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Poem Critical Essay Examples

How to Write a Critical Analysis of a Poem

When you know how to write a critical analysis of a poem, you can enable the readers of your critical analysis to understand the language and symbols that the author of the poem uses better. A critical analysis is a form of subjective writing in which the writer expresses his/her evaluation or opinion of a text. A poem on the other hand is a form of writing that takes the nature of a song and a speech and it is almost rhythmical in most cases and usually metaphorical exhibiting different formal elements which include a stanzaic structure, rhyme and meter. A critical analysis of a poem therefore should break down a poem and study its parts to give the evaluation or opinion of the entire piece.

A step-by-step guide on how to write a critical analysis of a poem

While writing poems, authors are very deliberate with their choice of words as well as the format that they use to convey meaning. Most poets hope that their poems will be read aloud. This is why they strive to maintain high lyrical quality. Others strive to maintain interesting rhythms in punctuating the elements of their poems. As you write a critical analysis of a poem, depict an intimate appreciation of it.

Step 1: Read the poem

To critique a poem, you should read it severally to understand what the speaker is saying or what the main message of the poem is. If there are unusual or difficult words, find their meaning. In most cases, the title will give you the summary or general meaning of the main idea or thought that is being presented.

Step 2: Know who the speaker is

The speaker in a poem can be an elderly person, a child, a shepherd, a student, a swordsman, a sailor, a milkmaid, an animal or an object such as a chair, a place or a mountain. Speakers in poems speak differently.

Step 3: Identify the main theme of the poem

Start your critical analysis by identifying the major or specific theme in the poem that gives it a larger meaning. To identify this theme, you need to consider or study the entire poem including its title. Maybe the poem that you are analyzing is about losing innocence, growing old, or importance of preserving the environment. The overarching or major theme of a poem can come out clearly or it can be hidden in its presentation and words.

Step 4: Establish the context

The context gives the location and time of a poem. This is usually what prompts the creation of a poem. A poem can be prompted by a political event which has a great importance in the history of a country.

Step 5: Identify inter-textuality

This implies that a poem looks back to another poem. This is also called reference. If a poem has this aspect, include it in your analysis and show how it enhances the message or its delivery.

Step 6: Identify the genre of the poem

Genre is simply the category. There are characteristics and rules of each genre. For instance, a poem that comprises of a long narrative dealing with demi-gods or divine figures and describing incredible journeys or terrible wars that determine humanity fate is called an epic poem. A sonnet on the other had is a short poem with 14 lines in which intimate emotions are expressed. Other poem genres include mock-epic, lyric, ballad, parody and ode among others.

Step 7: Create a checklist for your critical analysis

You should come up with a checklist that will guide you as you review or analyze the poem. A checklist will enable you to analyze or dissect the poem into separate pieces in order to understand it as a complete piece better. For instance, you can come up with a checklist that includes the title, genre, viewpoint, setting, meter, rhyme scheme, context or conflict. Make the elements in your checklist your guide while writing the critical analysis of the poem.

Step 8: Review the poem’s plot

While reviewing the plot, answer the following questions after reading the poem:

  • What is going on in the poem?
  • Who is affected by what is going on?

Your answers to these questions will enable you to understand what exactly the poem is describing. This will enable you to apply the meaning of the poem in the analysis.

Step 9: Analyze the poem’s rhyme scheme

Note that, not every poem has a rhyme. Nevertheless, most poems are written with the hope that they will be read aloud and therefore they have a rhyme scheme. Perhaps, this is one of the most important steps of a guide on how to write a critical analysis of a poem because you must read and analyze the poem carefully to notice its rhyme scheme. Before you conclude that the poem under analysis does not have a rhyme scheme, read it aloud with a friend or alone. Listen to its sound instead of simply looking at its words. This will enable you to identify its rhyme scheme and analyze it.

Step 10: Analyze the format

A poem can be a free form. This means that it does not have an identifiable pattern. It can also have a unique writing scheme. The format of a poem is usually a deliberate choice of style or act by the writer. Describe the format chosen by the author in your critical analysis and what it could mean as well as how it hinders or help in communicating the message.

Step 11: Analyze the used figurative language

Poetry uses a wide range of literary devices which include personification, metaphor, simile, metonymy and irony. Apart from constituting the body, these devices also demonstrate the control of language by the author. Therefore, it is highly important that you evaluate and analyze the use of figurative language in the poem.

Step 12: Create a thesis statement

On the basis of your comprehension of the meaning of the poem, create a thesis statement for your critical analysis. Note that while writing any academic piece, you should have a strong, clear thesis statement.

Step 13: Gather evidence from the poem to support the controlling idea or thesis statement

In the body of your critical analysis, cite actual lines of the poem to support your thesis. This will make your critical analysis credible and strong. Readers will get clues of where your thesis statement came from because it will have adequate supporting evidence from the poem.

Step 14:  Write the analysis

At this step, you already know how to write a critical analysis of a poem and you have all the information required to write a critical analysis of a poem. Use your checklist to write your critical analysis.

Your critical analysis should include the following:

The introduction should include:

Background information

  • Title of the poem under analysis
  • Author of the poem
  • Publication information
  • Purpose or topic statement
  1. Thesis statement that indicates your reaction to the poem
  2. Description or summary of the poem

Provide a summary or brief description of the poem that you are analyzing critically.

  • Evaluation or/and interpretation of the poem

Use your checklist to analyze or evaluate or discuss different aspects of the poem as described in the steps of this guide.


Draw conclusions from your analysis. Tell readers what was the goal or theme of the poem that you were analyzing, tools that were used in conveying the main idea or theme of the poem, how they were used and whether they were effective.

