I need to analyze poems for my English class. How in the heck do you do it?
Rather than repeat what has been said, I am going to mention two books that I think are quite good at teaching you how to learn to think about and then write about poems. The first is the poet Edward Hirsch’s book: How To Read A Poem And Fall In Love With Poetry. Hirsh is a fine poet and he brings to his reading of poems his sensibilities but also his concern to share the wonders of poetry with readers. If you spend some time with his book, you will learn how to write about a poem in addition to how to read one. Here is how he describes his goal for the book:This is also a book of invitations and interactions, and I have sought to guide readers through the domain of my chosen art form. I have focused on the act of reading itself, on letting poems inhabit the reader’s consciousness, the reader’s body. I often move out from the individual poem to say something about the nature of poetic form or about the history of the particular form the poet employs or about where the poem stands in the body of the poet’s overall work. I speak of poems, of poets, both familiar and unknown. I chart the course of certain themes. Many subjects come into my purview, many more evade me, but always the individual poem stands as my touchstone, my talisman, my naked truth. “Learn about pines from the pine, and about bamboo from the bamboo,” the seventeenth-century master of haiku, Matsuo Bashō, wrote in a series of insightful reflections on poetry. I would extend Bashō’s wisdom about nature, and about the poetry of nature in particular, to include the particular nature of poetry: learn about poetry from the poem.Hirsch, Edward How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry (Harvest Book). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.I would extend his insight about Basho and say learn about writing about poetry from words written about poetry. The other book I would suggest you look at is Terry Eagleton’s How To Read A Poem. Eagleton is one of the more significant literary theorists and critics writing in English. His works sometimes are “abstruser musings”but this book is easily accessible and full of useful insights about learning to read a poem and then learning to write about them too.My final piece of advice is to find some poems you love. Being able to mention enjambment or trochees or pathetic fallacy can certainly ground your essay in rhetorical and poetic forms, but having an emotional tie wil help you immerse yourself into the magic that lyrics hope to invoke.