August 1

Poetry Analysis

The SPECS and SLIMS model is one way to analyse poetry:

Specs and Slims

Subject matter of the poem: What event, situation or experience does the poem describe or record?

Purpose or theme, or message of the poet: What is the poet’s purpose in writing this? What message does he/she want to communicate?

Emotion, or mood or feeling: What is the predominant emotion or mood of the poem? Does the mood change during the poem? What emotions does the poet seek to evoke in the reader?

Craftsmanship or technique: What are the specific skills the poet has used in creating this poem (look at SLIMS below).

Summary: summarise the poem as a whole. What is the impact of the whole poem? How successful is the poem to convey emotion or feeling, or to convey the poem’s message?


Looking further at Craftsmanship…

Structure: How is this poem structured? Does it have stanzas with a regular number of lines, or any other interesting features of structural ‘design?’

Language: How would you describe the poets use of words – vivid, striking, effective, colourless and predictable? Is the language appropriate to subject/theme? What effect does the language have?

Imagery: Are there any striking examples of similes, metaphors, personifications or symbols in the poem? What is their effect?

Movement, or rhythm: Does the poem have a regular (slow or fast) rhythm? What is the effect of any rhythmic qualities?

Sounds: Does the poem have any significant sound features? Does the poet use onomatopoeia, alliteration, or assonance? Does the poem rhyme? What are the effects of these sound features to the poem as a whole?

Source: literature1-poetry – Analysing a poem; Specs and Slims


The following YouTube video explains the SPECS and SLIMS method of analysing poetry:


  • Learn the method by heart.
  • Learn to apply the method to poems.
  • Note that the model is a flexible template or guide to remind you what to consider.
  • Different poems will require more emphasis than others, so write the most important aspects first.

You will find an example of a SPECS and SLIMS analysis of the poem ‘Dreamers’ by Siegfred Sassoon on this page:


OTHER WAYS TO ANALYSE POEMS (specifically poems in popular culture)

Poetry, like songs, use a range of devices to get their message across. There are a few film clips below, which show how some of those poetic devices are used in popular culture and song lyrics – the context with which you are most familiar. Poetry uses poetic devices in the same way, with the addition of a few more techniques.

This first clip is worthwhile watching, despite the sound problems in the first and last minutes of the clip.

Similes and Metaphors in Pop Culture 2! from Mr. Wasko on Vimeo.

Now look at the following websites, which contain definitions of poetic devices and give examples. Write your own notes on these devices:

Poetic devices and examples

Poetry Glossary

Definitions of Poetic Devices

Analysing Poetry

Guidelines for Poetry Analysis


Now, let’s look at some poems…

‘The Eagle’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Analysis of ‘The Eagle’ (Sunday Observer)

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (poet)

Here’s another analysis of ‘The Eagle’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

‘Holy Sonnet X’ by John Donne

An analysis of ‘Holy Sonnet X’

John Donne (poet)

‘Mushrooms’ by Sylvia Plath

An analysis of ‘Mushrooms’:

Another short analysis of ‘Mushrooms’

Sylvia Plath (poet)


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