Writing good poetry analysis

What you need to know…

It’s important when you write about poetry analysis that you are expressing your ideas clearly.

When explaining figurative language, sound devices or the use of any poetic technique, it is important that in your writing you are making the connection clear between the language/technique used and the reason why it has been used (the effect of the language).

You also need to make sure that you are incorporating (including) quotes properly in your sentences.

What you need to do…

Read the following five examples of explanations of figurative language use in some of the poems we have been studying.

Working with a partner, rank them in order from the most clearly written explanations to the least. Make sure you can justify (i.e. explain) your reasons.

#A. “Stop all the clocks.” Auden uses this line to show that the persona wants the clocks to stop. The persona’s lover has just died and so they want everyone to know and to be sad as well. This is an example of hyperbole because it’s a big exaggeration and it’s impossible to stop all the clocks from working. This helps to show how sad he is. 

#B. The persona wants to “pour away and sweep up the wood/because nothing now can ever come to any good.” This is an example of a metaphor because you can’t actually sweet up the wood and you can’t pour away the ocean. These things are impossible to do, which is why this is a metaphor. 

#C. “I want them to water ski across the surface of the poem”. The persona who is probably a teacher wants his students to water ski across the poem. This metaphor helps us to understand that the teacher wants the students to get the main idea of the poem and to have fun with it. 

#D. The persona wants the students to “press an ear against (the poem’s) hive”. A hive is filled with bees that make an interesting sound and so perhaps the persona wants the students to listen carefully to the sounds of the poem, just like listening to the sounds of the bees in a hive. 

#E. When Angelous says that the bird’s “wings are clipped / and its feet are tied” she is referring to the way that African Americans have a lot of obstacles that stop them from being successful and happy in life. A bird with clipped wings and tied feet can’t fly, just like African Americans in poor schools and who are treated badly can’t be successful in life.


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