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When you explicate a poem, you look for the meaning of the poem and look at the way the author conveys this meaning. You will want to look at what the poet says but also at how the poet says it: the literary devices, the tone, the form of the poem and other elements.

Here is a Checklist of things to look for while explicating.

I. Meaning:

What does the title mean? How does it express the poem's central themes?
What do you think is the intent or purpose of this poem?
What kinds of emotions or moods are expressed?

II. Form:

How many stanzas are in the poem? How many lines in a stanza? Is there a pattern?
Notice the line breaks? Does the poem use end-stopped lines or enjambment?
What kind of form is used? How does form relate to the content of the poem?
Is it a traditional form like a sonnet or a "free form."

III. The Speaker and Tone:

Who is speaking?
To whom is she or he speaking?
Try to identify the age, gender, and values of the speaker.
What is the tone of the poem?
Does the tone change? What particular words are used to advance the tone?

IV. Diction:

Are there any words you don't know? Look them up in the dictionary.
Are the words mostly abstract or concrete?
Are there any words that seem out of place or inappropriate to the tone or subject? What effects do they create?
Are words combined in unexpected or unusual ways?
Are words repeated? If so, why do you think they are repeated?

V. Sound:

Does the poem have a rhyme scheme? What is it? Does the rhyme scheme effect the tone or meaning?
What kind of meter or rhythm does the author use?
Does the author use any other sound devices like alliteration or onomatopoeia?
What effects do these sound devices create?

VI. Imagery:

Which parts of the poem appeal to your five senses? What kinds of images are used?
Are there any allusions to historical or mythical events?
Does the author use any symbols in the poem? Identify as many as you can. Why do you think the author is using these symbols?


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