Bonus tips on how to write a critical analysis of a poem

While writing a critical analysis of a poem, try to help the writer and the reader know how the poem would have been made better. Provide suggestions on how the writer can improve the work. However, point out instances where the author is inconsistent or not clear and then provide concrete advice to the writer.

When critiquing the work of another person, be constructive. Do not say unnecessarily harmful things about the poem. If you must say something negative about the poem, provide supporting evidence.

  • Review the content of the poem

In your critical analysis, say whether the author was redundant in terms of the used imagery or chosen words. For instance, did the author use varying syllables, meters and vowel rhymes? How did the author choose the words to use in the poem? Did the author use irony, similes, metaphors or symbolism properly? Were they used consistently?

  • Use a sample of a critical analysis of a poem

To easily know how to write a critical analysis of a poem, use a critical analysis sample as your writing guide. A good sample will enable you to know where and how to present different elements of your analysis. You can find an example of a critical analysis of a poem here.

We can help you with your critical analysis of a poem

Get in touch with us now if you need help with your critical analysis essay of a poem or visit the homepage of our website for additional information regarding our writing services. Alternatively, keep reading for more guidelines on how to write a critical analysis of a poem on our blog.


The word "critical" has positive as well as negative meanings. You can write a critical essay that agrees entirely with the reading. The word "critical" describes your attitude when you read the article. This attitude is best described as "detached evaluation," meaning that you weigh the coherence of the reading, the completeness of its data, and so on, before you accept or reject it.

A critical essay or review begins with an analysis or exposition of the reading, article-by-article, book by book. Each analysis should include the following points:

1. A summary of the author's point of view, including
a brief statement of the author's main idea (i.e., thesis or theme)
an outline of the important "facts" and lines of reasoning the author used to support the main idea
a summary of the author's explicit or implied values
a presentation of the author's conclusion or suggestions for action
2. An evaluation of the author's work, including
an assessment of the "facts" presented on the basis of correctness, relevance, and whether or not pertinent facts were omitted
an evaluation or judgment of the logical consistency of the author's argument
an appraisal of the author's values in terms of how you feel or by an accepted standard

Once the analysis is completed, check your work! Ask yourself, "Have I read all the relevant (or assigned) material?" "Do I have complete citations?" If not, complete the work! The following steps are how this is done.

Now you can start to write the first draft of your expository essay/literature review. Outline the conflicting arguments, if any; this will be part of the body of your expository essay/literature review.

Ask yourself, "Are there other possible positions on this matter?" If so, briefly outline them. Decide on your own position (it may agree with one of the competing arguments) and state explicitly the reason(s) why you hold that position by outlining the consistent facts and showing the relative insignificance of contrary facts. Coherently state your position by integrating your evaluations of the works you read. This becomes your conclusions section.

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Briefly state your position, state why the problem you are working on is important, and indicate the important questions that need to be answered; this is your "Introduction." Push quickly through this draft--don't worry about spelling, don't search for exactly the right word, don't hassle yourself with grammar, don't worry overmuch about sequence--that's why this is called a "rough draft." Deal with these during your revisions. The point of a rough draft is to get your ideas on paper. Once they are there, you can deal with the superficial (though very important) problems.

Consider this while writing:

  • The critical essay is informative; it emphasizes the literary work being studied rather than the feelings and opinions of the person writing about the literary work; in this kind of writing, all claims made about the work need to be backed up with evidence.
  • The difference between feelings and facts is simple--it does not matter what you believe about a book or play or poem; what matters is what you can prove about it, drawing upon evidence found in the text itself, in biographies of the author, in critical discussions of the literary work, etc.
  • Criticism does not mean you have to attack the work or the author; it simply means you are thinking critically about it, exploring it and discussing your findings.
  • In many cases, you are teaching your audience something new about the text.
  • The literary essay usually employs a serious and objective tone. (Sometimes, depending on your audience, it is all right to use a lighter or even humorous tone, but this is not usually the case).
  • Use a "claims and evidence" approach. Be specific about the points you are making about the novel, play, poem, or essay you are discussing and back up those points with evidence that your audience will find credible and appropriate. If you want to say, "The War of the Worlds is a novel about how men and women react in the face of annihilation, and most of them do not behave in a particularly courageous or noble manner," say it, and then find evidence that supports your claim.
  • Using evidence from the text itself is often your best option. If you want to argue, "isolation drives Frankenstein's creature to become evil," back it up with events and speeches from the novel itself.
  • Another form of evidence you can rely on is criticism, what other writers have claimed about the work of literature you are examining. You may treat these critics as "expert witnesses," whose ideas provide support for claims you are making about the book. In most cases, you should not simply provide a summary of what critics have said about the literary work.
  • In fact, one starting point might be to look at what a critic has said about one book or poem or story and then a) ask if the same thing is true of another book or poem or story and 2) ask what it means that it is or is not true.
  • Do not try to do everything. Try to do one thing well. And beware of subjects that are too broad; focus your discussion on a particular aspect of a work rather than trying to say everything that could possibly be said about it.
  • Be sure your discussion is well organized. Each section should support the main idea. Each section should logically follow and lead into the sections that come before it and after it. Within each paragraph, sentences should be logically connected to one another.
  • Remember that in most cases you want to keep your tone serious and objective.
  • Be sure your essay is free of mechanical and stylistic errors.
  • If you quote or summarize (and you will probably have to do this) be sure you follow an appropriate format (MLA format is the most common one when examining literature) and be sure you provide a properly formatted list of works cited at the end of your essay.

It is easy to choose the topics for critical essay type. For example, you can choose a novel or a movie to discuss. It is important to choose the topic you are interested and familiar with. Here are the examples of popular critical essay topics:

  • The Politics of Obama
  • The Educational System of US
  • My Favorite Movie
  • Home Scholl
  • “The Match Point” by Woody Allen
  • Shakespeare “The Merchant of Venice”

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