How to do Poem Analysis and write its Critical Appreciation

Updated: Jan 21


Poem Analysis, critical appreciation or critical evaluation are plainly technical and for non-literature background scholars, this whole post may go above the head, so read with patience and practice writing your part and get it assessed by your Professors or in the least share it with us on our telegram channel or megmentors@gmail.com for evaluation and learning.

Surfing internet for points to be prepared in critical analysis is like counting the number of stars in the sky.
Are Analysis and Critical Appreciation same?

No, analysis is checking out every detail of something. almost like research. While appreciation is respect for the poem, you can overlook the flaws and still enjoy something about it.

Critical appreciation, as a matter of fact, analysing work to evaluate its contents to discover hidden qualities and explain the reasons as to why it should be appreciated.

Analysis, basically, defined as breaking down the complex structures and study its basic portions.

Even Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge were not able to write critical appreciation of William Blake's poetry, that's why they called him a Madman. ( kidding J)

So, the analysis would indicate severely detailed research, while Critical appreciation would be more about the feeling of the poem.


Before we start

Be Alert & What you are not supposed to do is:
  1. 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.

  2. Do not forget to support your idea/thesis with detailed evidence from the text examined with quotes references.

  3. Do not assume your reader knows what you are writing about, you do also need to mention the work's title.

  4. Don't be didactic, never write like, The poet wants to convey from these lines, you may get zero marks for writing this.

  5. Do not pull the poem apart to write a single paragraph devoted to ‘metaphors’, or ‘sound effects’: this is a sure way to destroy the poem. Better explain how it is an integrated whole.

Let's start counting the stars

How to do Analysis of the Poem that will further help in writing critical appreciation?

To make it easy to understand, I have divided the study into two portions as per their importance like :

A) 80% interpretation (your claims about the poem’s implications, and explanations of how it works on ideas and feelings),

B) 20% ‘technical’ stuff (use of specific techniques; just enough of this to convince your reader that you know what the techniques are and how they function).

Apart, I have used a reverse method with lots of questions for ease of learning.

A). Technical Stuff (outer structural portion) (~20% weightage)

Step 1: Reading

Gentle, Read the poem, go through it slowly, appreciating the nuances and details you might miss when reading it quickly.

Now, examine how the title relates to the meaning of the poem.


Loud: Read the poem again, this time aloud.

1. To listen to how the words and syllables shape the rhythm.

(You may listen to poem text recording on MEG Mentors YouTube channel)


Listen to how the words flow from line to line, where the breaks are, and where the stress is placed and outline if a poem has a rhyme scheme or is written in free verse.

Example: terza rima (three-line stanzas with interconnected scheme of ABA BCB, etc.) , Don’t be ABBA DABBA JABBA :)

Step 2: Structure Study

a) Scansion: Meter identification of poetry based on the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in each line. (Meter is a combination of the type and number of feet it contains)

like Iambic pentameter: a type of meter that contains five iambs per line


Mark each foot—the basic measurement of a poetic line consisting of one stressed syllable paired with at least one unstressed syllable. And, study the pattern of stresses throughout the line to identify the meter

The most common feet found in metered poetry are:

  • Iambs (unstressed-stressed)

  • Trochees (stressed-unstressed)

  • Spondees (stressed-stressed)

  • Dactyls (stressed-unstressed-unstressed)

  • Anapests (unstressed-unstressed-stressed)


b) Break the Structure: Poetry is meant to make a visual as well as an emotional statement. Look at the details of its structure like, how many stanzas and how many lines are in each stanza?

Notice where the line breaks are. Does the end of every line coincide with the end of the thought? If not, the poet may be using enjambment, (enjambment where one line continues into the next.) Now you can determine the form of the poem.


Various types of poetry are sestina, haiku, and limerick.

If a poem has three quatrains (four-line stanzas) followed by a couplet, the poem is a sonnet.


Step 3: Examine the words in the lines because poets make deliberate word choices to craft their poems. If there are words you don’t know, don’t ignore them like your ex.

  • The poet plays with the use of metaphors, similes, oxymoron, hyperbole and figurative language.

  • Literary devices used, like alliteration, ellipsis, parallelism and assonance, that help sculpt the poem’s language.

(Watch the Poem lecture of MEG01 with line by line explanation on MEG Mentors YouTube channel to learn more about these literary terms.)

B. Interpretation ( Ideas feelings and all) (~80% weightage)

Find the answers to following questions


  • Who wrote the poem? When was the poem written and in what country? (Knowing something about the poet's life, times, and culture helps readers understand what's in a poem and why)

  • Does the poem appear in the original language? If not, readers should consider that translation can alter the language and meaning of a poem.

  • Is the title's meaning obvious? or it implies multiple possibilities/meaning? Or does it strike a balance or is there any “historical significance” of the title/poem?

  • Does the poet's life suggest any special point of view, such as political affiliation, religious sect, career interest, musical talent, family or personal problems, travel, or handicap?

