Poetry Essay Writing Tips : Guide, Prompts, and Samples

Last Updated: 27 November 2019

how to write a poetry essay

The main aim of a poetry essay or a poetry analysis essay is to explore or analyze a poem. For many students, an encounter with a poem spells doom the entire course. However, we are here to make sure that your experience is the best. Most students wonder how to write poetry essays. And the moment they have a poetry essay in their homework assignment schedules, they most likely procrastinate until the last minute and rush to write anything to avoid submitting a blank page.

Just the mention of a poem analysis essay will make a student hate the rest of the day. However, it does not have to get to that point. In this article, we introduce you to how to write a poetry essay in a step-by-step approach. We also cover some of the vital lingoes in the world of poetry. The writing gurus we are gives us the authority to share some proven mechanisms of analyzing a poem and writing an essay about it. An analytical poem essay can be artistic, functional, or structural; what defines its scope is the essay prompt from class. Here is a list of sample poetry essay prompt:

Sample Poetry Analysis Essay Prompts

  1. Prompt: The following poem makes use of the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Read the poem carefully. Then write an essay in which you analyze how Field employs literary devices in adapting the Icarus myth to a contemporary setting. Poem: “Icarus” (Edward Field)
  2. Prompt: Write an essay analyzing how Waniek uses literary techniques to develop the complex meanings that the speaker attributes to The Century Quilt. You may wish to consider such elements as structure, imagery, and tone. Poem: “The Century Quilt” (Marilyn Nelson Waniek)
  3. Prompt: Each of the two poems below is concerned with a young man at the age of twenty-one, traditionally the age of adulthood. Read the two poems carefully. Then write a well-organized essay in which you compare and contrast the poems, analyzing the poetic techniques, such as point of view and tone, that each writer uses to make his point about coming of age Poems: “To Sir John Lade, on His Coming of Age” (Samuel Johnson) and “When I Was One-and-Twenty” (A. E. Housman)
  4. Prompt: The following poem is by the contemporary poet Li-Young Lee. Read the poem carefully. Then write a well-developed essay in which you analyze how the poet conveys the complex relationship of the father and the son through the use of literary devices such as point of view and structure.  Poem: “A Story” (Li-Young Lee).
  5. Prompt: Read the following poem carefully by Robert Pack, paying close attention to the relationship between form and meaning. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze how the literary techniques used in this poem contribute to its purpose. Poem: “An Echo Sonnet” (Robert Pack)
  6. Prompt: After reading poems by Bryant, Poe, Dickinson, and Frost, write an essay that describes how the author’s style and use of literary devices affect the presentation and meaning of the poem and addresses the question. Support your discussion with evidence from the text.

So with the sample, poetry analysis essay prompts, you can already begin to tell what makes a poetry essay, can’t you? If no, let is define what poetry essay is.

What is a poetry essay?

A poetry essay is an essay whose thesis focuses on the analysis of a poem or a comparison of two or more poems.

It is your typical critical analysis essay with inclination to a poem. Mostly, a poetry essay delves deep into the topic or themes that the writer has used. Sometimes, an essay about a poem might choose to focus on the style used by the author or a poem including rhythm, word choice, and stylistic devices.

Some of the common stylistic devices include metaphors, repetition, simile, imagery, alliteration, apostrophe, assonance, antithesis, allegory, ellipsis, or hyperbole.

There are as well many stylistic devices that creative writers use. In equal measure, an essay on poetry will compare authors of a poem or the tenets described above.

It takes time to write a good poetry analysis essay. However, with a proper guide like ours, the process becomes seamless.

7 Simple Steps of Writing a Poetry Analysis Essay

Any time you have a poetry analysis essay, you need to follow a predetermined format to ensure that you get the best out of the essay. Remember, professors have a way of surprising us with poor grades for poorly written essays, and that is no different in poetry essays. Here is a quick step of what to do:

  1. Choose a Poem

The very first step in poetry analysis is choosing a good poem that you would like to write an essay about. In most instances, your professor would have given a range of poems in the poetry analysis prompt. If you are left with the option of choosing a poem, pick a poem you enjoy, understand, and can reason with.

  1. Read the Poem twice or Thrice

In the first instance, you will be reading the poem to understand its flow. As you read a poem first, you will begin to align with the message the author intended. Doing so enables you to have some touch and reasoning with the author on the first contact. It is like greeting the author and searching through their minds and hearts. The second reading is usually a chance to read as you take notes. If it is on paper, you have the freedom of underlining and making some personal notes. The same applied when you are doing the reading online. In the third reading, you would have acquainted yourself with the poet, and you will be confirming your notes.

When reading the poem in the first instance, you could do so to a colleague, friend, or read it out loud to yourself. Doing so helps you discover the information.

  1. Research on the Poet

After reading a poem, it is usually best that you research more about the poet. Understanding the style most preferred by an author makes writing an analytical poetry essay fast. You will appreciate their school of thoughts, approach to creative writing, themes most preferred, and their criticisms. With that in mind, you can now go to the next step, which is identifying the elements in the poem. Some of the famous poets include Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, William Shakespeare, E.E Cummings, Oscar Wilde, and the list goes on.

