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Rutherford High School RWC

Poetry Discussion Questions
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Questions for Poetry Analysis


Questions to ask about the SPEAKER

Who is the speaker?

What do we know about him or her?

What is their age? Are they male or female?

Where do they live?

What is he or she like?

What do they want?

To whom are they speaking?

What is the speaker’s mood?

What is the speaker’s purpose? To narrate?


Questions to ask about the CONTENT or MESSAGE

What is the apparent subject of the poem?

What is the speaker trying to say?

Why did the poet write it?

Can you determine historical period, political, sociological or cultural messages?

Can you determine genre?

Words are especially important in a short work like a poem. Are there any words that stand out as being especially important or interesting?

Is anything compared to anything else in the poem?


Questions to ask about STRUCTURE

Count the stanzas and lines per each stanza. Is there a pattern? Is it ever broken?

Does the poem contain structural devices such as repeated images or repeated ideas? 

What type of poem is it?

Does the poem contain meter? Can you determine a verse type?


Questions to ask about IMAGERY

What images are there?

Are they literal or figurative?

What is the setting, and is it significant?


Questions to ask about SOUND PATTERNS

Is there an obvious rhyme scheme or does this poem have a free verse structure?

If it is rhymed, describe it as best you can. (Example: ABAB, ABCB)

Is the pattern ever broken?

Do you notice any sound patterns (repeated words, repeated sounds, or sounds)?

Are important words in the work linked by alliteration, assonance, consonance? Why?

Do any changes in sound patterns reflect changes in mood or theme?

How do the sound patterns in the text contribute to the meaning?



Questions to ask about the poet’s STYLE

Does it contain any devices such as metaphor (personification), simile, assonance, or alliteration?

Describe the type of diction employed. 


Questions to ask about TONE

  1. Describe the tone of the poem and explain why you chose your answer.
  2. What evidence in the work supports your description of its tone?
  3. Are there any shifts in tone?
  4. How does the tone contribute to the meaning?
  5. Does the author employ satire?


Questions to ask yourself about EVALUATION

1.     What is your opinion of the poem’s content, structure, sound patterns, style, tone, etc?


Questions to get you thinking about ANALYSIS

1.     What is your opinion of the poem’s content, structure, sound patterns, style, tone, etc?

  1. Why did the writer chose this genre (poetry) in particular? Why didn’t he chose essay, short story, novel, speech?
  2. What significance does the title have? What might you rename it?
  3. What function does this piece serve? Why has it stayed alive in literature textbooks?
  4. How is the plot developed? What is the central conflict? Does the author use devices such as foreshadowing?
  5. What lasting impression does the work create? What strikes you as being the most significant element of the work—a scene, a symbol, a character, the conflict, the author’s message?
  6. What does the work remind you of?  (Other poems, books, articles)
  7. Can you compare this work to another text you are familiar with?
  8. Have you ever seen a play/movie version of this work?  How did it differ?
  9. Can you critique the work from a different perspective?  (Feminist, conservative, Marxist, theological, historical, etc.)
  10. How does the author portray a particular social group?  Why?
  11. What interests you the most about the work? 
  12. Did you enjoy the text?  Why or why not?
  13. If you were to meet the author, what questions would you ask?
  14. Were you confused by any parts of the text?  Why?
  15. What were the text’s strongest points?  What were the text’s weakest points?


Extension Exercises for Poetry Analysis


  1. Read the poem to yourself silently.
  2. Read the poem out loud slowly.
  3. Read for meter. Can you hear iambic pentameter, for example? Purposely read it out loud with emphasis on the syllables and the rhyme.
  4. Read the poem with others. Try reading the poem in a round. What stands out to you?
  5. Read the poem straight through, pausing and stopping only for punctuation.
  6. Read the entire poem but read only the vowels out loud.
  7. Read the entire poem but read only the consonants out loud.
  8. Read the poem aloud, stressing any alliteration.
  9. Whisper the poem. How does it sound different?
  10. Read the poem aloud with tremendous inflection. Over do it. Be dramatic. Overly dramatic.
  11. Read the poem using different voices and tones of voice. Which sounds best?
  12. Read the first word of each line. What do you notice? And similarities? What if you had not read the poem yet, what would you predict the poem was about?
  13. Read the last word of every line. See #12.
  14. Memorize a poem and then recite it. How would the poet read the poem? Which words would they emphasize?
  15. Perform a poem in the form of a one-act. What propts and costumes would you need? What characters? What setting? How would you perform it verbally?
  16. Consider the poem as a music composition. Do you hear a single violin, an orchestra, an acoustic guitar, a drum?
  17. Imagine transforming the poem into a painting or a photograph. What do you see? What colors? Where is the artist standing in relation to the point of view of the painting/photograph?
  18. You are the author. Why did you write this poem? What moved you to write it? On the day you imagined with poem, what were you doing? Who did you hope would read it? Where were you when you wrote it?
  19. How do each of these assignments help you get one step closer to the heart of the poem? What new insights do you gain about the content, the language, and the speaker?

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