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Poetry Analysis Essay: the Relationship between Form and Content

If you have been assigned with the task of writing a poetry analysis essay you may be wondering where to begin and what details you should cover when discussing a particular piece. Here are some tips that you can use to make this task more manageable and, in the course of your writing, gain a deeper understanding of the particular poem you are discussing.

Many students will analyze a poem using a few common factors.

These include:

  • The language that is used in the piece itself including the choice of specific words by the poet;
  • Specific imagery that the poet chose to include in the poem;
  • The social factors that may have affected the poet when writing a specific poem.

This is the content part here and all of these factors are very important for you to look at when you are writing a poetry analysis essay and all three of them look at the same element: the actual words that the poet used. However, when you limit yourself to examining the language itself, there is a lot of meaning and nuance that you are potentially missing out.

What Poetry Is about?
On the surface, it may appear as though a poet is trying to convey one meaning. After spending time digging down deeper into the poem and looking at it more closely it may become more evident that the poet had an entirely different thought or meaning in mind when he or she wrote a particular piece of a verse.
When you look at the content and form separately, you have two different aspects that draw varied pictures. But when you analyze these two factors together, they can illustrate a very different story because a particular form can strengthen or weaken the utterance of an author and that must be taken into account.

With that in mind, while looking into the form you need to pay attention to:

  • How the verses are broken up;
  • What the rhyming structure is;
  • Whether the poet uses the traditional iambic pentameter system for their poem or a different metric system;
  • Whether particular sections are repeated for effect or to convey a message.

Each of these parts can affect a poem’s meaning and discounting them may lead to the fact that you miss what the writer is trying to say. For example, if a poet continues to repeat certain structures in a particular piece, it may mean that the theme expressed in the echo is much more important than you may initially believe.

How Do You Break down the Poem and Make It Easier to Analyze?
Breaking down the poem can actually make it easier to analyze. It is helpful to first look at the poet themselves. Finding out about their life and the era in which they lived can give you some valuable insight that may help you accurately analyze what they have written.

Breaking the poem down stanza by stanza and looking at the form of each verse can help you look for the clues and information that you will want to include in your essay. For example, you can look at important elements such as:

  • The tone of each verse. Does it change throughout the course of the poem? Does this tonal change contain important information about the poem?
  • What is the structure of the stanza itself? Does it stay consistent throughout or is a particular verse written in a different structure? Is that differing structure repeated throughout the piece or is it simply an anomaly meant to highlight a particular image or idea?

Which Aspects of the Poem’s Form Should You Focus on?
If you are writing an essay and want to discuss the form of a piece you may be unsure of how to work these discussion points into the body of your essay. It doesn’t have to be hard if you keep a few important steps in mind.

The first is to figure out what the thesis or basic idea behind your essay will be. This can help you by narrowing down specific stylistic points to focus on. Sometimes the style or form of a poem can be complicated and trying to write about every aspect of it may be overwhelming and may even seem confusing and disorganized for the reader. By narrowing down your commentary to specific aspects of a poem’s style you may find it easier to get your point across and lead your reader to the conclusion you want them to make.

Once you start looking at a particular poem in depth you will begin to see how a stylistic point can become more or less important and this will help you determine whether it has a place in your essay or not.

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Mar 10, 2016

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