Analyzing Verse

Analyzing Songs

What types things should I consider analyzing when exploring songs by a particular artist?

    • Speaker: What character traits would you give the speaker?

    • Perspective: Is the song's perspective from the artist, the speaker, or someone else? Is it written in 1st person, 2nd person, or 3rd person?

    • Setting: Where does the song take place? Is there a setting? Many times with lyrical poetry there is not a definite setting. If there is one, include that in your analysis and any historical context if appropriate.

      • For instance, Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin'" was released in January 1964 during the height of civil rights in America. Therefore, the context is important to discuss because of what was happening during that time in American history.

    • Tone: What is the tone of the speaker? What attitude would you say the speaker has about the subject he or she is singing about?

    • Mood: What mood or atmosphere is established by the music? How does it make the listener feel? Does the mood change during the course of the song? Does the music part of the song match the mood? Explain.

    • Conflict: Is there a clear conflict in the song? How does this conflict lead to universal insights about human nature as a theme? How is this song like life?

    • Figurative Language: Are there symbols or metaphors in the song? What do they represent? How does the use of figurative language develop the themes in the song?

    • Theme: Be sure that you are highlighting key words and phrases that support a specific theme. What is the song saying about life and people?

    • Title: Is there anything significant in the title of the poem?

    • Chorus: How does the repetition of the chorus develop the theme?

Analyzing Poetry

Style Analysis: How does the poet's language shape meaning?

How were you SSWEPTT away by the author's language (Setting, Structure, Word Choice, Elements of Literature, Point of View, Tone, Theme)?

Poetry Analysis

Consider these following areas when analyzing poetry.


How are the stanzas arranged? Is there a purposeful design to how the stanzas and breaks are arranged? How does the structure contribute to the meaning? structural devices: recurring images or cyclical points, stanza, rhyme, fixed rhyme, genre (narrative, lyric, dramatic, epic), form (sonnet, limerick, etc.), repetition, anaphora, punctuation, enjambment, caesura, polysyndeton vs asyndeton

Check out the Rhetorical Tropes (Literary Terms) at

Word Choice

How does the author’s diction contribute to the meaning? How would you describe the poet's language?

euphonious vs. cacophonous

connotative vs. denotative

concrete vs. abstract

colloquial vs. formal

impressionistic vs. detailed

realistic vs. idealized

crude vs. sophisticated

exaggerated vs understated

imaginative vs. prosaic

descriptive vs. plain, vivid vs. obscure

loaded language vs. understated language

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Elements of Literature

How do literary elements help develop or enhance meaning? What tropes (figurative language) and sound devices are use to enhance the meaning?

types of imagery: visual, gustatory, olfactory, organic, tactile, kinesthetic

tropes: simile, metaphor, personification, allusion, hyperbole, litotes, apostrophe, symbolism, motif, synecdoche, metonymy, irony

sound devices: alliteration, onomatopoeia, consonance, assonance

Check out the Rhetorical Tropes (Literary Terms) at

Persona of the speaker

What do you know about the speaker of the poem? Is there a specific persona (the way the speaker behaves, thinks, or feels) that is being presented ? Consider what pronouns are used.

speaker, persona, first person point of view, second person point of view, third person point of view

types of statements: declarative, imperative (commands), exclamatory, interrogative (questions)

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How does the poet convey his attitude in the work through his language? Are there significant tone shifts, and how do they contribute to the main ideas?

negative tones: melancholy, caustic, irate, satiric, critical, indignant, bitter, condescending, judgmental positive tones: reverent, lighthearted, optimistic, hopeful, loving neutral tones:reminiscent wistful, apathetic, speculative, meditative, objective

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Time and Place

How does the setting influence the themes? How is the setting significant to understanding the main ideas? If the setting is not concrete, how does the imagery in the poem create an overall mood or atmosphere in the poem?

geographical: climate, terrain historical: politics, time period, events, wars, etc.

social: beliefs, custom, values, gender roles/expectations, class structure, etc.

atmosphere of the setting: mood developed by the author e.g. gloomy, ominous, foreboding, magical, etc.


How does the author’s language shape the development of theme? The theme is a universal statement about human nature. This is like life because….

  • How does the progression of ideas contribute to the development of a universal theme?

  • How does the language develop a universal insight of theme?

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