Craig White's Literature Courses

Critical Sources

College Board Suggestions for Studying Poetry


College Board Suggestions for Studying Poetry

[with links & commentary]



  • Read poems from sixteenth to twenty-first centuries.
  • Examine models of representative poems from particular eras.
  • Practice unraveling conceits. ["Conceits" is a 17c critical term for extended metaphor.]
  • Practice making sense of associative logic.
  • Understand the importance of the line.
  • Practice sorting out syntax.



  • Read closely and carefully.
  • Seek out relation of writer’s craft and meaning.
  • Identify speaker.
  • Identify situation.



  • Practice annotation.
  • Paraphrase.
  • Identify sections.
  • Note literary devices.
  • Ask questions of the text.


Helen Vendler in Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology, in her chapter “Describing Poems,” suggests that readers identify the kind of “speech act” a poem presents. Is it an apology, a declaration, a boast, an explanation, a prayer, or a reproach? Are there successive speech acts in the same poem?


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