How to Write a Critical Analysis of a Poem
When you know how to write a critical analysis of a poem, you can enable the readers of your critical analysis to understand the language and symbols that the author of the poem uses better. A critical analysis is a form of subjective writing in which the writer expresses his/her evaluation or opinion of a text. A poem on the other hand is a form of writing that takes the nature of a song and a speech and it is almost rhythmical in most cases and usually metaphorical exhibiting different formal elements which include a stanzaic structure, rhyme and meter. A critical analysis of a poem therefore should break down a poem and study its parts to give the evaluation or opinion of the entire piece.
A step-by-step guide on how to write a critical analysis of a poem
While writing poems, authors are very deliberate with their choice of words as well as the format that they use to convey meaning. Most poets hope that their poems will be read aloud. This is why they strive to maintain high lyrical quality. Others strive to maintain interesting rhythms in punctuating the elements of their poems. As you write a critical analysis of a poem, depict an intimate appreciation of it.
Step 1: Read the poem
To critique a poem, you should read it severally to understand what the speaker is saying or what the main message of the poem is. If there are unusual or difficult words, find their meaning. In most cases, the title will give you the summary or general meaning of the main idea or thought that is being presented.
Step 2: Know who the speaker is
The speaker in a poem can be an elderly person, a child, a shepherd, a student, a swordsman, a sailor, a milkmaid, an animal or an object such as a chair, a place or a mountain. Speakers in poems speak differently.
Step 3: Identify the main theme of the poem
Start your critical analysis by identifying the major or specific theme in the poem that gives it a larger meaning. To identify this theme, you need to consider or study the entire poem including its title. Maybe the poem that you are analyzing is about losing innocence, growing old, or importance of preserving the environment. The overarching or major theme of a poem can come out clearly or it can be hidden in its presentation and words.
Step 4: Establish the context
The context gives the location and time of a poem. This is usually what prompts the creation of a poem. A poem can be prompted by a political event which has a great importance in the history of a country.
Step 5: Identify inter-textuality
This implies that a poem looks back to another poem. This is also called reference. If a poem has this aspect, include it in your analysis and show how it enhances the message or its delivery.
Step 6: Identify the genre of the poem
Genre is simply the category. There are characteristics and rules of each genre. For instance, a poem that comprises of a long narrative dealing with demi-gods or divine figures and describing incredible journeys or terrible wars that determine humanity fate is called an epic poem. A sonnet on the other had is a short poem with 14 lines in which intimate emotions are expressed. Other poem genres include mock-epic, lyric, ballad, parody and ode among others.
Step 7: Create a checklist for your critical analysis
You should come up with a checklist that will guide you as you review or analyze the poem. A checklist will enable you to analyze or dissect the poem into separate pieces in order to understand it as a complete piece better. For instance, you can come up with a checklist that includes the title, genre, viewpoint, setting, meter, rhyme scheme, context or conflict. Make the elements in your checklist your guide while writing the critical analysis of the poem.
Step 8: Review the poem’s plot
While reviewing the plot, answer the following questions after reading the poem:
- What is going on in the poem?
- Who is affected by what is going on?
Your answers to these questions will enable you to understand what exactly the poem is describing. This will enable you to apply the meaning of the poem in the analysis.
Step 9: Analyze the poem’s rhyme scheme
Note that, not every poem has a rhyme. Nevertheless, most poems are written with the hope that they will be read aloud and therefore they have a rhyme scheme. Perhaps, this is one of the most important steps of a guide on how to write a critical analysis of a poem because you must read and analyze the poem carefully to notice its rhyme scheme. Before you conclude that the poem under analysis does not have a rhyme scheme, read it aloud with a friend or alone. Listen to its sound instead of simply looking at its words. This will enable you to identify its rhyme scheme and analyze it.
Step 10: Analyze the format
A poem can be a free form. This means that it does not have an identifiable pattern. It can also have a unique writing scheme. The format of a poem is usually a deliberate choice of style or act by the writer. Describe the format chosen by the author in your critical analysis and what it could mean as well as how it hinders or help in communicating the message.
Step 11: Analyze the used figurative language
Poetry uses a wide range of literary devices which include personification, metaphor, simile, metonymy and irony. Apart from constituting the body, these devices also demonstrate the control of language by the author. Therefore, it is highly important that you evaluate and analyze the use of figurative language in the poem.
