Saturday, January 1, 2011


How to Read a Poem-critical reading

How to Read a Poem
In This Chapter

Demystifying poetry
How subjectivity affects the reader
A look at poetic terminology

• Understanding the different types of poetry
• The structure, form, and style of the poem
• Poetic twists and turns

Some people find it difficult to relate to poetry, whereas others delight in it. Think of poetry and visual arts  in the same light. Whereas an artist uses a paintbrush to have color, texture, and shape come alive for the viewer, a poet uses a pen to create the same effect.

In this chapter, you learn not only how to read poetry, but why you should read it. If you've never been much of a poetry reader, ask yourself "Why not?" What is it that you are not getting from this kind of writing and how do you find it? You'll learn that here—now—finally. And if you're already a poetry reader, you will learn even more about how poems are put together and how to better absorb them.

Poetry Is Art
Poetry probably falls through the cracks of English and literature courses so often because it's overlooked as an artistic expression of emotion in the same way that the visual arts are. Poetry is most often not taught in any hands-on kind of way, the way it really should be.

Some people may find poetry tricky to read—in fact, many voracious readers tend to pass right by poetry. Why? Is poetry really so mysterious? Is it because people need to be told a story directly without having to put too much of their own thought into it? Is it because it's too abstract?
Poetry can be compared to painting. When you look at a work of art, you first see it for what it is—a
depiction of a person, an animal, a place, or a thing. You'll notice the colors and the textures, and maybe how the light shines through a window or highlights a patch of flowers. These are the things you see on the surface. Then you look a little closer at some of the fine details. How did the painter make white paint look silver against blue drapery? How did the artist catch that sad look in the eyes of the child?

How on earth did he actually make an apple look so real you could almost reach out and grab it off the table?
Now what about abstract art? What do you see in these paintings? Strange shapes and images are they recognizable? Do they make you feel a certain way? When you look at abstract art, maybe you don't necessary see as much as you are actually feeling.

To some people, poetry is like abstract art. Some people feel that poetry is too subjective to the artist for the reader to be able to fully understand it. How can you make sense of words that don’t necessarily tell a story? To appreciate art, you must first appreciate your own sensibilities, and then you must appreciate form and texture. With poetry, you start with an appreciation of and trust for your own feelings, and then you examine your appreciation of words and the magic they make when they're used together.

Up Close and Personal

You do have to know some terminology in order to study poetry, but it shouldn't be the be-all and end-all of your understanding of the subject. You should just have enough information to make understanding the art and form of poetry a little easier.

It's really not so important that you be able to analyze the structure of a poem unless you're in school and it's on an upcoming exam. The most important thing is that you can feel the poem. If you can't feel the poem, you need to look closer to find what you might be missing.
Understanding the terminology will make this task easier for you, but ultimately the understanding has much more to do with whether you can relate to the poem and find a place for it within your own sensibilities.

Coming to Terms with Poetry

Here are some terms commonly used in the study of poetry and a few examples to help you along:
  • Alliteration. Repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words: "flags flapping ferociously in the wind" (note the three f's).
  • Assonance. Repetition of similar vowel sounds in a sentence or within a line of poetry or prose: "I took a look at a book that I found in the nook."
  • Couplet. A pair of rhyming lines that often separate one stanza from another (But there is no rule that they have to).
  • Meter. A pattern of rhythm syllabic accents in the lines, verses, and stanzas of poems.
  • Foot. A unit of poetic meter consisting of both stressed and unstressed syllables—usually one unstressed syllable is followed by one stressed syllable.

Read this example aloud from Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening and as you do, notice the syllabic emphasis form and texture.

With poetry, you start with an appreciation of and trust for your own feelings, and then you examine your appreciation of words and the magic they make when they're used together.

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

Iamb. A metrical foot—one unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable. The adjective is "iambic."
Iambic pentameter. Because one iambic foot consists of one unstressed syllable follow by a stressed one, iambic pentameter is a poetic measurement consisting of five iambic feet per line (the unstressed syllables are in bold):

Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
—Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus (sixteenth century)

This piece of Marlowe's poem is also a good example of blank verse, which is iambic pentameter without rhyme.

Closed form. A form of poetry where structure is characterized consistently in terms of rhyme, line length, and metric pattern. Robert Frost frequently wrote in closed form.

Free verse (open form). We live in an era of free verse, where poetry does not necessarily contain any patterns of meter or rhyme. It is free in that it is not bound by any traditional poetic rules. (We take a closer look at free verse later
in the chapter.)
Verse. One line of poetry.
Stanza. A poetic paragraph. Note that not all poems are necessarily broken into stanzas.

