Poetry Essay: Example and Tips

Students come across poetry essay not that often as, for example, book review. Prose is a more popular genre. Though, students who take literature courses for sure get the task to write poetry analysis essay. That is why we present you the scheme of how to write a poetry analysis essay and also an example of poetry essay.

How to write a poetry analysis?

  1. Write the name and date of birth of the author, the name of the poem and the date of its writing. If necessary, specify a few events from the biography of the poet, which influenced the creation of the analyzed poem.
  2. Specify the subject of the verse. Ask yourself: “What does the poet speak about in this verse?” Verseled works can be about love, patriotism, politics, life and death, etc. Some describe landscapes and the beauty of nature, others are reflections on philosophical themes.

Identify the idea or main ideas of ​​the work. Think about what exactly the poet wanted to convey to the reader, which “message” lies in his words. The main idea reflects the attitude of the poet to the written, it is a key factor for a true understanding of the literary work. If the author of the work touched several problems at once, list them and highlight one as the main problem.

  1. Make an analysis of the plot. Write what’s going on in the poem, highlight the main events and conflicts. Skip this point of analysis if the verse is unsubstantiated.
  2. Identify artistic means and stylistic techniques that the author resorted to in this work. Give concrete examples from the verse. Indicate the purpose for which the author used this or that method (stylistic figures, tracks, etc.), ie what effect has been achieved. For example, rhetorical questions and appeals increase the attention of the reader, and the use of irony speaks of a mocking attitude of the author, etc.
  3. Conduct an analysis of the features of the composition of the verse. It consists of two parts. This is the size and rhythm. The size can be indicated schematically so that it can be seen which structure is dropping its emphasis. For example, in a four-stroke iamb, the emphasis falls on each second composition. Read one line from the poem aloud. It will make it easier for you to understand how the emphasis falls. The method of rhyming is usually indicated using the notation “a” and “b”, where “a” is one type of the ending of the verse, and “b” is the second type.
  4. Specify the features of the image of the lyrical work. It is advisable not to miss this point in the analysis of the verse. Remember that in any work there is an author’s “I”.
  5. Identify the literary direction to which the work belongs (romanticism, sentimentalism, modernism, etc.). Specify the genre to which the verse belongs (elegy, poem, sonnet, etc.).
  6. Tell us about your personal attitude to the verse. Specify what emotions it is causing, about what it makes you think.

Analysis of poetic vocabulary for poetry essay

It is necessary to find out the activity of using separate groups of words of common vocabulary – antonyms, archaisms, neologisms, homonyms, synonyms.

  • to find out the measure of proximity of the poetic language with conversational;
  • to determine the originality and activity of the use of traps.

Traps are words and turns, which are used not in direct, but in figurative meaning:

  • allegory – an allegorical image of an abstract concept / phenomenon through concrete images and objects;
  • hyperbola – artistic exaggeration;
  • irony is a hidden mockery;
  • lithotum – artistic understatement;
  • metaphor – a hidden comparison based on the similarity / contrast of phenomena in which the words “as”, “as if” are absent;
  • personification – for example: a bush that talks, thinks, feels;
  • parallelism;
  • comparison;
  • epithet – artistic definition.

Stylistic figures in poetry

Poetic syntax (syntactic techniques or figures of poetic speech):

  • antithesis / contrast;
  • graduation – for example: light – pale – barely noticeable;
  • inversion – an unusual order of words in a sentence with an obvious violation of the syntactic construction;
  • repetitions / refrain;
  • rhetorical question, appeal – increase the attention of the reader and do not require a response;
  • default – unfinished, unexpectedly broken sentence, in which the thought is not expressed entirely, the reader is thinking of it himself.

The composition of the lyric work

It is necessary to:

  • determine the leading experience, feeling, mood reflected in the poetic work;
  • find out the harmony of the compositional structure, its subordination to the expression of a certain thought;
  • determine the lyrical situation presented in the poem (the hero’s conflict with himself; the hero’s internal unfreedom, etc.)
  • determine the life situation which, presumably, could have caused this experience;
  • identify the main parts of the poetic work: show their connection (identify emotional “drawing”).

The composition of the poem, its division into stanzas (how the meaning of the poem relates and its division into stanzas).

Whether each stanza represents a complete thought or a part of the main idea is revealed in the stanza.

Mapped or contrasted the meaning of stanzas.

Whether the last stanza is meaningful for the disclosure of the idea of ​​a poem, whether it contains the conclusion.

