English 2200-Fall 2000
English 2207-Fall 2000

Pretty Good Books

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A good poem is often like a good puzzle—the best part is studying the individual pieces carefully and then putting them back together to see how the whole thing fits together.  (Though some poems are more like the platypus—lots of parts that don’t go together, but still it works.)  A poem can have a number of different "pieces" that you need to look at closely in order to complete the poetic "puzzle."  This sheet explains one way to attempt an explication of a poem, by examining each "piece" of the poem separately.  (An explication is simply analysis and interpretation combined, an unfolding of elements in the poem to show how they work together to achieve the larger meaning and effect.)

1)  Examine the situation in the poem:

2)  Examine the structure of the poem:

3)  Examine the language of the poem:

4)  Examine the musical devices in the poem:

5)  Examine your response:

6)  Practice, practice, practice:

This page is a learning tool provided by
Jeremy M. Downes
Department of English
Auburn University
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Last update: September 4, 2000