Guidelines for Reading a Poem : Or how do I figure out what the author means? Guidelines for Reading a Poem 1. Read the poem aloud : 1. Read the poem aloud Read it at least one time aloud.
Be sure to read following all punctuation.
Remember, pause only when the punctuation calls for a pause – such as a short pause with a comma, semicolon, colon; and a long pause for a period, question mark, or exclamation mark. 2. Identify the speaker and the occasion : 2. Identify the speaker and the occasion The speaker of a poem is not necessarily the author. The speaker will often identify himself through information given in the poem. Who is the speaker? What does he look like? How old is he? Where is he from?
The reader should also try to establish why this speaker is saying these words. What is happening? Where is the poem taking place? Of what significance is the poem? 3. Be aware of key words and phrases : 3. Be aware of key words and phrases Often an author will use specific words and phrases to convey a feeling or emotion. The connotation or feeling that a word evokes will often add to the meaning of the poem itself.
For example, a poem may use lighthearted words to express whimsy, such as using pixy, carefree, flighty, fanciful.
These words help show the tone of the poem. 4. Write a paraphrase : 4. Write a paraphrase For each stanza, write a paragraph that paraphrases or tells what you think the author means by that portion of the poem.
Make sure it is simple and easy to understand.
If you don’t know what it may mean, be sure to look up any words you do not understand; look for any inverted sentences; and put some thought into this interpretation. 5. Arrive at the central idea : 5. Arrive at the central idea Try to state the central idea of the entire poem in a few lines. If you had to tell a friend what this poem was about, what would you say?
This is usually done in one or two sentences. Don’t be afraid!! : Don’t be afraid!! Poetry doesn’t bite – it’s simply another way of expressing thoughts and emotions.
Poets throw away all the conventions of formal writing and really just express thoughts and emotions in a structured and precise manner.
Remember, for the most part, there are no totally wrong answers to interpreting poetry. Just go with your feelings!!