You don't have to memorize these terms, just be aware that poetry doesn't consist of words thrown together; it's an art form, with guidelines and rules.

Get With the Rhythm

Most poems have a rhythm that depends on the emphasis on syllables within the lines, verses, and stanzas. Take a look at a few poems and note how important the syllables are to the movement of the poem. The most obvious poems to help you see this are children's rhymes and song lyrics. If so much as one syllable is missing or one too many syllables added, it will throw off the rhythmic pattern of the poem.

(Think back to the Dr. Seuss books of your childhood.) Although some types of poems such as limericks and haiku have very strict rules about syllabic use, most poems are pretty free flowing.

To understand the rhyming patterns in poetry, a rhyming meter devised of a, b, c is commonly used. The first rhyme at the end of the first verse is given the letter a. If the last word in the second line does not rhyme with the word in the first verse, you give it a b, and so on. When you find a rhyme within the stanza, you give it the letter it matches.

Then you start again with the next stanza.

Note that the ability to format meter by using this method only applies to poems that rhyme. You will have to study other types of poems and poetic terminology to analyze non-rhyming poetic form and structure.

Types of Poems

Now that you have a handle on some basic poetic terminology and concepts, let's take a look at how these elements are used in various types of poetry.
Poetry, like all art forms, is international: It crosses all borders, language barriers, age groups, and eras. (The British have their sonnets, for example, whereas the Japanese have their haikus, and children have Mother Goose.)The following sections describe some types of poetry and include excerpts from notable poets who wrote within these genres. There are many more types of poems, but these are among the most common.


A ballad is a story told as a narrative, rhythmic saga of something that happened in the past. Sometimes the themes are heroic, sometimes satirical, and other times romantic. The ballad almost always has an unhappy ending. Ballad and ballade are two different types of poetry. The ballade is a fourteenth- and fifteenth-century French poem written in verse form consisting of three stanzas written in a particular rhythmic format.

It was in and about the Martinmas time, When the green leaves were a-falling, That Sir John Graem, in the West country, Fell in love with Barbara Allen He sent his men down through the town To the place where she was dwelling; "Oh hast and come to my master dear, Gin ye be Barbara Allen."
—Anonymous, Barbara Allen (medieval Scottish ballad, first two stanzas)


Influenced by Japanese poetry, the cinquain was developed by American poet Adelaide Crapsey. It is a short, nonrhyming poem that consists of 22 syllables with a certain number of syllables per line.
Listen ...

“With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.”

—Adelaide Crapsey, November Night (early twentieth-century cinquain)


An elegy is a poem that is written to mourn the death of someone. It is a reflection either upon death or some other great sadness.

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

—Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (eighteenth-century elegy, first stanza)


This type of poetry has a very broad definition. An epic is a continuous narrative of the life or lives of a heroic person or persons. These heroes can be fictional, historical, or mythical.

So toward that shrine which then in all the realm
Was richest, Arthur leading, slowly went
The marshalled Order of their Table Round,
And Lancelot sad beyond his wont, to see
The maiden buried, not as one unknown,
Nor meanly, but with gorgeous obsequies,
And mass, and rolling music, like a queen.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, excerpt from Idylls of the King (nineteenth-century epic poem)
The first known epic poem is the Sumerian poem Epic of Gilgamesh. The longest is the great Indian mythical poem Mahabharata, which contains more than 100,000 verses—making it four times the size of the Bible.


One of the most important Japanese poetic forms is the haiku. This is a short poem that consists of no more than three lines, with the first line consisting of five syllables, the second line consisting of seven syllables, and the third line consisting again of five syllables.

While the traditional Japanese haiku consists of a strict structure of sounds, when written in English the haiku has taken on all sorts of forms. The artistic value of the haiku exists in simplicity of language that creates images or evokes ideas. Both the contemporary and traditional haiku should consist of only three lines with a total of no more than seventeen syllables—or in the case of Japanese, sounds.

The Haiku Society of America defines the haiku as "A short poem that uses imagistic language to convey the essence of an experience of nature or the season intuitively linked to the human condition." While this may be the officiai American definition, great liberties have been taken in the art of haiku writing over the years.

Here is an example of a traditional Japanese haiku (translated into English) which was written by one of the most notable Japanese poets of the seventeenth century, Matsuo Basho. Note that the structure, in its English translation, does not follow the 5-7-5 syllable rule—but in its original Japanese it would! Translators predict that 17 sounds in Japanese correlate to about 12 syllables in English.

An old pond!
A frog jumps in
The sound of water.

