How to approach an Unseen Poem

Prompt cards and additional information to help you to uncover the facts and features of a poem. 

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  • Created by: Beth
  • Created on: 06-02-13 19:33

4 Different Approaches

To analyse a poem successfully you must take into account the 4 main approaches.

  • Language 

(how does the poet use language, word choices to empahsis or portray the message? What key words stand out and why? what english devices can you pick out?)

  • Structure 

(e.g. stanzas, line structure, rhytmn and rhyme. Does the structure increase or decrease the pace of speech? If so how does this inkeep with the theme of the poem?)

  • Sounds and Colours

 (what do the colours connote? How does this have relevance and interlink with the meaning of the poem? How do the sounds set the mood?)

  • Imagery 

(what words does the poet use to set the scene, do the sounds and colours help set the imagery?) 

Using these four different approaches will help you link together different ideas and seperate your thinking, encompassing the entirety of the poem into clear easy sentences. 

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Flirt encompasses all the relevant techniques you need in order to succeed in the analysis of the unseen poem. 






Remember these and you can obtain anything between a D - A* depending on how well you use them. 

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Form relates to any aspect of the poem regarding structure and formating. 

If you answer the questions below on an unseen poem regarding "F" you are using the structure and formating approriatly. 

  • Are the sentence lengths complex or simple? (if so how does this create tension or mood within a poem)
  • Are their pauses in the poem? (i.e. caesuras, dashes etc) 
  • Does it contain a rhythme or a rhyme aspect?
  • Are there a certain number of lines or sentence breaks in a stanza?
  • Are the amount of syllables relavent?
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The language is one of the highly marked aspects of a poem analysis so it is vital that you take into account these english devices.

MetaphorA figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

SimilieA figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, (e.g., as brave as a lion).

AlliterationThe occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.

Oxymoron - A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction (e.g.,faith unfaithful kept him falsely true).

PersonificationThe attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in...

RepetitionThe action of repeating something.

OnomatopeiaThe formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named (e.g., cuckoo,sizzle).

HyperpoleExaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally

Enjambmentthe continuation of a syntactic unit from one line of verse into the next line without a pause.

PlosiveDenoting a consonant that is produced by stopping the airflow using the lips, teeth, or palate, followed by a sudden release of air.

PunA joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words that sound alike but have different meanings.

Assonance - in poetry, the repetition of the sound of a vowel or diphthong in nonrhyming stressed syllables (e.g., penitencereticence).

Rule of three a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.

Juxtopositionthe act of positioning close together (or side by side); "it is the result of the juxtaposition of contrasting colors".

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Imagery is simply a set of mental images you gain from reading a piece of text. 

Ask yourself simple questions regarding why you are visualising certain images.

  • what sounds and colours are used to connote the setting or mood of the poem?
  • How do the words or english devices portray the setting?


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The reader response is a school of literary criticism that ignores both the author and the text's contents, confining analysis to the reader's experience when reading a particular work. 

Ask yourself these questions...

  • What is the overall message of the poem?
  • How do you know this?
  • Does it have other suggestive meanings?
  • Is it a literal meaning or a metaphorical poem?
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A theme is the central idea or ideas explored by a literary work. 

Examples of this would be:

  • hatred, evil, morbid
  • love, relationship, friendship
  • bravery, war, heroic
  • happy, fantasty, magical


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