Step 12: Create a thesis statement
On the basis of your comprehension of the meaning of the poem, create a thesis statement for your critical analysis. Note that while writing any academic piece, you should have a strong, clear thesis statement.
Step 13: Gather evidence from the poem to support the controlling idea or thesis statement
In the body of your critical analysis, cite actual lines of the poem to support your thesis. This will make your critical analysis credible and strong. Readers will get clues of where your thesis statement came from because it will have adequate supporting evidence from the poem.
Step 14: Write the analysis
At this step, you already know how to write a critical analysis of a poem and you have all the information required to write a critical analysis of a poem. Use your checklist to write your critical analysis.
Your critical analysis should include the following:
The introduction should include:
- Title of the poem under analysis
- Author of the poem
- Publication information
- Purpose or topic statement
- Thesis statement that indicates your reaction to the poem
- Description or summary of the poem
Provide a summary or brief description of the poem that you are analyzing critically.
- Evaluation or/and interpretation of the poem
Use your checklist to analyze or evaluate or discuss different aspects of the poem as described in the steps of this guide.
Draw conclusions from your analysis. Tell readers what was the goal or theme of the poem that you were analyzing, tools that were used in conveying the main idea or theme of the poem, how they were used and whether they were effective.
Bonus tips on how to write a critical analysis of a poem
While writing a critical analysis of a poem, try to help the writer and the reader know how the poem would have been made better. Provide suggestions on how the writer can improve the work. However, point out instances where the author is inconsistent or not clear and then provide concrete advice to the writer.
When critiquing the work of another person, be constructive. Do not say unnecessarily harmful things about the poem. If you must say something negative about the poem, provide supporting evidence.
- Review the content of the poem
In your critical analysis, say whether the author was redundant in terms of the used imagery or chosen words. For instance, did the author use varying syllables, meters and vowel rhymes? How did the author choose the words to use in the poem? Did the author use irony, similes, metaphors or symbolism properly? Were they used consistently?
- Use a sample of a critical analysis of a poem
To easily know how to write a critical analysis of a poem, use a critical analysis sample as your writing guide. A good sample will enable you to know where and how to present different elements of your analysis. You can find an example of a critical analysis of a poem here.
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- Identify the author's thesis and purpose
- Analyze the structure of the passage by identifying all main ideas
- Consult a dictionary or encyclopedia to understand material that is unfamiliar to you
- Make an outline of the work or write a description of it
- Write a summary of the work
- Determine the purpose which could be
- To inform with factual material
- To persuade with appeal to reason or emotions
- To entertain (to affect people's emotions)
- If the purpose is to inform, has the material been presented clearly, accurately, with order and coherence?
- If the purpose is to persuade, look for evidence, logical reasoning, contrary evidence
- If the purpose was to entertain, determine how emotions are affected: does it make you laugh, cry, angry? Why did it affect you?
SAMPLE OUTLINE FOR CRITICAL ESSAY
After the passage under analysis has been carefully studied, the critique can be drafted using this sample outline.
- I. Background information to help your readers understand the nature of the work
- A. Information about the work
- 1. Title
- 2. Author
- 3. Publication information
- 4. Statement of topic and purpose
- B. Thesis statement indicating writer's main reaction to the work
- II. Summary or description of the work
- III. Interpretation and/or evaluation
- A. Discussion of the work's organization
- B. Discussion of the work's style
- C. Effectiveness
- D. Discussion of the topic's treatment
- E. Discussion of appeal to a particular audience
Avoid introducing your ideas by stating "I think" or "in my opinion." Keep the focus on the subject of your analysis, not on yourself. Identifying your opinions weakens them.
Always introduce the work. Do not assume that because your reader knows what you are writing about, you do not need to mention the work's title.
Other questions to consider: Is there a controversy surrounding either the passage or the subject which it concerns?
What about the subject matter is of current interest?
What is the overall value of the passage?
What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Support your thesis with detailed evidence from the text examined. Do not forget to document quotes and paraphrases.
Remember that the purpose of a critical analysis is not merely to inform, but also to evaluate the worth, utility, excellence, distinction, truth, validity, beauty, or goodness of something.
Even though as a writer you set the standards, you should be open-minded, well informed, and fair. You can express your opinions, but you should also back them up with evidence.
Your review should provide information, interpretation, and evaluation. The information will help your reader understand the nature of the work under analysis. The interpretation will explain the meaning of the work, therefore requiring your correct understanding of it. The evaluation will discuss your opinions of the work and present valid justification for them.