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Guidelines for writing a critical appreciation of a poem

Summary:

To write a critical appreciation of a poem, begin by reading it several times to understand its themes and structure. Analyze the poet's use of language, imagery, and literary devices, and consider how these elements contribute to the overall meaning. Reflect on the poem's tone, mood, and the emotions it evokes. Finally, place the poem in its historical and cultural context to fully appreciate its significance.

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How does one write a critical appreciation of a poem?

The best starting point when writing a critical appreciation of a poem is to determine what the author's message or theme is. Once you determine this key point, the rest of the paper falls into place much easier.

I tell my students to next look at the author's tone. What is the author's attitude toward the subject of the poem? How do you know? What words do they use to convey that tone? You can then discuss how the tone is important to the theme of the poem.

It's important to then look for literary elements you're familiar with. Do you see a simile? What about great imagery? Is there an example of personification? Once you find these, the key point to remember is that the author made these poetic choices for a reason. How does that simile contribute to the tone or theme? How does the imagery utilized bring deeper significance to the tone or theme?

For example, in the poem "Because I could not stop for Death –," Emily Dickinson chooses to personify Death. Why does she make that choice? The image provides a way for her to discuss the transition into the afterlife as though she is a passenger in a carriage with Death. By doing so, she is able to reflect upon the life she's lived in light of the knowledge of death that all people face.

In the poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," Robert Frost uses imagery to convey the peaceful scene before him as he pauses in snow-filled woods on a dark evening. Why does he use imagery there? The peaceful imagery he utilizes contrasts with the "But" at the end of the poem; he has "promises to keep" and "miles to go" before he sleeps. He is in a hurry and doesn't have time to enjoy this peace often.

Each choice the poet makes is for a specific purpose. It's important, therefore, to not simply identify those literary elements but also to analyze how each one brings deeper significance to the author's work.

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How does one write a critical appreciation of a poem?

The above answers give good insights, but as you can imagine, there is no one way to appreciate or analyze a poem. In other words, there are many ways in which to approach a poem. In light of this, let me give you a few different ways. 

First, if you focus on the mechanics of a poem by examining poetic devices, you should also ask yourself what these devices do for the meaning of the poem. For example, the meter of The Tyger by William Blake reminds the reader of the incessant pounding of a hammer on an anvil. In this way, the poetic elements add to the meaning of the work.

Second, you should also focus on the historical context. For example, the Roman poet Horace writes ode 1.2 in the context of the flooding of the Tiber River. This act can be seen as a bad omen of what is to follow, or he can interpret it as the signaling of a new age with the rise of Augustus. In this way, he is saying the poet has a lot of power to interpret events in poetry for the general populous. 

In conclusion, to analyze poetry, use as many tools and ways of reading as you can. That is critical.  

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How does one write a critical appreciation of a poem?

A critical appreciation of a poem requires of one to analyse the poem as a whole and critically provide insight into the elements which make up the poem, such as diction, imagery, structure, rhyme, rhythm, the overall message or theme of the poem or the purpose of the poet. One should also be able to determine the context and setting of the poem and its relevance to the period in which it was composed and how it relates to the current context. Furthermore, one has to mention how and why the above-mentioned elements are either effective or not - this is the 'critical' aspect of one's discussion.

Obviously one has to apply the structural requirements for an essay - i.e. an introduction, body and conclusion. Furthermore, the requirements for proper punctuation, grammar and language, should be followed.

One needs to mention in the introduction the purpose of the essay through a thesis statement,discuss the various elements of the poem in separate paragraphs and conclude by either restating the thesis and the purpose of the essay or in some way requiring of the reader to make an assessment of your attempt or both. However the conclusion is worded, there should be a definite indication that the essay has reached its end.  

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How does one write a critical appreciation of a poem?

In this context, “critical” means paying attention to the elements of construction – rhyme scheme, meter, stanza arrangement, imagery, etc. – that give the poem its balance, beauty, and effectiveness.  Writing an “appreciation” requires a dissection of the way the poet has achieved his/her effects, and should be constructed like any essay – introduction, body, conclusion, paying particular attention to those elements that give poetry its signature – succinctness, “concentrated word magic.”  If other poems by the same poet are known, you may discuss how this poem differs from or emulates the poet’s  “normal” style; in a longer appreciation, you may also discuss the “age” or “style” of the poem – Romantic, Victorian, etc. -- and you might discuss the generic style – sonnet, ode, etc.

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How do I write a critical appreciation of a poem? What are the components?

It depends on what your professor stipulates as the length for the final draft - but if this is a 2-5 page typed paper, I would say focus on three categories of criticism.  Think about this as your typical 5-paragraph essay - most good analysis is organized into three chunks - but instead of only devoting one paragraph to each category - feel free to write more.

As far as the "parts" of critical appreciation go - you have almost endless options with this.  You can approach it from the "What are other people saying?" route - where this paper is actually more of a research paper than a personal analysis - but your own assessment is intertwined in how you present your information.

