You should give an analysis of one poem; 3 or more pages long.
First Choose a Poem: If it is a long poem, you can briefly give context and then analyze 15-20
lines. Don’t get stuck spending too much time on choosing your poem, and don’t look for a
poem that is especially obvious or easy to understand because it might not give you much to
1) You can find a poem to interpret by going to the Poetry Foundation web site then click on
“Poets and Poems,” then under “Subjects” click on “Social Commentary” and then one of the
topics such as race, class, politics, war etc.
2) You might also be able to find other web sites with protest poems.
3) You can also use one of the poems on our Syllabus or in Course Documents but only IF we
hadn’t gotten to it in class, maybe Grace Shulman, or Nicholas Guillen or one of the other
poems by Ernesto Cardinale, Neruda or Carolyn Forche that we haven’t discussed.
4) Or you could use one other poem by such authors on Blackboard as June Jordan, Pedro
Pietri, Jayne Cortez, Lupe Fiasco, Diane Di Prima, Marge Piercy, Amiri Baraka, Immortal
Technique, Allen Ginsberg, Bertold Brecht.
Don’t just give a paraphrase that sums up the poem in prose, but ask what are the elements
that make it effective. How does the poet get the meaning across?
Why are certain words chosen? Are there any:
images – sensuous details
similes – say one thing is “like” another: “love is like a rose”
metaphor – an implied comparison without “like”: “Love is a rose”
personification – gives human characteristics to something inhuman “the
willow weeps for you”
hyperbole – exaggeration
allusion – a reference to another work, such as the Bible, or something in
popular culture (like an ad “They said ‘You’ve come a long way, baby'”)
symbolism – an image that has many levels of meaning – like the garden of
What do these contribute to the meaning?
Is there a pattern of images?
Are there any oppositions stated or implied? Opposites sometimes will give you a clue to the