Poetry is POWERFUL
Tools for Poetry Analysis
For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of POWERFUL feelings: and though this be true, Poems to which any value can be attached were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man who, being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply.
- Preface to Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth
TP-CASTT: A strategy to help you understand and analyze poetry
TP-CASTT is a pneumonic device that helps you examine the smaller components of a poem in order to appreciate how they work together to enhance the greater effect, power, or message of the poem itself. You should ultimately be asking yourself, "What is this poem about?" and "How is the author conveying his/her ideas?" The answers to the second question come in the analysis you will conduct through the components of TP-CASTT.
"Harlem" by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
TP-CASTT Explanation & Example Analysis
Your turn: Choose a poem from The Poetry Foundation's website. Use the TP-CASTT method to help you analyze it.
Sleeper of the Valley by Arthur Rimbaud
(translated by Wallace Kaufman from Dormeur du Valle)
It is a bowl of greenness where a river sings
And clutches madly at the ragged silvered weeds;
Where the sun from haughty peaks unslings
His light; the valley's jewelled and filigreed.
A youth-a soldier-open mouth: bare head,
His white neck bathing in the fresh blue cress
Is sleeping; cloud for tent and grass a bed.
Yet he is pale in all this sunny dress.
His feet among the flowers, he sleeps: but smiles
The way a sick child might who naps a while.
Nature, rock him warmly: he is cold today.
Perfumes no longer make his thoughts abide.
He sleeps in sunlight; on his breast a hand like clay
Is still. And he has two red holes in his right side.
Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!--An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.*
*A Latin quotation from the Roman poet Horace: "It is sweet and becoming to die for one's country."
The Man He Killed by Thomas Hardy
Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!
"But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.
"I shot him dead because --
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That's clear enough; although
"He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
Off-hand like — just as I --
Was out of work — had sold his traps --
No other reason why.
"Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown."