Essay writing: poetry

Poetry can seem like the trickiest subjects to try to break down in a writing exercise. It can be really difficult to know where to start and how to divide your essay up into paragraphs, when you are faced with a general question and an entire poem to explore.

The easiest way to tackle this issue is to look at the text from several sides. This not only allows you to find wide ranging and diverse points to make but also showcases your understanding of the different stylistic and technical aspects of poetry that a examiner is likely to reward. The following are important categories that can be applied to any poem – consider it in these chunks and you will find it far simpler to divide your essay into clear, manageable chunks.

the easiest way to make use of this information to write a grade saving essay on poetry is to lead in with an introduction that sets out what the overall meaning or moral of the poem seems to be. Then, using a new paragraph for each new topic, take the aspects one by one described below and explain how the poet exploits each of them to help communicate the general meaning of the poem you have outlined in your introduction.


Consider the lengths of the sections of the poem (called stanzas). Are they all regular or are some different? Think about how this reflects ideas in the poem, for example a very uneven structure could represent ideas of chaos or lack of control.


What kind of words is the author using and why? Make sure you mention the lexis used (this means the vocabulary and types of words) as this may be key to getting the meaning of the poem across. Have you noticed vocabulary associated with a particular idea, such as foreign or old-fashioned words? How does this help to communicate the poem’s overall concept

Rhythm and rhyme

Not all poetry has a clear rhyme at the ends of the lines but it can nonetheless have rhythm. Say it to yourself and see if it seems to have a regular beat. This kind of poetry, which has rhythm but doesn’t rhyme is called blank verse. Try to explain in your essay whether the rhythm is regular and soothing or jerky and disruptive. Could this be done on purpose to get the poet’s message across? Perhaps the poem begins with a regular rhyme and then suddenly becomes disrupted. This could be an intentional way of trying to make a sudden impact, or emphasise a certain key idea.


Tone means the overriding feeling or atmosphere evoked by the poem and often communicates how the poet is feeling. It might be happy or regretful, accusing or guilty, urgent or soothing. Knowing what the tone is may help you to isolate the particular concept or message the poet is trying to get across to the reader.

Linguistic devices

This might seem complicated but it simply describes any writing techniques the poet uses to get ideas across in interesting and effective ways. To identify these devices, look out for metaphors and similes, imagery, alliteration (when two or more words with the same first letter are used together) and onomatopoeia (words which have a sound that communicates their meaning, such as ‘smash’ or ‘plop’). You need to set out how each device you find helps to get across a particular idea more strongly to the reader.

So remember, to gain top marks for your poetry essays, simply split the poem up into these chunks and they will allow you to write a clear, incisive and comprehensive essay every time.

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