Poetry Word Analyses

All words are charged with meanings, both denotations and connotations, which influence our readings of poetry. Poets play with these multiple meanings in order to shape readers’ experiences of poems. With this premise in mind, the essays below explore the power of a single word in a poem. By investigating the word’s etymological roots and definition(s), these essays show how a specific word illuminates its line, stanza, and poem. As demonstrated, these studies of words open poems to new interpretations.


643px-John_Donne_by_Isaac_OliverJohn Donne’s “The Flea”

“Sin” in Irene Dong’s “A Parasitic Temptation

“Blood” in Joshua Tukes’s “A Lustful Blood Drive

“Blood” in Cole Gillespie’s “The Bloody Flea

“Kill” in Zoe Szczesniak’s “To Kill a Flea is to Kill a Man


George Herbert’s “Easter Wings”George Herbert

“Flight” in Benjamin Smith’s “Man Takes Flight



TennysonAlfred Tennyson’s “Ulysses” 

“Free” in Agnes McCarty’s “Freedom for Odysseus

“Yield” in Hope Wamae’s “A Great Adventurer Who Refuses To Yield



Picture1Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “Sestina of the Lady Pietra del Scrovigni”

“Shade” in Jack DeSalvo’s “A Lover’s ‘Shade’



Robert BrowningRobert Browning’s “My Last Duchess”

“Disgusts” in Michael Griffin’s “One Look Too Many

“Look” in Lauren White’s “If Looks Could Kill


William BlakeWilliam Blake’s “The Tyger”

“Fearful” in Cassady Stewart’s “Behind the Tyger

“Dare” in Yash Vaidya’s “God and the Tiger

“Lamb” in Brooke Stepanek’s “Savoiur, Sacred, or Self-Righteous



Matthew ArnoldMathew Arnold’s “Dover Beach”

“Sadness” in Ethan Sinclair’s “Bittersweet Beauty




Wilfred OwenWilfred Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est”

“Ecstasy” in Harper Minor’s “Shell Shocked Spirits

“Blind” in Jie Lyu’s “The Unseen Side



T. S. EliotT. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” 

“Measure” in Naqiya Ujjainwala’s “How Does Prufrock’s Life “Measure” Up?