A traditional Japanese haiku should also contain at least one word that will indicate a season. This word is referred to as the "kigo" in Japanese. In English the "kigo" is often omitted and replaced with the concept of juxtaposing two images or ideas referred to in Japanese as "renso." Other literary techniques commonly omitted from haiku writing is the use of titles, similes, and metaphors.

Here is contemporary haiku written in English by Amy:

Setting sun
Sandcastles wash away
A seagull lingers

Limericks are poems that consist of a strict meter. In fact, without the structure of the lines and the rhyming patter, the limerick would simply be just another poem.

There was a Young Person of Smyrna
Whose grandmother threatened to burn her;
But she seized on the cat, and said, "Granny, burn that!
You incongruous old woman of Smyrna!"

—Edward Lear (otherwise known as the poet laureate of the limerick), untitled limerick (nineteenth century)

When we think of the word lyric, we often think of a song, which is where the word originates: A lyre is a Greek musical instrument often used to accompany someone singing a song. The common and academic use of lyric, as a poetic form, means a poem that expresses a subjective point of view.

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

—John Keats, opening lines of Ode to a Grecian Urn (late nineteenth century) Although an "ode" is most often a love poem, it is also a type of lyric poetry. The actual definition of an ode is the praise of a person or an object in a poetic form that is not subject to any definitive rhyming scheme or iambic line lengths, as is true with this particular ode and lyric poem by Keats.

Nonsense Verse
Often used for comic effect or as children's verse, a nonsense poem can be silly and witty but it can also have a serious meaning beneath the surface.

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat;
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
'O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!

—Edward Lear, The Owl and the Pussycat (nineteenth-century nonsense poem, first stanza)


An ode is a long form poem usually of a serious nature on an exalted subject matter. In Pablo Neruda's Ode to My Socks, he seems to lightheartedly worship a particular pair of socks. While to most people a pair of socks is not worth any exaltation at all, this poem is an ode, not only because of its structure, but, well, because of his heightened appreciation of his new socks!

Maru Mori brought me a pair of socks knitted with her own shepherd's hands,
two socks soft as rabbits. I slipped my feet into them as if into jewel cases woven
with threads of dusk and sheep's wool.

Audacious socks, my feet became two woolen fish, two long gangly sharks of
lapis blue shot with a golden thread, two mammoth blackbirds, two cannons,
thus were my feet honored by these celestial socks. They were so beautiful that
for the first time my feet seemed unacceptable to me, two tired old fire fighters
not worthy of the woven fire, of those luminous socks.
—Pablo Neruda, Ode to My Socks (1950s)

Look a little deeper and you will notice that, despite its title, the poem is a sort of love poem. Neruda is not really worshipping the socks, but rather, the comfort and beauty and everything else a pair of warm socks in winter means to a couple of cold feet. And although it's not stated, maybe Neruda was even worshipping the woman who made the socks.

A quatrain is a poem or stanza of a poem that contains four lines of verse.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

—From William Blake's "The Tyger" (eighteenth century, first stanza)


A form of poetry that makes use of song-type lyricism. It is based on a strict rhythmic meter and contains refrains repeated in a specific style. A good example of a rondeau is Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields." As you read it, notice the sing-song quality in its rhyming pattern:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

—Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, M.D., "In Flanders Fields" (1915)


The word sonnet comes from the French word meaning song. It is a poem consisting of fourteen lines within a strict rhyming pattern. One of the most famous sonnet writers was William Shakespeare.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
0 no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
1 never writ, nor no man ever loved.
—William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116 (sixteenth century)

Structure and Form

When we think about structure and form in poetry, we look for patterns of meter, lines, and rhymes. You're an expert on all that now, right? Well, it's one thing to understand the terminology and another to put it in context as you read.

Structure and form involve how the poem is actually put together. What kind of poem is it? What kind of rhythmic patterns does it contain? How is punctuation used? Are there stanzas? Does the break in stanza have any kind of reason to it?

These are the questions you must ask yourself after you've read the poem—but not so much while you're reading it. We are firm believers that you should read the poem for pleasure first, then for understanding, and then a third time for an even deeper understanding—to get an up-close-and-personal look at it.

The Poet's Purpose
William Wordsworth, the English poet whose work spanned from the eighteenth century into the nineteenth century, gave us a definition of poetry that has lived through the ages in the scholarly world. Wordsworth defined poetry as "the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" and went on to say that the poem originates from "emotion recollected in tranquility."