Poetry essay example. Features of poetics of Emily Dickinson’s “Life and Death, and Giants”


Poetry of the 20th century is distinguished by bold experiments in the field of versification, the unlimited expansion of the intonational possibilities of speech, in some cases, its emancipation from grammar, attention to the sound characteristics of a word. Poets are increasingly associating a poem with a piece of music, thereby solving the problem of limited word abilities. The poetic form becomes an arena for new experiments.

Poets of the 20th century solved the problem of limited speech in different ways. The poets and imagists proclaim cubism as the basis of poetics, understood it in its own way. “The grammar is a three-dimensional word requirement. The flat word now gradually, thanks to the illumination of the image, begins to be measured. The depth, length and width of a word are measured from these values: the meaning is logically constant, the other two are transient (variable), and the sound is externally transitive, and the image is organically transitive.

Main part

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) is an American poet. During life, no more than ten of her poems were published. Perhaps this was indirectly promoted by the fact that in 1862 in the journal “Atlantic Monthly”, the venerable publicist Thomas Higginson appealed to young authors with a call to send their manuscripts more boldly to the editor. Emily answered. Her handwriting was strange, similar to the footprints of birds on the snow, the poems were unusual and expressive, unpublished anywhere. The exchange of letters continued. Emily asked for advice and did not accept them, except for one thing: do not publish the poems.

Around the same time, she began to avoid society, experienced a great emotional shock, perhaps love. After the death of the poetess, her sister found many notebooks and a pile of verse sheets in the office drawer, there were about two thousand. In 1890, the first collection of Dickinson’s poems appeared. Cautious and prudent, Higginson – the chief editor of the collection and the author of the preface – published an article and tried to draw the attention of readers to the new poetry. The collection had a success, and already in 1955, Harvard University published the complete works of the poetess, which became a generally accepted classic of American literature.

The poems of Emily Dickinson are of great importance for world culture. Her poetry inspired many authors to respond to the use of similar motives. Thus, the poem “I have not seen the sea” is reflected in Salinger’s story “The Soldier in France”, which is intonation and thematically largely consonant with “A Grain in the Rye”, in which the name of the poetess is also mentioned.

Regarding the innovation of the poetic creativity of E. Dickinson, musicality, new means of expression, it would be appropriate to recall the words of another poet, who noted that one of the most striking characteristics of the “freedom of verse” of the poetess is an unexpected rhyme. Poetry of E. Dickinson is distinguished by “amazing rhyme”, “semi-myth”, “incomplete rhyme”, “unpredictable rhyme”, “a reflection of skepticism, horror and doubt that permeate the poetess’s faith”. Consider an example:

Life, and Death, and Giants –

Such as these, are still.

Minor – apparatus, – hopper of the mill, Beetle at the candle, –

Or a fife’s small fame, –

Maintain by accident That they proclaim.

In the poem “Life and Death, and Giants” the poetess uses the motive of silence. The concept of “silence” is opposed to “speaking.” “Life”, “Death”, “Titans”, that is, everything significant is silent, unlike “smaller mechanisms”: “grasshopper in a mill”, “pipes with its glory”, “bug on a candle”, which are only “random testify “, that is – they say (in the text of the minor apparatus, hopper of the mill, bettle of the candle, a fife’s small fame, proclaim). The essential difference in the poetics of E. Dickinson is its “rigid and short form,” which in this case is a meaningful one.

The poem begins with the enumeration of the concepts “life”, “death” (universal categories that correspond to “religious motive”), “giants” (has a pagan association, implicitly implies a myth or a children’s tale of higher powers), which are contrasted with a “smaller mechanism”. The opposition is realized by the verb proclaim – testify. The final rhyme appears against the background of the vowing when alternating short “i” (still, mill) and open diphthongs (fife’s, maintain, proclaim). The first “put an iconic point” at the beginning of the poem, completing information about the higher forces, about those who are silent, the second “iconically revealed to the world”, almost bringing the text to the act of speaking. The echo-repeat “proclaim” completes the poem, the author reserves the last word, being thus a part of this tragic-comical world that speaks.


So, the poetry of Emily Dickinson (on the example of the poem Life and Death, and Giants) is distinguished by bold experiments in the field of versification, an unexpected rhyme, a brief, rigid form. The motive of silence is realized through the contrasting opposition of this concept to the “world of sounds”, which is realized by contrasting and matching open and closed vowels.

During her life, Emily Dickinson was a rather closed person. It seems that people got to know her better only after her death, through the magical power of her poems. Finally, people learnt what a beautiful person she was and how much she had to say.