Poetry: How to Read a Poem

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This lesson will help you understand poetry through proper reading techniques. Read the poem twice in a row. Take note of what you notice the second time that wasn't so apparent in your first reading.
Don't skip over unfamiliar words.
Try to identify a meter, if there is one.
Notice point of view.
Read the poem one more time, and this time read it aloud.

1. How to Read a Poem

1. Do not read line by line.
© Just because a line ends, that does not necessarily mean the
sentence ends.
© Read to the next punctuation mark, or determine if the line
end is the end of the sentence.
2. Recognize that words may be out of order or
O Rhyme scheme
O Rhythm
3. Determine meaning.
© Surface (literal) meaning: what the poem is about.
© Deeper (symbolic) meaning: what meaning the poet tries to
communicate; look deep into the poem and determine what
meaning lies beneath the surface.
e Every word in a poem has meaning.
e If you do not know the meaning of a
word, you must look it up.
e Understanding every word will help you to
understand the meaning of the poem.
4. Steps to Reading a Poem

1. Read the poem once out loud to get a
sense of it.
© Poems are meant to be heard, not just read.
O Read slowly, but keep going.
2. Identify the speaker.
O The poet is not necessarily the speaker.
O Just like in literature, poets create characters
who speak their poems. Who is the personae?
3. Ask what the title, subject, and situation
make you expect. Make a prediction.
5. Steps Continued

4. Argue and discuss the meaning of the poem.
Your interpretation may be different and that is okay! (To
some extent)
5. Determine if the poem has a rhyme scheme or if
it’s written in free verse.
6. Figure out the tone of the poem, the way the
poet’s voice sounds toward the subject matter.
7. Does the poet use any figures of speech, such as
similes and metaphors?
6. Poetry and Music

1. If you have a favorite song, you have a
favorite poem. All song lyrics are poems
set to music.
2. Rap is a modern form of poetry!
3. Just like songs, poems can mean
something different to each person. Song
writers and poets want individuals to
understand some basic ideas, but
differences in meaning are encouraged.