Wordsworth was particularly concerned that a poem be judged directly by the standard of "the emotional and moral integrity of its language," which basically means that in his time, a poet not only had a responsibility to himself as an artist but to society on the whole. In his Ode: intimations of immortality from recollections of early childhood, it almost seems like he is lost in himself—lost in his own sense of missing something that is gone. That is true—he is—but as he speaks through his own emotion, he implores every adult to reflect on these sentiments of lost youth:

This particular portion of the poem highlights this point:
Then sing, ye Birds, sing, sing a joyous song!
And let the young Lambs bound
As to the tabor's sound!
We in thought will join your throng,
Ye that pipe and ye that play,
Ye that through your hearts today
Feel the gladness of the May!
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now forever taken from my sight ...
But he brings the sentiments back to the reader by expounding on a bigger message:
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In years that bring the philosophic mind.

It is important to read what authors and poets have to say about their own works in order to fully understand what they are trying to say to you through their writing. As with a work of fiction, you need to study the background of the writer, study the times in which he or she lived, and try to get a sense of what the poet wanted to communicate to the audiences. Does the message still hold true for modern-day readers? These are all the factors to consider when reading any piece of literature, but especially poetry, because a poem will never spell its meaning out directly—instead, it calls to you to discover it for yourself.

Understanding Free Verse

If you read all the poetic definitions earlier in the chapter, you will have noted the reference to "free verse." Simply stated, free verse is poetry that does not ascribe to any set structure. It is a type of poetry that is written without rules pertaining to rhythm, iambic line length, or any set rhyming pattern. Even though free verse (or open form, as it's also called) is popular with contemporary poets, it's not a new idea.

In fact, poet Walt Whitman inaugurated "the free verse movement." Whitman was influenced by Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay called The Poet (1844), in which Emerson says:

The poet is the sayer, the namer, and represents beauty. He is a sovereign and stands in the centre... Beauty is the creator of the universe. Therefore the poet is not any permissive potentate but is emperor in his own right ... he writes what will and must be spoken ... he is the true and only doctor; he knows and tells; he is the only teller of news ... he is beholder of ideas and an utterer of the necessary and casual.

Whitman was so moved and inspired by these words that he added to what Emerson had to say and applied it directly to his own society:

Yet America is a poem in our eyes, its ample geography dazzles the imagination and it will not wait long for metres.

In a time when the United States was in the midst of transition to a freer society, Whitman saw an opportunity to free his verse from convention when he wrote Song of Myself a lyric poem about America and the individuals who live there. The poem is considered one of the greatest poems written in the English language, not only for the beauty of the words, but because of its pure subjectivity and introspection:

I celebrate myself;
And what I assume you shall assume;
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
I loafe and invite my Soul;
I lean and loafe at my ease, observing a spear of summer grass.
Houses and rooms are full of perfumes—the shelves are crowded with perfumes;
I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it;
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.
The atmosphere is not a perfume—it has no taste of the distillation—it is
It is for my mouth forever—I am in love with it;
I will go to the bank by the wood, and become undisguised and naked;
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

What makes the poem so remarkable is that it is so full of mystery (and we mean that in a good way!). The mystery lies in the fact that we have no idea what Whitman's really talking about. Is he remembering something? Is he relishing a moment that is special to him? We may never know the true emotional sources he called upon when creating this poem, but that doesn't mean we can't connect with him in the same kind of introspective way.

The Poet Speaks to You

As you know now, lyric poems are known to be particularly subjective, which means that the author is not necessarily writing it with the intention of relaying any specific messages to an audience. By being subjective, it is as though he is painting a picture of a place you may have never seen, smelled, or even imagined, but he writes it so that you share his emotional state of mind.

Whitman tells you this at the beginning of Song of Myself He lets you know that you are invited to experience this emotional state right along with him whether or not the experience is yours. He is sharing it with you. In the very first line of this poem, Whitman is saying:

I am the center of my creation as I write this
poem, but at the same time I am aware of you, my
reader: ... And what I assume you shall assume/For every
atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. In other
words, he is telling you directly that you can easily
understand his poem because we all have similarities
within our sensibilities. We are separate beings, but
we are also alike if we choose to be.

You become immersed in his subjectivity. And when he has your attention, he continues:

 I loafe and invite my soul,
            I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

Here he invites you to settle yourself down with him—"loafe" a little yourself and pay attention.

He uses his subjectivity to bring you toward him. Don't forget, he has already told you that everything he is saying about himself is also true of you.

What else seems to matter to Whitman in this section of the poem? Well, the senses.
Read this line out loud and listen to it carefully. What does this bring to mind for you?