  • Does the poem belong to a particular period or literary movement? For example, does the poem relate to Renaissance, Neoclassical

  • Is the poem part of a special collection or series? Like the collection, "Adolescence — I, II, and III.


Identifying genre/category/type/style (We have done this in Part A) Is it Epic, Lyric, Narrative, Haiku, Confessional


Who is the narrator? Try to identify the speaker of the poem.

Is it told through the first-person point of view, second-person, or third-person? What tone does the narrator convey? The speaker’s identity influences the telling of the poem based on their personal perspective.


What is the poet's tone? Is it satiric, serious, mock-serious, playful, sombre, brash, or teasingly humorous?


What is the mood of the poem? cheerful or jolly like limericks? Is it mysterious, provocative, zany, ominous, festive, fearful, or brooding


What is the main theme/message contained in the poem, If any emotion or lasting impression


  • Does the name of a character suggest extra meaning?

  • Why did the poet write the poem (Knowing the purpose)?

  • What are the influences on the poet while writing the poem?

  • What are elements of idealism and realism (idealism is the beauty of great literature, realism)?

  • What are the major ideas while preparing a summary of the poem?

  • What is the literary and historical context of the Poem?

Do you have evidence from the poem to support the controlling idea or deliberating statement (textual references) when you cite actual lines of the poem to support your highlighted statement?


Hope you are done with Denotation: the literal meaning of the words, Connotations: the ideas invoked by the words.


Note1: what seems to escape paraphrase is exactly what is poetically interesting; don’t back away from that ‘difficulty’. Pursue the questions that arise.


Note2: Except for introductory summary sentences, try to make every sentence a balance of evidence, technique and interpretation

X The fourth line describes the tiger in its cage as “bilious”. {Evidence, but no techniques, no interpretation}

X In the fourth line, the tiger is either ill or makes the speaker feel ill {Interpretation, but no evidence or technique}

:) In the fourth line, the tiger appears to the speaker as “bilious”, which might mean it is literally ill, or metaphorically makes the speaker ill, or even further implies that the whole situation is “sick” or misguided.

{Evidence – the quote – technique – ‘metaphorically’ – and interpretation, all working together}



After doing all the research stuff and finding answers to all the above questions we can write Critical Appreciation

How to write Critical Appreciation.
Back End Tasks (In your mind)

a) PREPARE: by looking up obscure vocabulary; reading the poem aloud sentence by sentence; writing down paraphrases where necessary. (Full paraphrases should NOT be included in the essay itself.)

cover the whole poem, not leaving ‘difficult’ bits out, or wandering around aimlessly


b) ORGANISE your approach. There are two main ways:

(a) part by part from beginning to end (stanza by stanza, or section by section); this means you have to decide what parts ‘hold together’ by their focus or pattern. Then write a paragraph clearly focused on that part only. The advantage: you show how form and content correlate; you show how poetic techniques work together to form a complete, complex effect.

(b) by themes, or ideas (one paragraph per idea). This can be more interesting than (a), but is also more tricky to control; it’s more difficult to be complete in your discussion; it means you have to be much better prepared before you begin writing. The advantage: it allows you to priorities ideas from the start, instead of leaving them for your conclusion.


c) INTEGRATE quotations (your evidence) seamlessly into your own sentences; don’t just tag them onto the end, or stick them ungrammatically in the middle. Use short quotations, even single words, which are directly relevant to or supportive of the overall point you are making, rather than long ones.

Front End (On Exam Sheet)

a) INTRODUCTION

  • Introduction of the poem and the poet

  • Publication of the poem/analysis of the literary movement/the era, the poem represents

  • Title of the poem under analysis (write about the title and state how it relates to the poem. Is it appropriate?)

  • Background information about the poem

  • The purpose or topic statement or thematic analysis of the poem

INTRODUCE the poem clearly. a) Briefly spark interest with a quote or other intriguing start (NEVER write, “This essay is going to discuss…” boring!!). b) Contextualise the poem and poet in its period and place, as far as is necessary to an understanding of the poem. c) Briefly describe its subject, speaker/hearer set-up, physical setting, occasion or event, and overall form, as necessary and relevant. In one sentence ‘map out’ your approach – part by part, thematically, or whatever, using key words as ‘signposts’. (Then pick up these signposts, in the same order, at the beginnings of the relevant paragraphs.)

b) MAIN BODY

  • Stanza-wise brief but critical description or summary of the poem

  • Evaluation and interpretation of the poem with textual references (quotes from the text in support of your ideas)

  • Critical discussion on literary aspects/language aspects and your personal opinions as a whole.


c) CONCLUSION

Conclude your analysis, ideas and deliberations. 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.

CONCLUDE strongly. Sum up your claims about the deepest themes and broadest ideas contained in the poem, and their implications. [See ‘Introductions and conclusions’ in the sample copies share in our channel” on this website/ YouTube Channel.

Disclaimer: Kindly discuss with your college professor and university guidelines.


Postscript: For correction and value addition, feel free to email us at megmentors@gmail.com


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