What Are the Best Tips for Reading Poetry?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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Figurative language can sometimes scare readers away because it is often difficult to interpret. Poetry usually contains a fair amount of this type of language, in addition to meter, rhyme, and other poetic devices. Reading poetry can therefore be difficult and unpleasant for some readers, unless those readers learn how to read poetry both for enjoyment and interpretation. One way to accomplish this is to begin reading poetry with certain goals in mind. The first time the reader reads through a poem, he or she should simply enjoy the sounds of the words, the flow of the lines, and the overall presentation of the poem.

This allows the reader to become connected to the poem, even if he or she does not necessarily understand the meaning or overall point of the poem. Sometimes reading poetry is all about enjoying the form: the combination of words, the sounds they make together, the line breaks and pauses, and so on. The reader can begin reading poetry without searching for meaning, which can be frustrating and difficult. Instead, he or she can simply read for the pleasure of reading.


After the first read-through, the reader may want to try to find deeper meanings. An understanding of figurative language might be necessary, but it is important for the reader to remember that much of poetry is open to the reader's interpretation. This means there really is no wrong interpretation of a poem in many cases; the meaning is whatever the reader takes away from the words. In other cases, a poet may have a specific theme or idea in mind when writing the piece; the reader should be less concerned with discovering that exact meaning and more concerned with gaining his or her own insight from the words.

Studying the different types of figurative language, meter, rhyme, and other poetry structures can help a reader arrive at a more common interpretation of the poem. Understanding terms such as simile, metaphor, synecdoche, metonymy, onomatopoeia, and so on can help the reader understand the language more efficiently. Researching a bit about the poet may also lend some insight as to the meaning of the poems, since the reader will be able to gain context from which the writer was writing that particular piece. Reading aloud can also help the reader hear sounds or patterns he or she may have otherwise missed when reading silently.


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Post 2

Close reading poetry is the best way to really dig into what the poet has done in their work. Any poem of merit will require at least several close read throughs and a line by line breakdown.

Post 1

I think that reading poetry aloud always enhances the experience. Poetry is as much about sound as meaning. Poets craft their lines according to the music of the words. The way one word plays into the next, one line into the next, one stanza into the next, all of these are better when you hear them out loud.

Ideally you will hear a poet read their own work. Often they will add elements to the performance that both enhance and clarify the meanings and ideas at play in the poem. But reading other people's work out loud on your own can be a rich experience too.

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