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You should have a general idea by now of what you believe the poem to be about, its themes and the mood or tone of the piece. This is more or less what you need to know. Re-read the poem, (you should have read the poem at least four or five times by now) is there anything that you notice about the poem? What stands out as particularly interesting about it?

Write these things down. Don't worry too much if you can't think of much. What you think is what matters.

In order to demonstrate your understanding of the poem you will need to be able to describe in some detail how the poet has achieved the expression of the themes through the mood and tone and language techniques of the poem. In this topic we will go through some of these techniques and their significance to poetry.


The questions that you will need to ask of your poems in terms of structure will have to do with conventional structures and stanza lengths and regularity. You will then need to decide what impact the structure has on a poem. We will go into more detail as we analyse a variety of poetic forms in the coming topics.

Rhythm or movement

Many poems use a regular rhythm. In many poems this rhythm is quite easily defined

You may study blank verse and free verse and wonder why this is any different from prose. The answer is simply that the poet uses rhythm and meter in order to shape meaning. It is often useful to read the poem aloud so that you can hear where different accents and different rhythms have been used. Consider the appropriateness for the subject matter in each of these phrases:

  1. The long, slow, tedious, mathematics lesson

          Dragged on and on and on.

  1. Square roots, sin and cosine, quadratics

          It's lunchtime!

Read each one out loud. Notice the different emphasis and rhythm of each. In Example 1, the rhythm is regular (meaning that it does not change) and tedious - this suits the subject matter. The rhythm of Example 2 is much brighter and snappier, implying that the lesson flew past. This is merely one example of the effect that poetry can have and we will discuss rhythm more in this topic. What you should take from it in this context is that poetry is not merely a passage that rhymes but passages whose words, rhyme, rhythm and meter match the subject matter and, more often than not, influence meaning.

Language & Poetic Devices

Important Poetry Techniques





Words that start with the same sound to create  emphasis and at times dramatic impact


Breathing-taking beauty of the belle


A repetition of vowel sounds within syllables with changing consonants


Please bake me a date cake


Repetition of consonants anywhere within words


Gloomy woman


The use of exaggeration often to create an impact on readers


She ate a mountain of food in just a few minutes


Elements in poetry that can spark off our senses (sight, sound, smell, feeling, taste) as we read. It can often create a very vivid description  


The dark (sight) pungent (smell) enclosure


When a comparison is made between 2 things. Although sometimes similar to a simile, most times it is much more hidden and harder to detect on the surface


His Herculean strength sent the spectators into awe

The apple never falls far from the tree (how children are similar to their parents)



A word imitating a sound


The buzz of the bee...

When the cat meowed...



Inanimate objects being given human qualities. Personification has become very common in a daily language use


The gloomy weather

The beautiful building



When 2 items are compared with one another with the use of “like” “as”


Her smile was as bright as the sun

He was strong like Hercules


Reflect the way in which the poet expresses his ideas. Often this is detected through his use of words / images, etc


Tone example (non-exhaustive list):











A connotation is when a part of a text, or even a single word, implies (makes something understood without expressing it directly) a value or meaning beyond the literal. Take for example these three simple sentences:

  1. The building was very tall.
  2. The building was monstrous.
  3. The building was towering.

All three sentences mean the same thing literally. However, the word 'monstrous' has connotations of the building being scary and imposing and the word 'towering' may connote that the building was impressive in its size.

In poetry, connotations are very important. Look for words that connote particular things as they change the emphasis of the text.

Copy down or underline any words that you think are particularly relevant to the poem's subject matter, theme or mood. In this list you will also need to copy down any words that stand out to you - words that are striking and words that might be deliberately dull.


Some poetry contain repetition. This may include repetition of sound, syllable, words, phrases, lines, stanzas. Poets often use repetition to draw our attention to certain aspects in the poem and to create a particular emphasis that adds meaning to the poem.

Repetition is found extensively in free verse, which does not have a traditional, recognizable metrical pattern. Repetition in free verse includes parallelism (repetition of a grammar pattern) and the repetition of important words and phrases.

Examples of repetition

Example 1

Bavarian gentians, big and dark, only dark

darkening the day-time, torch-like with the smoking blossoms of Pluto's gloom,

ribbed and torch-like, with their blaze of darkness spread blue

down flattening into points, flattened under the sweep of white day

torch-flower of the blue-smoking darkness, Pluto's dark-blue daze,

black lamps from the halls of Dis, burning dark blue,

giving off darkness, blue darkness, as Demeter's pale lamps give off light, lead me then, lead the way.

D. H. Lawrence's "Bavarian Gentians"
Example 2
Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope
to turn...
T. S. Eliot's “Ash-Wednesday”

Have you seen any other examples of repetition?

Repetition is so obvious and everpresent that we sometimes forget its importance. Keep repetition in mind as you analyse any poetry you read.


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