Detecting or determining the Voice and Tone in a poem. How do I do it? What do I look for?

Expert Answers

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One really accessible strategy that I taught my students is an acronym called TPDASTT.  I'll show you how it works:

Title--First you look at the title, before reading the poem, and write down any first impressions you may have.

Paraphrase--Go through the poem, not line by line, but by sentences--jot down the main, basic idea of each sentence. 

Details:  On the surface level--what is this poem about?  Write down two-three basic things/subjects mentioned in the poem.

Attitude:  Look at the poet's attitude toward the subject (look and see what you wrote down in the 'details' section above) he/she is writing about.  How does hefeelabout it?  This is the poet's TONE.  I am  including a link to a list full of really good TONE words.

Shifts: Does the poet's attitude change at all in the poem?  I like to find specific phrases or words from the poem that go with the TONE. 

Title:  Re-examine the title, now that you have a deeper understanding of the poem.  What do you believe the title refers to now?

Theme: What does the poem mean?  What do the subjects in the poem represent, and what is the poet saying about them through his TONE?


** One of the most important things to look for while you use the TPDASTT acronym is to pay attention to the poet's diction (the words he/she chooses to use)--careful attention to the diction c an be incredibly insightful when determining the poet's true feelings on the subject.

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