Meaning Quite a useful thing to do when you first begin your work on analysing a poem is to Odd as this sounds, your first task is not to dig for hidden meanings but to be sure you've understood the poem's 'story' - that is, what it is generally all about. This can be called the poem's ' big picture '. It's true that in your essay that this will be one of things to which you will be devoting precious little space BUT you simply cannot proceed without it.

So, when you first read any poem, first of all, read it for meaning. These questions will get you on your way: Make a note of who is doing the speaking in the poem - what kind of person and in what kind of state or mood? By the way, never assume it's the poet: Poets often like to explore all kinds of aspects of life in their work and this can mean that they try to write from different viewpoints, for example an older male poet can write as a young boy, or even girl!

Now work out who is being spoken to or addressed? Yes - it could be you, the poem's reader, or it might be an imaginary person. Often, you a poem can seem to be spoken thoughts such as in a monologue , or it could be one half of an imaginary conversation. Think about just what is being spoken about? What is the subject matter being discussed? Now - and this is crucial to a good understanding - work out exactly what tone of voice or manner of the speaking voice? Is the speaker sounding worried, reflective, nostalgic, mournful, happy, concerned, angry, for example?

Importantly, does the tone of voice change during the poem? Make a note of where this occurs. Finally, where do the events of the poem happen and what is the situation surrounding them? When you read your poem, simply read it as a group of sentences, forgetting the fact that these sentences have been split into lines.

At the end of each sentence i. Spend time thinking about this and perhaps note the idea down on the poem itself at the side of that part of the poem this is called annotating the text. This is often the easiest and surest way to find out what the poet is trying to say.

You can consider the effects of other poetic devices the poet has used, such as the way the lines cut up the sentences, the use of rhythm and rhyme , alliteration and so on later. Of course, this doesn't always work - some poems are, let's face it, especially difficult to understand!

They might even lack any punctuation so have no apparent sentences. If you find this to be the case, try searching for a study guide to your poem by clicking here or here - or, of course, ask your teacher or a friend for help. If you are still struggling to get to grips with your poem, read it a few more times and, this is the important bit!

Most people race through poems using a dull voice. Even better in fact, far better! Oh yes, you really should! Find a quiet place, or read with a friend. Put embarrassment to one side for the sake of a higher grade! Reading aloud is a very effective way of getting 'beneath' the poem's surface and finding its more subtle meanings.

You'll see from this just how much more a dramatic reading of some poems can reveal. Always avoid reading the poem in an overly stylised way , i. Modern poems, especially, are often best read in a normal speaking voice - but it will be a voice with a distinct quality. Do always try to capture this distinctiveness. Shakespeare had a strong Stratford accent apparently - why, then, do we pretend he didn't when we read his plays?

Can you work out the method , effects and purpose of the various ideas and images the words of the poem create? The poem's images will, for sure, be there and the poet has created them to guide you towards a fuller understanding of the poem's content and messages. Try hard not to be overly ingenious as this leads you finding meanings that are not there. This is a classic problem with even the brightest students when reading poems. Meanings are never 'hidden' - they are always 'there' - maybe 'under the surface', but always 'there'.

And they are always consistent with the whole poem. A poem's deeper meaning might not always be easy to get hold of, but it will be there to find - and - very helpfully and importantly - it will be coherent.

Coherence is an important quality of all literature, poems included. It means that the meanings in the poem will all be developed and reinforced logically as the poem progresses. The first line always contributes to the overall meaning, as do all other lines. If you do think you've found a meaning in a poem and it does not contribute in some obvious way to the overall meaning of the whole poem , you are almost certainly off track and misreading the poem: Click here to listen to John Agard reading a part of his poem, Half-Caste.

Notice the slow and emphatic nature of his voice. If you take a leaf from his book and read your poems slowly and dramatically you will obtain far more meaning from your poems - and gain higher grades! Writing your essay Writing an essay about a poem needs the same skills that apply to all essay writing.

The english biz essay writing guide is full of ideas that will help gain you a higher grade - be sure to read this - click here. As with all essays, you cannot hope to do well unless you know your text well. Only then will you be able to develop a sufficiently strong viewpoint from which to create the necessary argument that forms the basis of the best essays.

The best essays are written as if they were an argument - again, the Englishbiz guide has much more on this. What is your teacher or examiner actually looking for in your essays?

Whatever the essay question or title, marks are always awarded according to how well you show your abilities in three key areas: You need to show you have understood how the poet has used language and poetic devices to help create and 'shape' create subtle underlying messages. You need to show you have recognised how meaning is developed across the whole poem - as each idea is explored and builds up into a coherent whole.

How to do this to gain high marks Read the essay question or title very carefully. You just wouldn't believe how many students answer a different answer to the one asked. Yes - they do, every year! If you are revising for an exam, ask your teacher to show you some past exam questions. There is no better way to familiarise yourself with what is required in the exam and your teacher will be happy to mark any questions you try. Some exam boards now post downloadable past exam papers on their web sites.

Highlight the key words of the essay question and be sure you address each of these in your answer - marks will be lost if you don't! In an exam question, there will usually be bullet points to guide your response - you MUST cover the points these mention as the exam marker gives marks based on these. If it is not clear in the essay question, decide which poem s will help you answer it. Work out exactly what is required of you.

Discussing the poet's life and times, i. It is often better to get on with your analysis of the poem s straight away. It is best to avoid generalised discussion of any kind in essays - always be clear, be precise and be succinct! Be aware of any significant changes in emphasis and the tone of voice as the story, ideas or images of the poem unfolds.

Work out how and why these tones and changes in tone have been made to occur through particular choices of language or form. What does it seem to suggest?

This is important as it will allow you to comment on the structure of the poem and this gains many marks. Be especially alert to the use of an ironic tone of voice. Irony is an important and frequent poetic device used by poets. Irony is an effective means of engaging the reader.

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All of those elements of the poem are essential to know when one is writing a poetry analysis essay because they are a part of the poem’s structure and can affect the content. After covering the technical aspects of a poem, it is best to learn about the background of the poem.

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Throughout your career as a student you'll have to write several kinds of essays. One of these is the compare and contrast essay. Literature students, for instance, must write compare and contrast essays on two specific works of literature -- in this case, poetry.

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How to Write a Poetry Analysis Essay. September 27, by admin Basic Essay Writing Tips, Essay Formats & Styles, Essay Topics. However, it is also important to always maintain the poetry analysis essay structure because this enhances the systematic flow of ideas. How to Write a Literary Analysis Essay. Learn How to properly write, structure and format related types of analyis essay: poem, poetry, character, process. Contents. Content of a Literary Analysis Essay; Steps and Structure in Writing a Literary Analysis Essay; Essay Structure.

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Poem analysis essay outline To create a good essay, it is needed to plan out the structure of a poem analysis essay so the writing stage will be easier and faster. Here is an outline of a poem analysis essay . A poetry essay evaluates a poem. It analyzes the words, sounds, feelings and topics that the poet uses in the poem. A poetry essay should include analysis of the topic, message, rhythm and word choice. It should have both an introduction and a conclusion.