Responding to poetry

Responding to poetry

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Responding to poetry

In a nutshell

Everyone will perceive a poem differently, but it is your interpretation that is important when responding to poetry. Preparation is key to writing a response to a poem and its effect on you and this summary will help you with this task.

Personal response

The best way to understand your personal response is to read the poem, then reread it and reread it again. By exploring the poetry multiple times, you are able to consolidate your feelings about it:

  • What do you believe the poem is saying?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • What stands out to you?
  • How could someone else interpret the poem? Is there evidence to support that?

Analysis of the poem

Now that you have begun to understand the poem, consider how the poem achieves its effect in more detail.

Content of poem

Questions to ask

Is there a clear theme and what is it?
How has the poet shown this?
What is the poet's attitude?
How do they convey this?

Language and form

The form, structure and language of a poem are all crucial to understanding its meaning and effect. After you've identified the techniques the poet has used, think about why the poet has chosen to use them and what the effect is.


The poetic form includes, among other things, the length and rhythm of each line, the system of rhymes and repetition in the poem as well as other aspects of its structure.

  • What is the poem's form? 
  • How does this affect the poem? 
  • Why was this form chosen?


The structure refers to the way a poem is written. Poems are organised in different ways as seen in the number of stanzas, lines per stanza and breaks between stanzas and lines.

  • How does the structure relate to the theme of the poem? 
  • Why was the structure chosen? 
  • What is the effect of the structure?


It is important to look at the way language is used by the poet to create meaning. 

  • How does the language change the mood and tone? 
  • What poetic devices are used? 
  • How do these choices affect the poem?

Rhythm and rhyme

Rhythm or rhyme schemes may be evident in the poem, so you should address these aspects as well.

  • How are rhythm and rhyme used? 
  • What mood does this create? 
  • Why was this chosen?

When thinking about poetry, remember to focus on why the elements of the poem were chosen and how they affect the poem. This information will help you create a response that covers many aspects of the poem.

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FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions

What should you focus on in poetry?

Is language and form important for poetry?

How to approach poetry?


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