How to Read a Poem

How to Read a Poem:

1. Read it through once without stopping – just to grasp its full shape and get a sense of its meaning.

2. Read it through again slowly and stop to puzzle over anything you don’t understand, or to notice particular words and phrases.

a. Speaker: who is the speaker of the poem? The poet? A persona of some kind?

b. Setting: when and where is the poem set?

c. Situation: What happens in the poem? Is there a change or a shift in understanding? Does the poem tell a story of some kind? Are all the events in the poem real, or has the poet captured dreams or fantasies or wishes or an imagined world? Does the poem set out to capture a feeling, an emotion? What is the poet trying to say in this poem?

3. Read it through a third time to appreciate the form the poet has used.

Answer the following questions and bring them to class on paper — typed or handwritten is fine:

1. 1. What subject matter does the poet take up repeatedly in different poems?

2. 2. Pick one poem you liked, or that stood out for you, and answer the above questions about speaker, setting and situation.

3. 3. Using that same poem, point out its use of sound techniques: stanzas, lines, meter, sound play.

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