Learning, studying and discovering poetry is all about having the right tools, environment and mindset. Take a look at our tips below to find out more about developing an effective learning environment.
- A sharp pencil for annotations
- Coloured pencils or highlighters for colour coding
- Lined paper for notes
- A good dictionary
- Multiple photocopies of the poem if possible, for analysing from different perspectives
- Any pre-prepared notes/information, for example about the poet, genre or time period
- A folder with dividers
- A tape recorder or recording of the poem
A quiet environment is best for learning about poetry alone, whereas a poetry group might be a hive of discussion. Always run through the poem aloud at least once before starting work on it, particularly if you’re required to memorise it thoroughly for an exam.
Try to start by forming your own ideas and thoughts about the poem you’re studying rather than instantly adopting the views of someone else. For this reason, leaving introductions, notes and forwards until you’re familiar with the poetry in the volume is often beneficial.
Once you’re happy with the poetry, try to read about the subject as much as possible to get a feel for the context. If you’re able to visit an example of a house from the period, or the location where the poem was set, grab the opportunity as it will really help bring the poem to life.
Forcing yourself to study poetry is never a good idea; you will feel devoid of ideas and end up reading the same line repeatedly without anything sinking in. To study poetry effectively, you need to be alter and prepared. Set aside a good hour without interruption, and be sure to sit in a place that is both functional and comfortable. Have everything you might need to hand, and try to keep your space tidy and free from clutter.
If you have deadlines to meet, never leave your poetry to the last minute, even if the poem itself is short and/or relatively simple. Often the simplest poetry is the hardest to write about.
Using the Internet
Browsing the internet for poetry-related information can prove a goldmine; for example, Allen Ginsberg’s sung recordings of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience make the poems a lot easier to remember.
There is also plenty of scope for online discussions via forums and message boards. Check out our Resources page for some great websites to visit.