The poem analysis is a task that hardly any student can avoid. Because poetry is a core topic in German classes. Since you not only have to read lyrical texts in school, but also work with them, writing a poem analysis is on the agenda. Thereby, crucial differences to the analysis of non-fiction texts or other literary texts can be found. Specific to poem analysis is, for example, the study of meter, stylistic devices and rhyme scheme.
Below you will learn what is important in a poetry analysis and how to write it. Next, we’ll work on the aspects of poetry interpretation and how to integrate them into your poetry analysis.
First, watch the following video to refresh your knowledge and get an initial overview of it.
Why a poem analysis?
In the poem analysis, you will relate the different levels of a lyric text and work out their specific features. To do this, always consider the message and effect of the poem, in addition to the content. It is necessary to find out how these levels are realized through linguistic composition. The analysis serves to describe a given poem in writing. An additional component of poetry analysis is interpretation. In addition to the objective analysis, you interpret the poem and its intention with the help of the poem interpretation.
The word analysis comes from the Greek (ἀνάλυσις analysis "Resolution") and describes the dissection of a text into its individual parts in order to systematically highlight all the special features.
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Methods of poem analysis
When analyzing poems, two methods are possible. On the one hand there is the linear analysis and on the other hand the aspect-oriented analysis. Depending on which method you choose, you will set different priorities in your approach. In the following, we will take a closer look at the similarities and differences between the two methods.
Linear poem analysis
The linear poem analysis is close to the present text. In the analysis you follow the text verse by verse and work on the stanzas one after the other. This approach has several advantages. First of all, it is easier for you not to overlook any important aspects. Secondly, with this method you do not have to worry much about the structure of the analysis. Because this is defined by the fact that you orientate yourself on the course of the poem.
This structure can be a disadvantage of the linear poem analysis. Because in this way it can happen that you do not recognize overlapping connections as such or that you do not work them out sufficiently.
Aspect-oriented poem analysis
In contrast to this is the aspect-oriented analysis of poems. In this method, you examine the text with a specific question in mind. This can be either already given or thought over by you. An advantage of this method is that you can connect related aspects independently of text passages. In this way you demonstrate a systematic approach and a structured way of thinking. The disadvantage may be that you overlook important passages and forget them in your analysis.
Structure of a poem analysis
Once you have chosen (or been given) one of the two methods above, you can move on to the structure of your poem analysis. The structure is roughly the same as in the analysis of other literary texts or non-fiction texts. Because you divide into introduction, main part and conclusion.
Introduction of the poem analysis
In the introduction of your poem analysis you first name the present poem type. For example, if the poetry is political or love poetry? Next, you will give the title and author of the text, as well as the year it was published or written.
If the poem is a political poem, you should also mention the political background at this point.
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Following this basic information you provide the reader with a short summary. Summarize the topic and the most important points in one or two sentences. Finally, at this point you make a Working hypothesis on. This means that you make an assertion about the intention of the poem, which you confirm or refute by means of the following analysis.
Main part of the poem analysis
Most students have problems with the main part of the poem analysis. In many cases, the number of analysis points can seem overwhelming. If you keep a few simple points in mind, you will still be able to do a good job of analyzing the poem.
It makes most sense to divide your analysis into two parts. For this you consider on the one hand the outer form of the present poem and on the other hand content& Language.
First, let’s look at the aspects of the outer form. Here you name the number of stanzas and the verse division of the poem. Afterwards you go into the rhyme scheme and meter (verse meter). Consider the individual aspects coherently and give a first insight into the structure of the poem at this point. The details of the individual aspects come into play in the single stanza analysis. There you go into more detail and include them in your interpretation. If you can think of any other special features of the text structure, this is the right place to mention them.
Next you go to Content& Language of the poem. Here you first describe the situation of the lyrical I as well as the basic atmosphere. What stands out and which aspects are important for the analysis and your interpretation?? Next, consider the presentation of the theme within each stanza. In other words, you give the development of the content or the climax. Then, elaborate on the linguistic devices used by the author. It is important here that you not only name them but use them for your interpretation. Therefore, for each linguistic device, explain its effect in relation to the author’s intention.
Linguistic devices in the poem analysis
- Linguistic images
- Choice of words
- Sentence structure
- rhetorical devices
You have to consider and work out this for the main part of your poem analysis.
Based on these points, write your main body either linearly or aspectually, as described above.
Conclusion of the poem analysis
As always, the conclusion serves to summarize the most important findings of your poem analysis. The point here is not to repeat all the points mentioned. Instead, you should be brief, emphasize the most important points and put them into context.
In the conclusion, you make your final statement about the intention of the poem. Match the intention you have identified in your analysis with your working hypothesis. Were you able to confirm your hypothesis based on the poem analysis? Or have you disproved the hypothesis with the help of the analysis parts?
Finally, you can make a personal evaluation of the poem. Here you state, for example, why you think the poem is successful or not. Before your personal evaluation, make sure that this point is desired in the poem analysis or poem interpretation. If not, you can save it.
Tips and tricks for poem analysis
Pay attention to the language. Use factual language to make your analysis objective and skillfully inform the reader.
Always justify your findings. Always use evidence from the text to support your analysis. Any particularity you elaborate must be supported by citations. This can be done by direct or indirect quotations.
Write your analysis in the present tense and use the perfect tense only in the antecedent tense.
Read correction. Especially in papers and exams small mistakes often make a difference. Therefore, allow enough time to proofread your poem analysis. Add points if necessary or delete them if they do not fit. Also pay attention to grammar, spelling, and punctuation. (Pro-tip: If you read your text from back to front, your brain can only concentrate on one word at a time. In this way, you ensure that you do not miss any spelling mistakes due to a cursory reading.)