If you are more of a rational, precise thinker, the figurative tone of a poem may come to you like nonsensical gibberish. The truth is, there is always more to what meets the eye. How not to fail literature class if this semester is focused on poets, and learn to comprehend and enjoy poetry along the way?
After reading the assigned poem, consider the author’s identity and his life. Examine carefully the historical era and the status of society at the moment of the creation of this particular piece. You may trace the reasons behind the composition or theme in it, or even find some allusion to historical events or prominent figures. Keep in mind that poetry is also a way to hide the true meaning behind pretty words.
Try to ask as many questions about what the poem is about as possible to find the depth of the poem. What is the author talking about? What is going on? Are there any characters? What are the feelings behind the words? Such an analysis may help you to make a deeper connection with the poem. You may even write down the answers as if you were a detective trying to deal with a difficult case: compose a dossier of the poem.
If your poem is vague and describes something intangible, try paraphrasing it. Describe the events as you would, if you were the commentator of the event, or if you were retelling a dream to your friend. Usually poems are compressed, and thus much of the meaning hides between the lines.
Equip yourself with a pencil and mark the words that are strong, unusual, and difficult. Are there any words that resonate within your heart? What emotions do you feel when you hear these words? A trick to find how much action resides in a poem is to underline all the verbs. Maybe the author used a metaphor or an allusion, hiding it with carefully chosen words that have multiple meanings? Learn to recognize symbols: if an author writes about spring, it may symbolize the rebirth of a new life.
There are quite a lot of genres of poetry and as many forms. Consider the many devices you studied in your literature classes: metrical patterns, rhythm, rhyme, onomatopoeias. Why did the author choose these devices for his piece? What effect do they add to the poem?
Having done a deep analysis, ask yourself the final, most important question about the poem: “So what?”. Poetry is not rational, as it is meant to evoke certain feelings in the readers. That’s why you, as a reader, you are free to interpret it as you want, find your own meaning and make your own conclusion.