If outside sources are not required than likely your professor wants only personal analysis.  Here, you rely on what you learned in high school English: literary elements and rhetorical techniques.  What is this poem trying to say and how effectively does it say it?

I'd say good critical analysis combines any two of the following: tone/attitude, theme, and literary techniques (things like figurative language, point-of-view, irony, symbolism, imagery, etc.)  You can look at one main theme of the poem and analyze 3 different techniques used to portray this theme.  You can analyze the overall tone of the poem and look at the different themes expolored through one tone.  Do you see how the combinations can be played in different ways?

So again, while the exact structure of the 5 paragraph essay may not be quite enough, use it as the framework to explore the poem in 3 categories - just make sure the 3 categories all revolve around a common focus (thesis).  The order of presentation (no matter how many paragraphs are devoted to each category) is best as follows: 2nd strongest point, weakest point, strongest point.

Hope that helps.

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How do I write a critical appreciation of a poem?

A simple way to structure a critical analysis of a poem is to follow a D-A-C format. "D" represents the denotation of the piece, or the face value meaning. Simply relate in straightforward terms what the poem is describing, or if it is a story poem, summarize the story. The "A" stands for appreciation. In this section, discuss the techniques the poet uses to create a powerful and/or lyrical effect. You might think about asking yourself why the poem is in your anthology, or why this poem has become famous or well loved. Think about both literary devices and sound devices. Literary devices include symbolism, figurative language (such as similes, metaphors, personification, metonymy, synecdoche, hyperbole, and understatement), and irony. Sound devices include rhyme, rhythm, meter, repetition, alliteration, consonance, assonance, and onomatopoeia. "C" stands for the connotation, or deeper meaning, of the poem. How do the face value meaning, the literary techniques, and sound devices work together to create a message about an important subject? 

As an example, here is a D-A-C analysis of "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" by William Wordsworth. 

D: In this poem, the speaker tells us about taking a walk and coming upon a field thick with daffodils. Later, the speaker is able to remember that scene often, and each time it fills him with the same joy he experienced when he first saw the lovely field of flowers.

A: The poem is written in four six-line stanzas, each with a rhyme scheme of ababcc. Each line is consistently iambic pentameter in rhythm and meter. This gives the poem a lilting feeling, like taking a jaunty walk; the rhythm and meter reinforce the feeling of a happy outing. The poem uses two similes that compare the speaker to a floating cloud and the daffodils to stars. The first helps establish a peaceful mood for the poem while the second helps the reader visualize how many daffodils there were. The poet personifies the daffodils and the waves by saying they danced; the daffodils also "toss[ed] their heads." This helps create a happy mood. The number "ten thousand" is hyperbole, giving the reader a sense of the abundance of flowers the poet saw. The poet uses assonance in lines 21 - 22, repeating the short /i/ sound, which reinforces the contented feeling of the solitude the poet describes. In the final line, the alliteration and consonance of "dances with the daffodils" provides emphasis and creates a dancing rhythm. 

C: The poem points out how one happy experience in nature can have ongoing effects because the memories are so strong and so pleasant that they bring back the joy of the original experience.

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How is a critical appreciation of a poem formatted?

To write a critical analysis of a poem, first discuss the poetic techniques the poet uses, then discuss the poem's meaning, both the denotation and the connotation. Finally, discuss how the poetic techniques reinforce the poem's meaning.

When you discuss the poet's techniques, you will want to comment on the rhythm, rhyme scheme, and meter. Traditional verse often uses standard rhythms such as iambic (alternate syllables are stressed beginning with the second syllable of the line) or trochaic (alternate syllables are stressed beginning with the first syllable of a line). To determine this, you may need to perform a scansion of the entire poem, noting the stressed and unstressed syllables. This will allow you to see how consistent the rhythm is. Meter refers to the number of feet (repeated syllable groups) in a line, such as trimeter (three), tetrameter (four), and pentameter (five). To determine the rhyme scheme, assign a new letter of the alphabet to each line that does not rhyme with a previous line, and label rhyming lines with the same letter. Note any repetitive patterns, for example, if the rhymes from one stanza interlock with those of the next stanza. Other poetic techniques include alliteration, consonance, assonance,personification, similes, metaphors, and symbols.

When discussing the meaning of the poem, first think about its denotation, or face value meaning. For example, William Wordsworth's "We Are Seven" is about the persona's conversation with a young girl whose siblings have died but whom she continues to number among her family members. Then consider the connotation, or deeper meaning. This will include the theme of the poem---the message or universal truth it conveys. This gets subjective, but as long as you can support your opinion from the text of the poem, your ideas are valid. Connotations of "We Are Seven" might include that children deal with death better than adults do, or that even death cannot separate people who truly love each other.

