What Is Poetry and How Can It Be Analyzed?

2 min readoctober 19, 2021

AP English Literature 📚

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Poetry and prose comprise the sources tested on the AP English Literature and Composition exam. Students will be asked to provide an analysis of them on both the multiple-choice and essay portions of the exam. For most students, the task appears daunting, especially in regards to poetry. In this article, I will provide a short guide to understanding and analyzing poetry! Continue to prepare for your exam by checking out this video about the complexities of poetry!

What is poetry?

Poetry is, according to famous poet Robert Frost, "a way of taking life by the throat."

🌺 Poetry is relevant.

A lot of people do not like to read poetry because they think it is boring and unimportant outside of the classroom. However, its life expands beyond the textbook to encompass music and art.
"Human beings love poetry. They don't even know it sometimes... whether they're the songs of Bono, or the songs of Justin Bieber... they're listening to poetry." ~ Maya Angelou  🌟

🌺 Poetry is fluid.

There is no one definite meaning to a poem. Poetry is subjective and can hold meaning through the reader's own interpretation.
"Listen, real poetry doesn't say anything; it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through any one that suits you" ~ Jim Morrison  🌟
Learn more about the importance of poetry by checking out these videos:
🎥 Watch: AP English Literature - Poetry Analysis Part 1
🎥 Watch: AP English Literature - Poetry Analysis Part 2!

What elements compose a poem?

💜 In general, a poem is a form of written expression which tells a story in a rhythmic way. Here are a few elements of poetry you can analyze on the AP English Literature exam. Check out this video on how to read a poem for more help💜

⚫️ Sound

🖋️ Sound refers to the flow of a poem when it is read aloud. 
  • It is created using rhythm, alliteration, and rhyme. 

⚫️ Language

✏️ Poetry uses figurative language to add depth to short spurts of text. 
  • Literary devices like repetition, metaphor, simile, and allusion give poems rich language and meaning.

⚫️ Meter

🖋️ Meter is a more complicated element of poetry.
  • Briefly summarized, meter refers to the stressing of syllables within lines of a poem.

⚫️ Look

 ✏️ The look of a poem is also referred to as its form. 
  • A poem is composed of lines, when grouped they form a stanza. Some notable forms are the sonnet and the haiku. 
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🧐Exam Review – Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ)
📝Exam Review - Poetry Analysis Essay
📕Exam Review – Short Fiction FRQ
🎭Unit 3 – Intro to Longer Fiction & Drama
⚔️Unit 4 – Character, Conflict, & Storytelling in Short Fiction
🛠️Unit 6 – Literary Techniques in Longer Works
🏛️Unit 7 – Societal & Historical Context in Short Fiction

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