How to Read and Interpret A Poem

Thematic Occurrences in the Poetry Texts

Prescribed Texts:


A Theme is the controlling idea of a poem which is continuously developed throughout the poem by sets of key words that identify the poet’s subject and his attitude or feeling about it. However, it is also probable that a number of key issues can run through a poem . The selection of the poetry texts for the GCE O’level for the years 2010-12, presents an array of contemporary and universal issues like Nature’s plight due to modernization,Love and Relationships among quite a few . A theme is rarely stated explicitly by the poet, but it can be read by the reader .

The printable format can be downloaded from the following link:

Thematic Occurrences of the Poetry Texts year 2011

Responding to the poetry Section

Getting Started

All of us might hold theories of our own when it comes to appreciate a piece of poetry. However, there are always some rituals to be undertaken if you have to pursue the reading of poetry academically.

  • Prefer to read the poem aloud. If not, then at least in your mind’s ear. What might have been the tone of the speaker as was conceived by the poet
  • Write your first impression. You will be surprised to see how differently the meaning will be construed after you have had your classroom discussions.
  • Can anything about the structure be found peculiar? Stanza pattern(s)
  • How many units of thoughts can you infer?
  • Read the poem a second and a third time, while making connections between the beginning and what follows.

Taking Notes

While the teacher prompts and facilitates the class discussion, it is wise to note down the progression of the poem as and when a new point is made by any of your class mats or the teacher. If it appears to be objectionable or ambiguous, use a “?” for your future probe into the matter. We annotate texts and poems in order to understand them, which would require many readings of the poem.  You must make time to seriously consider each word and its place within the poem as a whole.  What the poet  says  through this particular speaker/persona?  What is the natural progression of the poem?  What is its purpose?  What is the tone and style of the poem? The following elements require special focus:

  • Structure of the poem which explains its progression along with the major turning points
  • Language that denotes regionality, education of speaker, rhetorical purpose, etc.  Is it conversational, colloquial or does the speaker fall back on formal language?
  • Tone:  Is the poem celebratory, depressed, confused?  Does it shift or change?
  • Speaker/Persona:  What does the poem reveal about the speaker?
  • Imagery:  What images does the poem use to create meaning or set the mood?
  • Symbolism:  What images become symbolic?
  • Any other characteristics that are specific to your poem–Every poem is different.

I would like my students to include their favourite pieces of their annotated poetry texts.

Observe the following example of an annotated text.

Please refer to the following lesson plan to teach annotation at any grade level:


About Mrs. Nazir's Rhyme and Reason

Am I a bird for Maya Angelou? If yes, why do I and so many of you around me feel caged? why not free? Am I a free spirit, then?If yes, then why don't I locate my limits? Because I can see I have lost the way. The quest for enlightenment is taking me acknowledge just Him ..and this strife just becomes so rewarding and so assuringly peaceful when I see myself having adopted His favourite occupation- the one he designated to his prophets. What has obstructed this self -actualization so far?
This entry was posted in For Teachers:The Art of Assisting Discovery, GCE O Level Literature in English, Poetry Anthology for 2010-11,2011-12, Poetry Anthology for the year 2012-13 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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