Finally, attempt to connect the poet's techniques with the poem's message. In "We Are Seven," the iambic rhythm, short lines, and consistent rhyme scheme convey a sing-songy happy feeling that reinforces Wordsworth's depiction of the innocent faith of childhood. A poet who is trying to convey a calm and peaceful mood may use a lot of alliteration and consonance that repeats the soothing /l/ and /s/ sounds, as Wordsworth does in "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud." On the other hand, a poet who wants to convey the harsh reality of war, as Wilfred Owen does in "Dulce et Decorum Est," may use alliteration and consonance emphasizing the guttural sounds such as /k/ and /g/.

Analyzing the poetic techniques and the meaning of the poem and then tying together the techniques with the meaning will result in a thorough critical analysis of the poem.

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How is a critical appreciation of a poem formatted?

A critical appreciation or a critical analysis of a poem should address content and form. In discussing content, the critic should describe what the poem is about, possibly noting an author's intent, and/or noting different interpretations of the poem's meaning. 

In discussing form, the critic should address literary techniques and literary elements. Literary elements can be: structure, tone, rhyme scheme, meter, theme, and type or genre (love poem, elegy, pastoral, etc.) Literary techniques can be: personification, irony, paradox, hyperbole, metaphor, conceit, etc. 

For purposes of answering a question of critical appreciation on Enotes, try to address issues of content and form while addressing at least two literary techniques and two literary elements. 

For example, if the poem is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," address the content: the poem is about choices. Literary elements: talk about the rhyme scheme (abaab) and the tone (solemn, looking back). Then talk about the literary elements. The poem is an extended metaphor describing two roads in the woods but as metaphors of choices in life. Frost is also ironic: the speaker claims to have taken the road "less traveled by" but in fact, he took a road that looked the same as the other. 

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How is a critical appreciation of a poem formatted?

When you are doing a critical appreciation of a poem, you don't need to worry about data. However, there are a number of aspects of the poem that you need to consider in detail.

For example, the first step you should take is to look at the structure of the poem. This includes the stanzas and the rhyme scheme, if any.

Secondly, you need to consider where the poem is set—both time and place—as well as any speakers or characters in the poem.

Next, you will want to take a close look at the kind of language that the author uses. Remember that language includes stylistic devices, like imagery, metaphors, personification, and alliteration. Note any relevant examples and start thinking about the purpose of these devices. If you need help with these devices, check out the reference link provided.

Then, you will need to work out the author's message and any themes which are present in the text.

Finally, you want to put all of these pieces together. Consider how the author uses structure, language, and themes to emphasize the poem's message. Remember to support any arguments with relevant examples from the text.

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What are the guidelines to be followed when writing a critical appreciation of  a poem?

If the poet’s intentions are clear regarding the subgenre of poem he/she is trying to write (haiku, sonnet, rhymed couplets, etc.), the critic can discuss whether the poet succeeded or failed in conforming to the “rules” of the subgenre—number of lines, syllables, subject division, etc. (Blank verse, too, has its unspoken rules—Whitman, for example, lists his observations very carefully and “satisfyingly.”)  This is the surface level of critical appreciation.  More difficult and more subjective is an analysis of the imagery, the metaphors, the “flow” of words—in other words, the success of the poem’s “texture.”  Here, the word “appreciation” really comes forward—to what degree does the reader “appreciate” the subtle choices of language—the connotations of the words chosen, the subtle “echoes” of sound and theme, the perfect phrasing of an idea?  In the final analysis, the most important aspect of the poem is its “capture” of the abstract and otherwise ineffable truth in the poem’s theme—its success at embracing a universal truth. 

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How do you write a critical analysis of a poem?

Because of the wide variation in types and formats used in poetry, specific procedures to follow in analyzing every poem are impossible. However, general suggestions and guidelines can be offered.

Since poetry is written to be heard, any analysis should start with the language and how it sounds. Look for any rhythmic pattern that may be present. Listen for the sounds of the words; are there rhymes or other special sounds in the text - alliteration, onomatopoeia, and so on.

Most poems carry more than one level of meaning. Symbolism may be delivered through any number of literary devices or techniques. Poets usually carefully select the words used in their writing to convey the message or impression they want to express, including situations in which they specifically want to leave the reader to create his/her personal interpretation. Deriving that content from the poem is another part of the analysis process.

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How do you write a critical analysis of a poem?

When doing an analytical review of poetry, there are several elements to consider:

  • Diction: The word choice of a poem can be an important factor when constructing an analysis. Elements include repetition, alliteration, assonance, capitalization, homonyms, words with multiple meanings, and the precise selection of words in a poem. 

  • Figurative Language: Figurative language, or language with a secondary meaning, can contribute central elements to an analysis. These include metaphor, simile, symbolism, personification, allegory, and others. 

  • Style: Different poems are written in different styles, which can dictate the length of a line, the length of a stanza, the number of lines, the number of stanzas, the syllabic rhythm, and the rhyme scheme. 

  • Theory: Different analytical theories will focus on different elements, so it's crucial that you pick one theory. For instance, historical theory would consider the author's life and setting and its effects on the text whereas a feminist theory would consider how gender roles and relations are developed through the text. 

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