While some poems can be very difficult to comprehend and sometimes boring to enjoy your study, there are ways you can do a perfect job on them without having to sleep over it or develop a headache on a particular poem. First things first! You have to read the poem completely and make sure you read to understand, if reading twice or more helps you understand better you should!
1. Look for a clear idea: This is called the theme, sometimes the poem might have more than one theme. No matter the amount of themes there are, you could start by fishing out one, there is always a central idea that runs through the poem. In order words we are saying in your own words, what does the message of the poem center on?. For example popular themes could be love, death, slavery, friendship, hardship, greed etc.
2. Subject matter/ content: this goes side by side with the theme most times but you should place them under separate headings when making analysis to give a clear idea. It is the message the poet wishes to pass on to his readers, the message could be about love (theme) but what the message is saying about love is what the content or subject matter is. So as soon as you’re done reading a poem try to make a first hand summary of what you think the writer or poet wants the audience to know.
3. Diction and mood: some poet make it very easy to understand the mood and some do not. But watch out for any emotion you can get from the poem. The fastest way to knowing the mood is to examine the tone, is it an angry tone or a happy one. If you have serious issues with this you can check again for exclamation marks and the words before them in some cases. Secondly the Diction is the choices of words used by the poet. Are they easy to understand or very difficult to a layman?
4. Easy-to-find poetic devices: check for the use of figures of speech such as simile, metaphor, oxymoron, personification, antithesis, irony, Hyperbole before moving on to more complicated ones such as Allusion, Rhythm, Metre, Foot, Scansion etc you might want to have the poetic devices written down on a piece close to you or from your text book.
5. Ask questions and answer them: questions like what does the poem add or redress in the society? How does it relate to the Nigerian society? Why should it be included in the syllabus? Is it for any kind of audience? Etc. This will show your understanding of the poem.
We hope this guide will help ease your study. Thanks for reading!