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How to Analyse and Annotate a Poem

Analysing and annotating a new poem is, frankly, a terrifying thing. Read on for a step-by-step
method to how to approach it. Its like eating an elephant you couldnt do it in one go, but if
you cut it up into small enough pieces

Basic Principles:
Annotate your poem with-
Brief notes
Significant words and phrases
Links between parts/words
Comments on structure
Rhyming schemes
Make notes on paper for:
Detailed analysis as in Step 3

Step 1: Basics (Annotate Text)
Get in to the habit of annotating your poetry in pencil that way you can alter it as your ideas
develop. You will erase or expand upon everything that you highlight in this part.

1. Underline any individual words you dont know
2. Put a cross in the margin by any groups of words that you cant understand
3. Put an asterisk in the other margin to show any bits where you know the meaning of the
individual words but cant make sense of what they are supposed to mean in the poem
4. Put brackets round any bits of the poem individual words or groups of words that seem
especially odd, that dont seem to fit in
5. Pick out any bits of the poem that you quite like the sound of whether or not it seems to make

Step 2: Detail (Annotate Text)
1. Look for patterns, repetitions, repeated words, phrases, ideas and developments of these in
the poem (maybe draw pencil arrows between them)
2. What links can you make between the title and the actual words of the poem? Pick out and list
some specific vocabulary. Make a note of line numbers.
3. What word pictures or images can you find within the poem? Use circles in the margin to mark
4. What do you notice about the punctuation and organisation of the poem into lines and verses?
Where does your eye tell you to stop? Where does the punctuation tell you to stop? Count the
sentences; count the lines; count the stanzas.
5. What do you notice about the shape of the poem? What does it look like on the page (this is
called form or structure). Write some very brief notes to show how the poem is organised.

Step 3: Analysis (Write notes on paper)
Look at these areas below. What message is the poet
trying to get across in his or her use of these devices?
First impressions
Themes often these will be ambiguous, have double
Speaker who is the speaker in the poem? Are the
poet and the speaker the same person?
Vocabulary repeated words, synonyms or
homonyms, ambiguity
Rhythm, Metre, Rhyme is the poet emphasising any
themes or words through the use of any of these?