“BREAKING IT DOWN” Thayer’s Approach to Analyzing a Poem
The First Read • Your first time through you should: • Read, Enjoy and Absorb what you can • Make preliminary guesses about what it means, but don’t form any permanent ideas.
The Second Read • “Structure and Sound” • Look for: • Rhyme • Alliteration • Assonance • Consonance • Onomatopoeia • Repetition of words or phrases
The Third Read • “Figurative Language” • Then you will look for any: • Metaphors • Similes • Hyperboles • Imagery • Personification • Diction
The Fourth Read • “Meaning” • NOW you will start to look for what you think the poem means. • Don’t be afraid to completely abandon your original idea about what you thought it meant.
The Fifth Read • “Anything You Missed” • Reading the poem several times will help you find elements you missed during the previous read. • Also, look for any Allusions • Don’t forget to address the poem’s Tone and Purpose
REMEMBER: • Your analysis is graded on two parts • 1) conventions (steps 2 & 3) or “HOW the poem means” • 2) Meaning (steps 1, 4 & 5) or “WHAT” the poem means”
Lastly… • Contrary to what some people believe… THERE IS NOT ONE “RIGHT” ANSWER The beauty of poetry is that ANY INTERPRETATION IS POSSIBLE if you can explain it with EVERY LINE of the poem.
Though your interpretation may not match what the poet intended, it is not any less right or valid. Each person may get something different from a poem, and that is ok. So don’t be afraid to take a chance. You have nothing to lose.