What Are the Best Tips for Poetry Interpretation?

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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Poetry interpretation can be somewhat difficult and complicated, though there are a few methods a person can use to more easily read and understand even complex poems. The first thing a person should do when reading a poem is to read the entire work from beginning to end without attempting to interpret it at all. After this initial reading, then he or she should read it a second time, more slowly, and begin to interpret the poem. Poetry interpretation can involve a number of processes, though attention should be paid to the title as it relates to the content of the poem and to any figurative language used.

The process of poetry interpretation can be intimidating for many readers, but it is not necessarily as difficult as it may seem. Basic interpretation should be utilized to understand the poem itself at a surface level, before proceeding to any possible deeper meanings. This can often begin with a simple, straightforward reading of the poem from beginning to end, including the title. During this reading, no poetry interpretation should occur; the poem should simply be read to have a sense of the overall tone, narrative, and structure.


Once this is established, the reader should begin some poetry interpretation during a second reading. As the reader studies the poem a second time, he or she should pay attention to the title and reflect on what it might mean now that the reader has read the entire poem once. The title might set the tone for the poem itself, or might act as a secondary structure meant to accompany the poem. It is also possible that the title provides the overall purpose or meaning of the poem itself. If the poem is untitled, then the reader should consider why the poet did not give it a title and how that lack of title might reflect on the larger poetry interpretation.

This poetry interpretation can then continue throughout the secondary reading as the reader pays greater attention to figurative language found in the poem. If the poet draws comparisons between two things, then the reader should consider how those two things relate and what the comparison reveals about each of them. A poem in which a rose is compared to a woman may have a fairly simple meaning, in that each is considered beautiful by the author.

Deeper meaning, however, may arise from further poetry interpretation as the reader considers other aspects of a rose. The fact that a rose is accompanied by painful thorns, for example, or that a rose is cut and displayed to look pretty, but then quickly withers and dies. These meanings can expand upon the initial comparison, depending on the other ideas presented in the poem, to indicate that the woman is beautiful and dangerous or that her beauty will fade too quickly.


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Post 1

How do you know what a poem means by reading it? How do we figure it out? Is there a website I can go to?

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