Think of these elements of poetry as you read this week’s poems:
Speaker and Tone
The voice we hear in a poem could be the poet’s, but it is better to think of the speaker as an artistic construction—perhaps a persona (mask) for the poet or perhaps a character who does not resemble the poet at all. For example, the speaker in Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” is not Browning himself but is instead a sinister duke. In large part, to describe any poem’s speaker is to pinpoint the person’s tone or attitude. Sometimes this is hard to discern. The tone could be ironic or sentimental, joyful or morose, or a combination of emotions. To get a precise sense of it, read the poem aloud, actually performing the speaker’s role. Bear in mind that his or her tone may change over the course of the poem. Furthermore, some poems feature other voices besides the main speaker’s, requiring you to compare various forms of talk. You, as a reader are left to analyze and evaluate the statements that all of these people make.
Diction and Syntax
When you’re reading a poem, words are very important. All words have a denotation, that is the dictionary definition of the word, and a connotation which are the “feelings” that a word may illicit from you the reader. Take note of how authors can manipulate your feelings by playing around with the denotation and connotation of the words in their poems. Also think about the other words that an author could’ve used instead of the ones that they show us. Syntax is very important in poems as well. The word order that’s presented to us as readers makes us read the poems in a particular manner.