Sometimes, it is good also to understand the speaker who is always at the center of the poem. Some of the potential questions to ask include:

  1. Identify the Theme, Mood, and Tone of the Poem

After noticing the speaker, it is always imperative to address their attitude, mood, ad tone in the poem. It could be a somber, grieving, melancholic, satirical, or celebratory mood. Also, notice the character or personality of the speaker given the mood and word choice. It is also essential to take note of when the tones, mood, and attitude change and for what purpose.

  1. Identify the elements in a Poem

There are many elements in a poem. We will cover some of the elements later in this article. But we are sure as an English subject student; you realize that a poem, whether short or long has some elements. These elements, if well analyzed are essential points that count in your entire essay. The elements include syntax, alliteration, soliloquy, imagery, metaphors, allegory…

  1. Be sure to check meanings of the words used

If you are deeply and sincerely sure, you do not understand the stylistic devices used, research online to grasp their purpose can help you reveal more. As you do so, strive to always look beyond the words. Mostly, focus your hunt on the hidden meaning behind the words and strings of words used in the poem. Connect the little dots in the poem to create a picture, one that the author, speaker, or the poet needs you to do. Exploring the hidden meanings in a poem needs in-depth research, patience, and expertise. You can develop that by being keen on words.

  1. Discuss the Theme used in the Poem

In any poem analysis, the theme or the central idea always forms the core of the papers. For instance, if it is a famous Beowulf poem, it would be wise to focus on the theme of heroism, vengeance, resilience, loyalty, hospitality, and generosity, among others. If you are yearning to go beyond a simple poetry analysis, always show links between themes and the outside world. This way, you would be writing an allegorical essay on a poem, where you analyze the current or historical scenarios based on the themes in poetry. And just doing so earns you the best grades ever! To find the theme here are some critical questions:

If you follow these steps on how to analyze a poem, you are most likely to get it right from the start. Now, let us look at the parts of an essay that analyzes a poem.

Poetry Analysis Essay Outline

A poetry essay like a normal five-paragraph essay has an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

The Introduction: The introduction always entails the background information, essay hook, and the thesis statement. Here, your focus should be on a summary and description of the poem. Put the poem into its context. Here are some questions to include in the three-four sentence background

The thesis should be a three-part single or two sentences that present the topic of the essay.

Sample thesis statement:   William Cullen Bryant uses personification, colorful imagery, and metaphors in “Thanatopsis” to discuss how nature moderates our individual fear about death.

The Body: The body of a poem analysis essay contains three paragraphs. The first paragraph can focus on the poems’ theme. The second paragraph can focus on the chosen poetic device. Finally, the third paragraph can focus on the second poetic device. If it is a poetry research paper, where you expect more than three body paragraphs, you can explore as many stylistic devices as allowed or instructed, but each in its paragraph.

If the poem is a comparison and contrast poetry essay, ensure you take either of the approaches in writing a comparison essay and align the paragraphs as you judge fit.

The conclusion: Like any other essay, your conclusion should have a revamped or paraphrased thesis statement. Indicate how the author achieves their intended purpose, and explain what the author means both in your understanding and in their words. Consider the so what factor.

Remember: when quoting directly from a poem, you will have to reference the lines that you took the direct quote or indirect quote from.

Common Terms You will meet in Poetry Classes and must use in Essays

  1. Stanzas

 Stanzas are the set of lines grouped and are separated by an empty string from another stanza. They are a paragraph equivalent in an essay. You can quickly identify the type of stanza by counting the lines. Based on the lines, here are the different names:

  1. Types of poems

You will find three common types of poems:

  1. Rhyme

In poetry, rhyme refers to the repetition of similar sounds at the end of the poem’s lines in a stanza (end-rhyme). When doing rhyme analysis, you should use annotations. For example:

I saw a fairy in the wood, (a)
He was dressed all in 
green. (b)
He drew his sword while I just
 stood (a)
And realized I'd been 
seen.(b)

So, similar sounding words are marked using the same annotation. Thus, the rhyme scheme of the stanza above would be abab.

4. Stylistic Devices in Poetry

These stylistic devices are meant to make poetry enticing, entertaining, and compelling. If well analyzed, you are bound to get high grades.

Do you have a poem essay due soon and do not know what to do?

Well, there are two ways to help you. First, our comprehensive guide on how to write a poetry essay will address your fears and help you write an excellent poetry analysis essay in just a few hours. You can also have a look at our blog; there are a series of poetry analysis essay examples that can be helpful when writing your piece. Remember to always relate the poem to a historical or current event, more like in an allegory essay. If still, you do not have enough time, we can write a custom poetry analysis essay for you before the deadline. So, if reading Shakespeare or Langston Hughes sends fear down your spine, we have essay writers who can take away the burden off your chest.