How to Write a Poetry Analysis Essay: Complete Guide for Students

Of course, not every other student gets such an assignment. Still, having a solid idea on how to write an essay on poetry analysis can prove pretty handy in many situations you can’t even think of right now.

Therefore, our best minds have come together with the sole aim of preparing this guide for you. Browsing it, you will know how to write a poetry analysis essay, how to do it well, and how to have some fun during the whole process!

What Is a Poetry Analysis Essay

First things should definitely go first, so throwing in a definition is a must in our case. Consider a proper poetry analysis as breaking down all the building blocks of a given poem. The primary aim of doing this is an attempt to understand this particular artwork in its entirety.

To make things simpler, let’s have some examples from real life, shall we? Here’s what will be taken into account with regard to two poems:

  • theme;
  • genre;
  • narrators/characters;
  • setting;
  • versification;
  • cultural context;
  • figures of speech.

If you are smart and lucky enough to have all these characteristics in your poetry analysis essay, you’ll definitely be halfway to success. The next important part is great content. Take our next two samples into account while working on your own essay. For the sake of simplicity, we’ve gathered these examples in one table.

  Poem 1 Poem 2
Title One Boy Told Me Nothing Gold Can Stay
Author Naomi Shihab Nye Robert Frost
Theme Finding calm and tranquility in different circumstances What’s gold (literary and metaphorically) can’t last forever
Genre Note from authors of the guide: Indeed, defining this one might seem tough at first. Browsing the whole glossaries with all the genres included might make the job easier. One such glossary is the one from Harvard.
Allegory/Lyric
A short narrative poem
Narrators/Characters The narrator is the only “character” here – a little boy No characters. There is the main narrator observing the changes in nature.
Setting A two-year-old speaking to his mother (the author herself) No particular material setting, observing the ever-changing cycle of time through nature
Versification

The absence of rhyme;

The coherent flow of individual stanzas.

Iambic trimeter;

Usage of end rhyme;

AABB rhyme scheme.

Cultural context

Year of publication – 1998.

Author’s age: 46.

Having only one child, a son, this “wandering poet”, as Nye describes herself, cherishes his thoughts on all matters.

The poem itself is a compilation of what her son told her during different conversations when he was 2 and 3 years old. 

The poem represents mother-son relations as well as many social issues of its time.

Year of publication – 1923.

Author’s age: 48.

Though there are no clear historical references, the publishing occurred 5 years after the end of the Great War and the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Though told through the depiction of nature’s transience, the poem transcends the feeling of loss. Also, Frost himself spent some years of his life on a farm. Thus, he was pretty familiar with a cycle of life in nature.

Figures of speech

This poem has many rhetorical questions, alterations between statements and questions, metaphors and personification (e.g. “My tongue is the car wash, for the spoon”

Unexpected allegories and wordplay all contribute to the overall theme of celebrating liveliness.


Though having eight lines only, this poem has lots of poetic devices. The most prominent and often cited one is alliteration (e.g.:Her hardest hue to hold.) There are also instances of sibilance, metaphor, assonance, anaphora, consonance, and personification.

Hopefully, the table above will serve as a great example for your many poetry analysis essays to come. Yet, even after presenting some examples in the last line, we still feel like the figure of speech part deserves more credit.

Therefore, we’ve prepared a list of most commonly used figures of speech – you may also find them under the name of poetic devices – that you should memorize and use extensively in the future. Here they are:

  1. Simile – whenever you see the comparison of one thing with another that has words “like” and “as” in it, that’s 99 % simile that is in question here. 
  2. Metaphor – this one is so common that there hardly is a piece of poetry without some sort of metaphor in it. Whenever you see something called by any other name – be ready to spot a metaphor. Here’s a great example from “One Boy Told Me” – “Your head is a souvenir.”
  3. Metonymy – as with many other things in poetry, this figure of speech is about calling something in an uncommon way. For instance, when the word “sword” refers to some military power.
  4. Synecdoche. Don’t let this Medieval Latin word scare you off. Whenever you see an instance when a small part refers to something bigger, larger, or simply more exclusive – definitely, it’s synecdoche. E.g.: when “bread” refers to all types of food.
  5. Personification is a figure of speech that is used when an inhuman object suddenly gets active verbs attributed to it. The very same Robert Frost has used this poetic device extensively. A good example is from his “Storm Fear” – “When the wind works against us in the dark”
  6. Litotes – which is a part of the understatement type is closely connected to the next one on our list – the irony. Have you spoken to the British at least once in life? Saying that the weather is “no the best” or that “things could have been better” are good real-life examples.
  7. Irony – finally, we have irony here. Whenever you mean one thing and say the other, some type of irony takes place. For instance, calling an empty place “a crowded room” certainly counts!

