I need a poem that is difficult to understand/analyze but is not impossible. Its for english where we teach the poem to the class.  Any suggestions?I need a poem that is difficult to...

I need a poem that is difficult to understand/analyze but is not impossible. Its for english where we teach the poem to the class.  Any suggestions?

I need a poem that is difficult to understand/analyze but is not impossible. Its for english where we teach the poem to the class.  Any suggestions?

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I  like John Donne's "Legacy:" not impossible, but easier when broken down into sections.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 29 is my favorite: this is pretty easy if you look at it quatrain (four-line stanzas) by quatrain. The first eight lines present his general idea. The direction of the sonnet shifts with the word "Yet," first word of ninth line (through that third couplet) where he starts looking at things differently, and it is summarized—and this is where he puts his bottom line, most important idea—and driven home in the last two lines (the rhyming couplet).

I throughly enjoy "My Papa's Waltz," if you have not done it yet, by Theodore Roethke. Or Langston Hughes. He has great poems. Today, for the first time, I read "Mother to Son," which is an extended metaphor with wonderful imagery. It's not long, but it's message is about not giving up when things get tough. And he has many others, as well.

You should be able to find any of these online.  Good luck!!

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would suggest a sonnet by William Shakespeare.  The poems are definitely challenging, but not impossible -- especially with close reading and perhaps a bit of research.  What makes the poems assessable is the sonnet form.  This poetic structure helps create the meaning, and provides logical divisions within the poem to help break the thoughts into smaller pieces.  All sonnets have 14 lines, and are divided into three quatrains (4 line chunks) and a concluding couplet (2 line sentence).  The other structure of the sonnet is to have the first 8 lines (octet) be one thought, and the final 6 lines (sextet) function as the conclusion.  There is usually a need to discuss punctuation, ryhme scheme, structure and meter as well as the more typical poetic devices such as symbolism, metaphor, imagery, and diction.  I would specifically think that Sonnet 18, 29, 73, and 130 are assessable to most students.  Good luck!

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would suggest "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.  I suggest this because I think that most people will think they know what it is about but will actually be mistaken.

Most people will think that the poem is about the importance of going against the crowd -- the importance of being yourself and of taking the road less traveled.  But the poem really isn't about that, or at least it's definitely ambiguous.  You can look at how he talks about how the two roads are really the same.  This implies that there is really no significant choice going on, that the one wasn't really less traveled and the speaker is fooling himself.

So this poem has an obvious meaning, but there are enough contradictions in it that you might be able to get a good discussion going.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would suggest Edmund Spencer's "One Day I Wrote Her Name Upon the Strand" because it is a sonnet, and sonnets are important for students to analyze, but it is also a different kind of sonnet.  It is a little old-fashioned but not too much, and for some reason it seems to speak to my students.

Another suggest is, "I'm Nobody, Who Are You?" by Emily Dickinson, because it speaks to teenage angst like no other.  It is also fun to interpret in different ways.

susan3smith eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If your class has not yet studied this poem, I would recommend "The Second Coming, " by William Butler Yeats.  This poem uses apocalyptic imagery to describe the state of the modern world.  It is filled with interesting and terrifying imagery, making the poem fun to "unlock" for a group of students.  Most students seem to enjoy this poem that depicts the end of the world as we know it and a prediction of what may be in store for us in the future. 

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Richard Cory" has always been one of my favorite poems to teach.  It isn't completely obvious, but it isn't impossible either.  It covers a few universal themes that are not only applicable but interesting to most high school students (boys and girls alike).  Another fun element to throw in is the Simon and Garfunkle song of the same title.  It makes a great supplement to studying the original poem.

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What about "The Man He Killed" by Thomas Hardy? It has interesting dialect, provides for a discussion of someone's view of war specifically and the world in general, and it's brief.

Here's a link to the text of the poem.


mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Stephen Crane's "War is Kind" is an ironic poem that points to the senselessness and cruelty of war, dispelling the romantic images of valor in war. In particular, the "war" alluded to is the Civil War.  It may be somewhat controversial, depending upon the  cultural attitudes of your area, but it is an excellent poem for the discussion of irony.

mitchrich4199 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would suggest "End of April" by Phillis Levin. It has some wonderful imagery and illustrates a feeling of loss and memory extremely well. It's also somewhat "modern" so that it will be a lot of fun for the students in your class to look at. I think that it would work well for you.


rskardal eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ted Hughes' "To Paint a Waterlily" might work.

readwriteteach | Student

One of my favorite poems to teach is "In a Station of the Metro" by Ezra Pound.  It is only two lines long, which is part of its charm.  So much is packed into those two lines.  You could help the class unpack the metaphor, which would show that you understood the poem and that you were capable of understanding metaphor. 

You might consider having your classmates draw the image to help them better understand the metaphor between the lines.

ashaffe6 | Student

I've always enjoyed "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost. It reminded me of my grandparents and our neighbors at the time. Good fences make good neighbors :)

tradecraft | Student
The Inferno by Dante Alighieri.
adriennedeschamps | Student

Any poem by Margaret Atwood, Robert Frost of Sylvia Plath are awesome.

I might suggest "Mirrors" by Plath or "After Apple-Picking" by Frost.

tiffanie | Student

Thanks for all the suggestions!!!!!!!!!!!!