Friday, 19 May 2017

Analyzing poetry in Class

Whenever a few of us English teachers sit together and discuss how we should teach poetry in class, we come up with various strategies. Some would like to focus on the figures of speech, others would like to examine the themes and the message, while others would like to delve into the background of the poet. 
Unfortunately, overanalysis of poetry can ruin the pleasure of appreciating the poetic form of expression. Poems are like juicy fruits that need to be tasted, smelled, bitten into until the ripe, sweet juices start running down one's chin! Fortunately enough, poetry as a genre has never and will never come to an end as long as we have advertisement jingles and rhyming headlines that advertise products in a way that will catch the eyes of a prospective client.
Perhaps the first step a teacher should take before taking poetry classes is to explain some of the jargon poetry critics use to analyse poetry. The terms could include figures of speech, tone, mood, atmosphere, style of writing...etc.
The second step would be to give students a poetry analysis checklist along with the poem that students need to analyse. It would be a good idea for students to analyse the different aspect of the poem in groups and then to come up with their observations. These observations can then be written down on the Green board, and then there could be a class discussion on the observations, the one's to be retained and those to be struck off. The teacher acts as a guide and he does not offer answers or even dictate notes, rather he guides the students in the right direction. This way, the students come up with their own observations that they can proudly claim to be their own. Perhaps the greatest saving grace in teaching literature is that all observations and answers are correct as long as they are backed with suitable evidence.
Through skilful questioning and collaborative discussions, students will arrive at the correct observations and analyses of the poems given to them.
An example of the poetry analysis checklist is given below:

1       Analyse the Central  Theme or the Central Idea
2.       Write a brief Note on the message that the poet wants to pass on to the reader.
3.       Analyse the poet’s style of writing including word choice, imagery, and metre.
4.       List the figures of speech used by the poet and provide examples.
5.       Write a brief note about the tone of the poem.
6.       Write a brief note about the mood that the poem creates in the reader.
7.       Describe the atmosphere in the poem.

How about analysing one of my poems titled A Room With a View? You could give me a feedback in the comments section of the blog.

A Room With a View

It rained that day, a light drizzle,
Sweeping away all the gunk that clogged the sky,
Dust from construction sites smoke from cars, factories!
And curiously, I looked out of the window and saw,
To my surprise, the clear sky!

In the distance, I saw mountains
Stretching across the horizon, solid presence-substantial.
And spires of  building that poked into the skies, celebrating
Freshness, brought by the cleansing, light - drizzle.
I had never seen those mountains ever before!

It rained that day and the sky looked clean,
Blue, not angry or grey, the clouds white and bold 
That sailed majestically across, solid presence-substantial.
A fresh breath of air did I draw, a special moment, without a doubt.
' If only,' I thought, 'we could have clear skies without smoke!'

And all the while we sit with windows shut,
Blinds drawn - who'd look at angry skies, dust clouds,
Choking, threatening, waiting to devour blues and whites together?
And those mountains swallowed up by the dust like civilisations
  Swallowed by sands of time like they never were!

It had rained that day, washing away all the dust
And smoke, laying bare the scene that lay ahead, the clear
Blue sky, and the billowing white clouds scudding across heavens
With glee and joy. The mountains did beckon to me, those I'd
Never known. The fresh breeze did cheer me up!


  1. Sir you are the best, I am one of your fortunate students who have seldom attended the class way back 1997 onward, but whenever we have got time to attend your English classes we've enjoyed a lot.

    1. Thank you so much Sarvesh! Glad to know that I am remembered by my students.