Then, consider the mood, tone, and form of the poem before moving on to decipher imagery, metaphors, and similes. Read up on biographical information about the poet, such as where they are from, the time period they were writing within, and their other poems or publications. Poetry includes deliberate line breaks, sound patterns, and rhythm, which makes it different from prose and contributes to how readers understand it. You’ll get to those later. Hughes seems to be trying to emphasize the importance of this line, forcing the reader to slow down and take in the line as a whole. Poetry is a very image-based form of writing, so practicing poetry will improve your imagery in other forms as well. Ask yourself several questions, such as, What appears to be going on in the poem? Don’t skip over unfamiliar words. Read Through Slowly. It can also help to do a little research on the author to gain insight into the poem! For example, in Langston Hughes’ poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, the speaker uses a simile to describe themselves: “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”, Imagery is used to create mental images or pictures in the reader’s mind. In others, knowing symbolism is important to identify context clues. Next, try to determine the key situation in the poem, look up any words that you aren't familiar with, and examine the first and last lines of the poem closely for clues. For example, perhaps you are analyzing Langston Hughes’ poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”. In language at once acute and emotional, distinguished poet and critic Edward Hirsch describes why poetry matters and how we can open up our imaginations so that its message can make a difference. Elements of poetry also serve as a tool for descriptions. Poetry Glossary . Often times poetry is about someone or something related to the author. Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. Analysis is about breaking down to build back up again, understanding the whole. Please consider making a contribution to wikiHow today. Get his newest poetry eBook here. Please help us continue to provide you with our trusted how-to guides and videos for free by whitelisting wikiHow on your ad blocker. What is happening in the poem? Read the poem through for the first time. The second is assuming that the poem is a kind of code, that each detail corresponds to one, and only one, thing, and unless they can crack this code, they’ve missed the point. For example, in “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman, the word “singing” appears ten times in the poem. It lies in the fact that we interpret the poem based on biographical fact, which was put in its basis. What are your initial thoughts? You can understand a poem by considering the subject and form of the poem as well as the style and the context. Gary was born and raised on a small farm in rural Kansas. Where is the poem taking place? Adulting 101: Learn How to Raise Your Credit Score. Read the title. Next, try to determine the key situation in the poem, look up any words that you aren't familiar with, and examine the first and last lines of the poem closely for clues. Read through the poem several times, both silently and aloud, listening carefully to the sound and rhythm of the words. You would find them only in prose. Overviews of everything from traditional forms, such as the ode, to more experimental styles, such as OULIPO. For example, if you analyzing Langston Hughes’ poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, you may notice that Hughes uses the verbs “known”, “bathed”, “built”, “looked”, and “heard”. Support wikiHow by The best way to understand poetry is to write your own. The first is assuming that they should understand what they encounter on the first reading, and if they don’t, that something is wrong with them or with the poem. For tips on deciphering imagery, read on! Read the words. However, symbols, especially colors, are largely culturally relative. Featured Resources. read more. If you have your own specific take on the poem, you should use evidence in the poem to support your interpretation and explore it more fully. You should try to identify the metrical pattern of the poem. What are your thoughts and expectations about the poem based on the title alone? https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/how-read-poem-0, http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/ReadingPoetry.html, http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/poetrycompetition/article3228906.ece, https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/negro-speaks-rivers, http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hughes/rivers.htm, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/43997, https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/i-hear-america-singing, https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/a/american-poets-of-the-20th-century/how-to-analyze-poetry, https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/fame-fickle-food-1659, consider supporting our work with a contribution to wikiHow. Look for figurative language (metaphor, simile, imagery) and consider the tone and mood of the speaker in the poem. In Emily Dickinson’s poem “Fame is a Fickle Food”, the word “fame” appears only once in the poem in the first line. Read the poem out loud to yourself or in your head several times. But you may notice that the poem still has a certain rhythm when read out loud. This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD. But it is explored through the use of food imagery, indicating that food is a key figurative element in the poem, especially in relation to fame. Dickinson suggests that eating fame leads to death, or a very unhappy end. This isn’t always the case but it is usually. So many poems are perplexing, paradoxical, and just plain hard to understand. If you are uncomfortable with reading poetry out loud, you may ask a friend or peer to read it for you so you can listen more closely without being distracted by your voice. Generally speaking, the "meaning" of a poem isn't a singular thing, but is instead an interpretation formed by the reader and supported by the text. {"smallUrl":"https:\/\/www.wikihow.com\/images\/thumb\/9\/9b\/Understand-a-Poem-Step-1-Version-2.jpg\/v4-460px-Understand-a-Poem-Step-1-Version-2.jpg","bigUrl":"\/images\/thumb\/9\/9b\/Understand-a-Poem-Step-1-Version-2.jpg\/aid698480-v4-728px-Understand-a-Poem-Step-1-Version-2.jpg","smallWidth":460,"smallHeight":345,"bigWidth":"728","bigHeight":"546","licensing":"

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\n<\/p><\/div>"}, Addressing the Style and Form of the Poem, {"smallUrl":"https:\/\/www.wikihow.com\/images\/thumb\/5\/52\/Understand-a-Poem-Step-9.jpg\/v4-460px-Understand-a-Poem-Step-9.jpg","bigUrl":"\/images\/thumb\/5\/52\/Understand-a-Poem-Step-9.jpg\/aid698480-v4-728px-Understand-a-Poem-Step-9.jpg","smallWidth":460,"smallHeight":345,"bigWidth":"728","bigHeight":"546","licensing":"

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\n<\/p><\/div>"}, Deciphering the Figurative Meaning of the Poem, {"smallUrl":"https:\/\/www.wikihow.com\/images\/thumb\/f\/f8\/Understand-a-Poem-Step-15.jpg\/v4-460px-Understand-a-Poem-Step-15.jpg","bigUrl":"\/images\/thumb\/f\/f8\/Understand-a-Poem-Step-15.jpg\/aid698480-v4-728px-Understand-a-Poem-Step-15.jpg","smallWidth":460,"smallHeight":345,"bigWidth":"728","bigHeight":"546","licensing":"

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