Poetic Analysis

Author: Matthew Tidwell
Adapted from Susan Hagwood--
Editor: Stephanie Nardei, MLS

Time: 1 Week
Materials: Copies of Carl Sandburg poems read in class

Conducting a poetic analysis is a skill that may have been touched upon already for students. In fact, students should already know about basic poetic devices, such as theme, imagery, tone, allusion, simile, metaphor, etc. In this lesson students will take their previous knowledge of poetic devices and apply them to a piece of writing that displays their knowledge on a specific poem. This lesson allows students to explain what they know about a specific poem in a piece of writing.

The students will be able to:
1. Write a poetic analysis on a poem by Carl Sandburg.

5.  Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use
different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with
different audiences for a variety of purposes.

6.  Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions
(e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language,
and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.

Arizona Standards for Language Arts:

Writing Standard
Strand 3: Writing Applications
Concept 1: Expressive
Expressive writing includes personal narratives, stories, poetry, songs,
and dramatic pieces. Writing may be based on real or imagined events.

Teacher Background
Poetry (from the Greek "πο?ησις," poiesis, a "making" or "creating") is a form of verbal art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its ostensible meaning. Poetry may be written independently, as discrete poems, or may occur in conjunction with other arts, as in poetic drama, hymns or lyrics. Poetry, and discussions of it, has a long history. Early attempts to define poetry, such as Aristotle's Poetics, focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song and comedy. [TAKEN FROM WIKIPEDIA]

Resource Websites

Rubistar Website
Rubistar http://rubistar.4teachers.org

Carl Sandburg Poetry
Carl Sandburg on PoetryHunter.com http://www.poemhunter.com/carl-sandburg/poet-6658/
Carl Sandburg’s Poems http://amblesideonline.org/CarlSandburg.shtml
The Poetry of Carl Sandburg http://www.poetry-online.org/sandburg-carl-poetry.htm
Carl Sandburg on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Sandburg
Carl Sandburg Chicago Poems http://www.bartleby.com/165/

How to write Poetry
Approaches to Poetic Writing http://www.poetrymagic.co.uk/approaches.html
How to write Poetry http://inin.essortment.com/howtowritepoe_rjsm.htm
PoetryExpress http://www.poetryexpress.org/index.php
Resources for Poets http://www.writerswrite.com/poetry/
37 Ways to Write Poetry http://www.poemofquotes.com/articles/ways-to-write-poetry.php
Poetry of Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poetry



1. Discuss with students the organization and development of an analytical essay which they are to complete within 4-5 days. Tell them that this is a process that must be completed in several steps.

2. Students should first select one of the poems by Carl Sandburg that they have been reading.

3. Students should first complete a worksheet that directs their reading of the poem. These questions are different than the questions the students answered the previous day. The following should be used:

A. Read the poem several times. Read more slowly than you would prose. Read in sentences rather than in lines.

B. Make sure you know the meaning of every word. Look up any words that are not clear from their context in the poem. Remember that most words have more than one meaning. Poets are aware of this and often make use of the various meanings of a word.

C. If the meaning of a sentence is at first unclear, study its syntax (structure) and its punctuation. Look for key words and words that indicate transitions or turnings in the poet's thoughts. To be sure you understand the meaning, try rephrasing the sentence in your own words.

D. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the poem make a general statement and then support the statement with details? Is there more than one general statement? If so, how are they related?
- Who is the speaker of the poem? What does the character of the speaker have to do with the poem's meaning?
- Is there repetition of words or phrases or ideas? Is there parallel structure of ideas or details? What is the effect of any comparisons or contrasts in the poem?
- Is there more than one level of meaning in the poem? If so, which lines are most deeply concerned with which meaning?

4. Students should now answer questions that direct their reading of the poem, focusing specifically on poetic devices. The following questions should be used:

A. What is the subject of the poem?
B. Who is the speaker of the poem?
C. What is the situation in the poem?
D. Describe the diction in the poem. What is its effect on the poem? Explain.
E. What is the tone of the poem? Justify your response.
F. Is there any figurative language in the poem? Identify it.
G. Explain the imagery in the poem. What is the source of the imagery?
H. What is the theme of the poem? Explain your response.

5. Direct students to now look at all their answers and pinpoint three of the answers that are the strongest, and the information that they feel the most confident about.

6. Have students compose a thesis, or central idea, that captures the three things they feel most confident about. For example, in the poem “Chicago”, Carl Sandburg shows the experience of the American worker with his use of imagery, metaphor, and allusion.

7. Have students develop the ideas in their thesis by composing topic sentences that support their thesis. In addition, students should develop their topic sentences even further by making comments and supporting their comments with examples from the poems.

8. Students should be taken through the entire writing process with this essay. After students develop their thesis with topic sentences, commentaries and examples, they should compose a rough draft of their essay. This draft should be edited for fluency and mechanics and then a final draft should be composed.

Students turn in the final drafts of their essays.

If applicable

Embedded Assessment

The lesson will be evaluated by applying a rubric to the students’ writing. The rubric can be teacher-made or the teacher can create one at www.rubistar.com




PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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