Analyzing and comparing poems



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Analyzing and comparing poems
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Select two-three approved poems. Use Poetry Foundation (Links to an external site.) as your main source. Analyze two-three poems using one poetic lens. Pick 1 out of 5 poetic lens (from poetic lenses chart). Each body paragraph must compare and contrast all poems via one poetic device. Do not analyze poems in isolation (do no analyze one poem per body paragraph). Essay 2: Poetry Bank: Guided Poetry Annotation: Start reading poems here to select 2 poems for your Outline


Analyze your selected poems’ use of poetic devices to generate poems’ thematic discussion. What poetic devices did the poet use to render the poem’s theme? Do not mistake the topic/subject of the poem for the theme of the poem. Subject is the topic of the poem. Theme is the poem’s thesis, the poem’s main argument, the poem’s central spine. Theme is the central claim that the speaker of the poem expresses about the subject. What is the theme? Do not confuse theme with subject/topic/motif. For example, the poem’s topic/subject is love vs. the poem’s theme/thesis is how to recover from paralysis after lost love.


Use #1-7 as suggestions for organizational units / body paragraphs ideas to discuss your poet’s theme: identity devices/techniques – are they effective or not? – and apply level of (in)effectiveness to theme. You should consider all 7 suggestions; then, you will strategically pick 2-3 out of 7 suggestions to focus your poetic analysis:

1. How does the explicit (obvious) and implicit (indirect) meaning of the poem affect theme? How does rereading each poem, unpacking ambiguity, allow readers to create multiple interpretations of the poem?

2. Discussion “power dynamics,” as in, relationships between:

-speaker and audience and/or person directly addressed, or

-speaker and time/setting/culture/history/self, or

-“title, first line, and last line’s” isolated meaning vs. the entire poem

(similar effect or different? which one is more effective?).

3. How does diction: word choice: denotation, connotation, ambiguity (or lack thereof), word placement, repetition, anaphora (repetition of phrase, not just single image or single word) affect theme/audience?

4. How do the speaker appeals to the audience’s 5 senses, synesthesia (blending of senses), imagery, symbols, metaphors, similes affect the theme/audience?

5. How does the physical appearance (how the poem looks on the page): enjambment, line breaks, stanza breaks, negative spacing (white space between stanzas) affects the theme/audience?

6. How does movement, rhythm, pacing, breathing, volta (the turn or shift in argument, style, topic, or POV) affect the theme/audience?

7. How does punctuation (or lack thereof) style, syntax, grammar, tone, voice affect the theme/audience?


· Answer Keys: Poetic Lens Chart: Collective Compilation

· Resources for Essay 2: Poetry Analysis

· Poetic Devices.pdf

· Rubric for ALL Essays.pdf


· Your essay should follow proper MLA formatting, MLA in-text citations, and MLA Works Cited page. Use Times New Roman 12, double-spaced, 1 inch margins all around.

· Any essay turned in without appropriate citations will NOT receive a grade.

· Keep “quoting matches” below 20%. “Quoting matches” above 30% WITHOUT a strong thesis statement = in danger of automatic fail.


· Use the present tense to analyze poetry.

· There are no narrators in poetry, only “speakers.”

· Avoid heavy reliance on passive voice, ambiguous language, vague language, cliches, and over-generalizations.

· Write in 3rd person pronoun only. Avoid using 1st person singular pronouns, 1st person collective pronouns, and second person pronouns. In other words, do not use “I, me, my, we, our, us, you, and your” pronouns.

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