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Poetry Corner

Strategy #1

A Thought about Structure

One simple way of approaching a poem is to take a measured look at its structure. This can easily be done by creating a poem skeleton. In a skeleton, the sounds/syllables are identified  along with marks of punctuation. The result is a bare-bones look at the poem, where such things as enjambment and rhythm can easily be detected as well as any quirks or oddities that stand out as possibly affecting the rhythm. Check out this skeletonization of the Billie Collins poem Marginalia by clicking on the button below.

Strategy #3

Sound: How to Avoid the Confusion 

Addressing sound and its effect on the reading and understanding of a poem is intimidating to most, particularly if you are not comfortable talking about figurative language. Below is a quick exercise with a Shakespeare poem called Winter. The exercise breaks down (with a key) the power of sounds used effectively in a poem.

Strategy #2

Annotating a Poem: Where to Begin

There are many effective strategies for annotating a poem. One of the best is to use a technique called word or concept association. This strategy is explained in more detail by clicking the button below.

Strategy #4

Diction: So You Want to Talk about Diction 

Sound contributes greatly to word choice or diction. Any reader can easily recall a first experience with children's literature, especially Dr. Seuss. The authors are careful in how the sounds of their stories resonate with young writers. Other writers, too, understand that one of the things that creates a memorable experience for a reader is the combination of a well-told story and a notable style. Learning how this is done can improve writing as well as analysis skills.

Strategy #5

Repetition: So Many Instances, So Little Time

The general rule with repetition is that it is primarily used to create emphasis. But your job as an analyst is to figure out not only the how but the why. Why does the poet want to create emphasis and what form is the repetition taking? Try reading and working though this example of effective use of repetition in an excerpt from Percy Shelley's "Prometheus Unbound."

Strategy #6

What happens when we reconfigure lines from a poem? Aristotle suggested that the effect or quality of a whole system is superior to the individual qualities of that system's individual parts. By taking a look at some famous and key lines from Emily Dickinson's poetry, we can explore the truth of this as well as find a key to the power of revising our own writing.

Strategy #7

Haiku and Metaphor: Working on Word Precision

Much can be learned from the study of the simple form of poetry known as haiku. One of its fundamental concept is the precise use of words to help the reader into a surprising and even joyful contemplation. By exploring how to create a haiku through first selecting a metaphor, a writer can begin to hone the writer's skill of diction.

Strategy #8

Text comes in many forms--among them is film. Consider how important the opening lines of a poem are and weigh this importance against the establishing shot of a film. Both serve to set up the rest of the experience for the "reader".  This exercise asks you to consider the opening lines of a poem and imagine that those lines will serve as the subject of an establishing shot for a film. Using the vocabulary of film, describe how such an establishing shot would appear to the film viewer as well as the reader of a poem. Such thinking can go a long way in helping you find a way to discuss a poem.

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Poems with a Focus

Browse through our list of poems each with an oral reading and a focus point for your analysis. We'll provide the text of the poem as well as a suggestion of how to inform your reading. This is  a starting place not a final destination. 

Click here for a quick lesson

on the poetic term.

Click here for our podcast reading and guide to approaching the poem.

Click here for the

text of the poem.

Williams's "The Red Wheelbarrow"
Bishop's "The Fish"
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Strategy #7

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