You go to school in Germany, maybe even to high school? Then, in addition to all the other types of essays you already know, you will also have to write a poetry analysis or a poetry essay in German in the upper school at the latest. -have to write interpretation.
Unlike other types of essays like the content summary or maybe still the discussion (I loved discussions at school!) but the poem analysis is not so popular. What is the reason? Well, while reading poetry was a popular form of entertainment in the old days, nowadays we can’t do that much with it anymore.
It is easy to wonder why you have to analyze poems in German and why you have to know about verse meter and rhetorical devices. On the one hand, this is understandable, but on the other hand, sometimes you have to deal with things in school that you don’t immediately realize could be useful later on.
Because when you analyze and interpret a poem, you also learn how to work systematically, how to apply theory in practice, how to interpret the statements of others, and how to justify and express your investigation and findings in a way that makes them comprehensible.
All these skills are needed in almost any job!
So the next time you’re asked to interpret a poem and it bugs you, remember that it serves a higher purpose: your general education and training of crucial key skills that will help you in many other areas than the subject of German or the world of poetry!
That is all too far away for you? Fair enough. Then just remember that you want to get a good grade in the next class
How to do it? In this article you will find out!
Before that a little hint Superprof tutoring in any city, z.B. German tutoring Hamburg offers!
What is poem interpretation??
First of all, let’s take a look at what poetry analysis is all about. Poem interpretation actually acts. And there we already have the first problem: Is it called analysis or interpretation??
The answer is: mostly both! Analysis describes the first part of your work, in which you analyze the form and language of a poem. Most of the time, however, this alone doesn’t help much, because (almost) anyone can make such observations.
The exciting thing is then to work out how this form and linguistic means underline the content, what it all means and what the author of this lyrical work wants to tell us with it.
Romantic poets often wrote about the mysticism of nature. | Source: Pixabay
And bang, we are at Interpretation of the poem. So: poetry analysis and poetry interpretation are used interchangeably, but they are actually two different parts of the same essay.
And what poems do you have to interpret in school?? Especially love poems and poems about nature are often interpreted in the German subject. Rilke, Morike, but also Schiller are just a few names that will come to mind. Click through online, there you will find many beautiful poems and texts of famous poets!
Poem analysis – preparation
As with any kind of essay solid preparation is half the battle when it comes to poetry analysis. And this is all the more true because, as with classical text interpretation, it is also a form of essay in which there is a source text on the basis of which you write your essay.
This means concretely: Go for the highlighter and the ruler!
The first step sounds trivial, but it is very important: You have to read the poem carefully and several times. For the first two times, it is best not to mark anything, but to simply read the work of poetry grasp it in its entirety and let it have an effect on you.
Before it then goes to verse meter and Co. you can already consider in this step, how the poem affects you. Does it sound sad, happy, longing? Do you find it beautiful, funny, frightening?
All this will be important later on, when you come up with an interpretation hypothesis and look for linguistic means to support your impression. But be careful! Don’t try to hold on to your first impression and interpret all features on that basis.
If the analysis of the poem reveals otherwise, allow it to. Keep an open mind and don’t get too attached to one particular interpretation.
But now on to the preparation. In step 2 you can first note all formal things, so answer the following questions for yourself (and write them down in bullet points):
- How many stanzas has the poem?
- How many verses has each stanza?
- Which Meter (Verse meter) is used?
- Which rhyme scheme is used (if at all)?
- How do the Cadences (syllable endings) from?
This analysis assumes, of course, that you know what these terms are and the types of each (e.g., simple, complex).B. Rhyming couplets, cross rhyme etc.) recognize.
But don’t worry, normally you are not just thrown in at the deep end, but discuss these things beforehand in class. And should you have missed or not paid attention, you might find something in your German book, and if not, you can of course always look around online.
Next, analyze the linguistic aspects:
- How does the sentence structure look like (rather simple, rather complicated)?
- Which elements of language stand out (z.B. many nouns, repetitive adjectives etc.)?
- What about the narrative style of the lyrical I (cheerful, sad, etc.).)?
- What rhetorical stylistic devices are used (e.g.B. Irony, Alliteration, Anaphora etc.)?
- What linguistic images are used (colors, similes, etc.).)?
Don’t forget your ruler for preparing your poem analysis! | Source: Unsplash
Of course, you also have to know these aspects and learn them by heart in a certain way, so that you can really recognize and name them when analyzing the poem!
While preparing you can mark all these things in different colors and write bullet points in the margin or on an extra sheet of paper. This way, you have already done most of the work and only have to write the essay, i.e. your text, afterwards formulate.
The last step is to think about the interpretation of the poem. What do the special form and v.a. also the linguistic elements? What does the lyrical I reveal about itself??
And what did the author want to say with it?? What is the main message of the poem? And what does the poem evoke in the reader??
Once you have answered all these questions for yourself, you can start writing!
What is the typical structure of a poem analysis??
Like other types of essays (e.g.B. the popular essay type characterization) the structure of a poem analysis also consists of Introduction, body and conclusion. This is already the first big help for you, because in contrast to freer essay forms like the essay, you can stick to a fixed structure for the poem analysis and, so to speak, shimmy along it.