There are way too many figures of speech that poets continue to use in their artworks. The more you know – the better for your poetry analysis essays and, consequently, overall academic performance!

Poetry Analysis Essay Outline

Let’s briefly cover yet another important aspect here – the outline. As our writers are strong proponents of taking some prewriting measures, here are some working tips for a poetry analysis essay outline that can bring you an A+!

  1. Start with a strong opening. In this section, you can include such elements and the title, the name of the author, and a relevant background before delving into the details of analysing the poem.
  2. Here goes the main part. Similar to our table above, you should mention all the main themes, link represented ideas to the historical context in which a given poem was written. Another must part is mentioning versification and as many poetic devices and figures of speech as you can track.
  3. Conclusion. Whenever your rubrics allow for it, the final part is the one to present your own ideas on a poem analysed as well as assess it from a perspective of “here and now.”

Here is a poetry analysis essay outline for “One Boy Told Me”:

  1. This essay is a poetry analysis of “One Boy Told Me” written by American poet Naomi Shihab Nye in 1998.
  2. In the body, the following elements will be mentioned: the main theme (celebration of life), versification (purposeful omittance of rhymes), cultural context, and some of the figures of speech (such as rhetorical questions)
  3. Accordingly, in conclusion, an assessment of the presented mother-son relationship as well as attitude towards life will be given.

How to Start a Poetry Analysis Essay

Wonder how to begin a poetry analysis essay? Mention the crucial info at once. To give your reader an idea of what the whole text is going to be, throw in such details as the title, the author’s name, probably the year of publication.

With relation to knowing how to start a poetry analysis essay you should also present some knowledge of the subject at hand. Notwithstanding whether it’s a cultural context of the piece published or some interesting facts from the author’s bio – don’t hesitate to include both.

Hopefully, after reading this article you won’t have any more questions regarding how to write an introduction for aN poetry analysis essay and hook your reader.

Poetry Analysis Essay Example

With so many insights into the topic presented, comprising a poetry analysis essay example is a piece of cake. If you bother and prepare a similar topic yourself, the task will be this easy, too.

If you wonder what does a poetry analysis essay look like, here is a sample based on our Poem 2.

“Nothing Gold Can Stay” by a prominent American poet, Congressional Gold Medal winner, Robert Lee Frost is a short 8-lines masterpiece that was published in 1923.

The main theme of this artwork is related to the transience of both human life and nature in general represented through the very metaphorical title. There are no evident characters in this poem. However, there is an observant narrator spotting changes in nature.

With regard to versification, there are several elements that can be tracked. The author used iambic trimeter, end rhyme, and AABB classical rhyme scheme in this artwork.

Introducing some more info about the author’s age (48) and the fact that this poem is part of the fifth collection gives us further cultural context. First, although there are no certain crystal clear historical references, the feeling of loss can still be felt. After all, this poem has been written only five years after the end of the Great War and the Spanish Flu pandemic that took so many lives.

Second, as Frost himself has spent some years of his life living on a farm, his record of the cycle of life in nature is an informed one. Though having eight lines only, this poem has lots of poetic devices. The most prominent and often cited one is alliteration (e.g.:Her hardest hue to hold.) There are also instances of sibilance, metaphor, assonance, anaphora, consonance, and personification.

Overall, this poem is a good representation of Frost’s artistic style as well as a sample of saying so much in so few lines”

Conclusion

Having sorted out all other key elements of a good poetry analysis essay, it’s time to address the conclusion part in the final section of this guide.

Ordinarily, no new information should be mentioned in the concluding part – this is a rule for all academic papers. Basically, you are to add some sense of completeness to your analysis in this section. Concentrate on what the poem makes you feel like instead of the forming parts of it.

Reflecting your own thoughts on a particular piece is a good way to conclude a poetry analysis essay.