The Curious Cats Sessions


Do you need to analyse poems?


Well, learn this sentence:

“All curious cats think mice smell lovely, don’t you think?”


Because, if you do, you will be one step closer to remembering all the stuff your teacher asks you to write about when it comes to a poem.

How come?

It’s a mnemonic.

Oh, OK ..

A ll – A uthor

C urious – C ontext

C ats – C ontent

Th ink – Th eme

M ice – M ood

S mell – S tructure

L ovely – L anguage

Don’t you think? – Reader response


So, when you’re analysing a poem, you can do it by working out the answers to questions like these:

All – Author

Who wrote the poem? When did the poet live? Where? What was his or her childhood like? What did they do apart from write? Did they write other stuff?

Curious – Context

When was the poem written? What was happening in that place at that time? What is the poet’s perspective on these places and events, and the characters involved? What was the general public’s perspective on these things at the time? Have these views changed since the poem was written?

Cats – Content

What is the poem actually about? Does it describe something? Does it tell a story? What places or characters are mentioned? What do we know about them? Is there a literal and also a metaphorical or allegorical meaning to the poem?

Think – Theme

If you can answer the last question in the Cats section, you will already be thinking about the themes that are dealt with in the poem. Does the poem have an overall subject or topic? What is it? Does it have more than one? Does the poem have a message for the reader? What does the poet want the reader to think? What does the poet want the reader to feel?

Mice – Mood

And if you can answer that, you are ready to start thinking about what it actually is that the poet actually does to convey all of the above to the reader.

Is the poem dark or light? What situations, places, characters, phrases or words make it that way? Does it make you laugh, cry, think, cringe? Why? Is this how the poet wanted you to feel?

What other things has the poet done to influence the way the reader feels?

Smell – Structure

Is it long? Does it have stanzas? How many? Are they all the same length? Are the lines all the same length or are they different? Is there a pattern to the stanzas or the lines?

Does it rhyme? is there a particular rhyme scheme? What is it?

Is the poem a sonnet, or a ballad, or even something as weird and obscure as a villanelle (not likely, but ..)? How do you know? Why did the writer choose this type of poem? Was it a popular or common type of poem at the time? Is it popular now?

Has the writer made the poem this way for any particular reason? Does the structure of the poem do anything to enhance the message or the themes of the poem?

Lovely – Language

What emotive words has the poet used? Are they adjectives? Are they adverbs? Does the poet use alliteration, repetition, personification, enjambment or any other fancy poetic devices to help us understand the poem’s message and feel the poem’s feelings?

Don’t you think? – Reader response

Do you like it? Why? Why not? Who would like it? Why? Who definitely wouldn’t like it? Why not? Are particular types of people more likely to like it than others? Did more people like it when it was written than now? Why? Why not? Will people like it in the future? Why? Why not?


Evaluating the language of a text

These are some of a writer’s techniques you should be able to identify:

  • Words: Simple or difficult, formal or informal, informative or emotive?
  • Sentences and paragraphs: Short or long? Are they all the same length, or do some stand out for emphasis or dramatic effect?
  • Personal pronouns: First person, second person, third person? Singular or plural?
  • Persuasive techniques: Rhetorical questions, groups of three, alliteration?
  • Discourse markers: Casual, chatty discourse markers (eg anyway, you know what I mean, so) or more formal ones (eg nevertheless, therefore, however)?
  • Exclamations: Angry or more thoughtful, emphatic or tentative?
  • Facts and opinions: Objective facts and statistics or opinions? To inform or to persuade, review or entertain?

Adapted from