Of course, it is still not easy, because you need a lot of prior knowledge and "between the lines" must be able to read, but I still found it helpful to have a given scheme that I can – to put it stupidly – stubbornly work through.
If you follow these formal criteria, it’s a good start for your text and a solid basis for a good grade. With tutoring in German, your grades will be even better.
What does this structure look like?
In the introduction you first introduce the work you are dealing with. D.h., You name Title, author, year of publication, type of poem, and era.
This is either all on the assignment sheet, or – z.B. at the epoch – you know it, because the poem is by a certain author, who z.B. you have already discussed many of these poems in class.
Following do you already name your interpretation hypothesis?, What do you think is the intention of the poem?. For example: "The poem of XY should make clear to the people how senseless the war is."
Online, of course, you can find many videos on poetry analysis and how to learn to interpret poetry:
And then we are already at the main part, the heart of your essay. This is where the actual poem analysis and interpretation happens.
The main body is again divided into several paragraphs (which you should also separate visually by starting each on a new line):
- Content rendering
- Analysis of the structure
- Language analysis
1. Rendering of the content
Here you write down what the poem is about (i.e. the theme, z.B. description of nature) as well as where and when it takes place (if you know that, and that plays a role, z.B. in the evening by the sea). You should also briefly explain who the narrator is, or that we don’t know who is speaking.
And finally, you can briefly discuss the title of the poem and explain why it fits (or doesn’t).
2. Structure analysis
Here you analyze the structure, which you have already done in the preparation. So you write down what your findings are about the number of stanzas and their verses, what meter and rhyme scheme are used, and what you noticed about the cadences.
3. Language Analysis
We have already looked at the language analysis in the preparation as well. Here you write down everything you have analyzed concerning the language, i.e. how the sentences are, which linguistic peculiarities there are, if and which rhetorical means are used, etc. (s. above).
Don’t forget to support your poem analysis with text passages! | Source: Unsplash
Keep in mind in these first three steps that you are working with an original text, d.h., You have to substantiate all statements with text passages (line references)!
And now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty: interpreting the poem. This is the most difficult part, because now you have to interpret the formal and linguistic means you have recognized and draw conclusions from them.
I can only give you the tip: Be creative, you can read something into everything! It doesn’t matter whether the author or the poet is the author or the poet is the poet. the author meant it that way or not. There is no right and no wrong – as long as you can justify your interpretation, all is well.
You have noticed that the lines are sometimes choppy and end in the middle of a sentence? Or that one stanza is completely different from the rest? When it comes to war, this can symbolize the destruction and chaos of war.
The poem sounds rather sad and depressing at the beginning, but from stanza to stanza the tone becomes more relaxed and the color green often appears? Well, green represents hope, so maybe the lyrical I is finding his optimism again and the message is that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
It is important that you interpret the majority of the formal and linguistic aspects you have analyzed in the interpretation section, because otherwise the two sections are not connected, and the analysis was in vain, so to speak.
Sure, you can’t interpret something into every rhyme and syllable, but you surely know what I mean. Don’t be afraid to overdo it a bit with the images and interpretations, after all, that’s the task and it’s about poetry and not some factual text or a true event that needs to be reported faithfully.
In conclusion, you once again emphasize what is meant to be expressed, i.e. what the author’s intention was or what the meaning of the poem was. what the poem should evoke in the reader.
And don’t forget that the language in a text is of course not completely separate from the content. So don’t be afraid to address points concerning the content in the part of the linguistic analysis (e.g., the poem sounds more like a poem in the beginning).B. if a certain theme is taken up again and again).
The conclusion should round off your essay. In this concluding part, no new facts or content will be presented, but you should just briefly summarize what you have worked out in the main part.
What is the result of your analysis and interpretation? Thanks to your work with the text, has your first impression or your first impression of the text been confirmed?. Your hypothesis about the topic of the poem has been confirmed?
And if your teacher wants you to, maybe you can also give your personal impression.
By the way, on Superprof there is also German tutoring online. No matter what city, z.B. German tutoring Berlin.
Our tips& Tricks around the poem analysis
Finally, here is a brief overview of what you should keep in mind when analyzing a poem.
- Before class work Learn the theoryRhyme schemes, meter, rhetorical devices, etc.!
- Form: Continuous text
- Tense: Presence
- Introduction: should include title, author, year of publication, poem type (genre) and era; state your interpretive hypothesis
- Main section: 1. Text reproduction, 2. Content analysis, 3. Linguistic analysis, 4. Interpretation
- Conclusion: Conclusion, possibly own opinion
- In the first three sections of the main section Do not forget line references!
- Between the formal and linguistic analysis and the interpretation should be a Context pass!
As you can see, it’s not all that easy, and you have to have quite a bit of prior knowledge. After all, this is not a simple elementary school essay, and you are not in high school for nothing.
Step by step you will reach your goal in poem interpretation! | Source: Pixabay
But that can also be a plus! Because especially if you are not so good at "babbling" and "big talk" is, you can score well if you analyze the poem correctly.
If you know what poems of certain epochs are mostly about (love, longing for nature, war, etc.), you will be able to interpret things relatively easily.), it is relatively easy to interpret things that fit more or less.
And you’re not being thrown in at the deep end, you’re already discussing things in class.
Remember, the teacher also wants everyone to get a good grade!