Poetry Techniques

An Actors approach to Poetry

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Knowing where to start when approaching the analysis and performance of a new poem can be overwhelming. Let’s break it down into 5 elements






Start off with a printed copy of the poem and different coloured pencils/highlighters to ‘mark up’ the text. Stick this poem into a workbook and leave the page beside it blank to write down your own observations and analysis.


Mark Up:

  • Alliteration 
  • Assonance 
  • Consonance
  • Pararhyme 
  • End Rhyme 
  • Repetition


  • What is the rhyme scheme?


Mark Up:

  • Weak and strong stresses
  • Masculine and feminine endings
  • Enjambment
  • Caesura
  • Punctuation Marks


  • After noting the stresses, is the rhythm regular or irregular?
  • Is the poem written in metre? What is the metre?
  • Is it written in sprung rhythm?
  • Does the rhythm change? When and why? 


Mark Up:

  • Simile
  • Metaphor 
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Personification
  • Analogy
  • Antithesis 
  • Pun
  • Double Entendre 
  • Nouns
  • Verbs 


  • What are the strongest images that stick with you after reading the poem?
  • Are the images cumulative? (Do the images build to an overarching idea?)
  • Are any images repeated?



  • Who is the speaker?
  • Who is the speaker talking to?
  • Who are the other characters?
  • What are their relationships?
  • What are the given circumstances? (ie. Is there mention of a location, time frame, event etc?)
  • What does the speaker want? 



  • Dictionary work: Define any words specific to the time in which the piece is written, any words you don’t understand and the key words in each sentence, to embody a greater meaning. 
  • What are the main ideas in the poem? (ie. love, nature, power, loss, identity?)
  • Research the writer and context of the poem. Why did they write this?
  • The magic ‘if’. Can you empathise with the speaker and ideas in this poem? Is there a situation in your life that is similar? 


Your poem may not contain every technique within these elements but hopefully this gives you an idea of where to start and what to look for when breaking down a poem! 

I’ve included the poem ‘How do I love thee?’ with a few examples of what marking up the text could look like. Feel free to go through the whole poem and add the remaining markups using the key provided and add anything else you can find. Have fun!

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