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes—the shelves are crowded with perfumes;
I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it;
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

He enjoys these senses but does not intend to let them overtake his mind.
And here is your first mystery from this section of the poem:

The atmosphere is not a perfume—it has no taste of the distillation—it is
It is for my mouth forever—I am in love with it;
I will go to the bank by the wood, and become undisguised and naked;
I am mad for it to be in contact with me

Here is where the poem turns more toward the reader—there is really no mystery here, only a small element of surprise as he lets the reader a little further into what he wants to say. What he is telling you here is that we hide ourselves—we don't allow ourselves to dissolve into our own senses. He is telling us to relax and allow our senses to awaken to the world of sounds, smells, tastes, and memories that surround us.

If you continue with this poem, we can almost guarantee that you will get to many new places inside of yourself. It will be impossible for you not to gain new understandings and awareness through this poem.

The Element of Surprise

Don't take for granted the fact that Whitman is inviting you into his very subjective piece of writing. This is a pleasant surprise and should make you feel like the poet needs you there to experience these feelings with him. You will not get this invitation very often when you read lyric poetry (or any poetry for that matter). But remember, if you are really absorbing a poem, it is impossible to separate yourself from the poet or the poem, even if you are not as blatantly and intimately included as Walt Whitman allows in this particular poem.

Meaningful Twists
Oddly enough (or maybe not so odd given the close-knit circles in which poets travel), poets often write for other poets, despite the reference to you. Poets drop little clues and throw in surprises here and there. What makes a poem wonderful despite the language and the meaning you take from it is that element of surprise.

For example, although this next poem by Rainer Maria Rilke clearly speaks directly to other poets—surprise!—he's also talking to you. He's giving the reader a little insight into what makes a poem and the poet. Rilke had this to say in translated verse form (he wrote his poetic works in German):

You must construct an image for each feeling
You wish to give to many strangers;
For one must firmly frame what one imparts;
In children's words or summer lime trees
There be some likeness that will shape it.
You mustn't 'say' what secretly you 'have',
Your life mustn't trickle out upon your lips,—
You must bear your blossoms like a bough,
Then all breezes will proclaim you ...
—Rainer Maria Rilke, from Diaries of a Young Poet (1898)

Rilke says that as the poet, you must consider whom you are speaking to and put together clearly what you want to say. Keep it clear and direct the way children do. Use images that frame exactly what you mean, but don't say it all or you will spoil it for the reader:

Your life mustn’t trickle out upon your lips
You must bear your blossoms like a bough
Then all breezes will proclaim you ....

What's more wonderful than a pleasant surprise, and what's more dramatic than an unpleasant one? Poetry has the ability to startle as well as to please by taking twists and turns into the unexpected. We sometimes will have preconceived notions shattered when we follow along with the poem—as it builds we fall into its rhythm, its heartbeat, its movement, we begin to think we know where it will take us, when wham! The whole thing changes with a single line of verse, or even a single word. This is what can make the difference to any reader of poetry—when the expected gets flipped on its head, forcing us to see something that we never knew was coming our way.

The Perfect Fit

Although we want to believe that every poem will speak volumes to us, open new doors, and open our hearts and minds to new thoughts and feelings, as with fiction and the visual arts, not all poems speak to us. That's okay, though. We all have different tastes, and once again, we have to emphasize that you not get frustrated as you forge ahead with poetry reading. What will probably happen is that you'll find a poet who does speak to you, whether it's a poet from the eighteenth century or someone more contemporary. The important thing is to find the right fit for you.

Is bliss, then, such abyss
I must not put my foot amiss
For fear I spoil my shoe?
I'd rather suit my foot
Than save my boot,
For yet to buy another pair
Is possible
At any fair.
But bliss is sold just once;
The patent lost
None buy it any more.
—Emily Dickinson, Poem 340

As Dickinson is telling you here, not every poem will suit you or fit just right. You need to keep looking until you find those that do. There are poems that tickle with laughter, and ones that draw us close to the universe. There are those that ponder and contemplate, and those that float like the breeze. There is no "one size fits all" in any art form—and that is equally true for poetry.

The poems you do wind up choosing will vary with your mood and where you are in your life. Well, that's just all to the good because then you will fit yourself right in with what suits and feels best to you.

The Least You Need to Know
  • Poetry is a subjective art.
  • You can't know what the author was thinking, but the clues the author leaves should lead you to understanding.
  • There are many different types of poetry. Some types have strict structural rules, whereas others have no rules at all.
  • Poets have developed their styles and ideas through the centuries.
  • The element of surprise is a key way for a poet to reach the reader.