Poetry explication is a term that describes writing or presenting an analysis of a poem's meaning, structure, and other features. Poems generally have many different features that lend themselves to analysis and explication, including word choice, figurative language, meter, and imagery. Some poems even have components typically reserved for prose, such as plot, complex characters, and dialogue. Poetry analysis and explication is generally used to show how these various features of a poem contribute to and are unified in the themes of the poem, though the methods and goals of different schools of poetry analysis may vary significantly. Some poetry critics, for instance, insist that one should only examine the content and form of the poem itself, while others believe that the historical context of the poem is just as important in a valid poetry explication.
Much poetry explication begins with an examination of the literal meaning of the poem. A purely literal reading usually reveals a basic theme, imagery, information about the narrator, and other features that are important for a full understanding of the poem. This is particularly important in narrative poems, which contain valuable information about plot and characters that one must understand in order to conduct a proper poetry explication.
In many poems, the truly important elements that contribute to the major themes of the poem lie beneath the literal language. Effective poetry explication, therefore, must often be based in a close examination of the figurative elements, such as simile and metaphor, contained within the poem. In some cases, figurative language only subtly shades the meaning or tone of the poem. In other cases, however, figurative language can suggest meaning that is completely opposed to the apparent meaning of a purely literal reading. A poem that appears to be about love, for instance, may actually contain strong themes relating to conflict or death that are not immediately apparent after a literal reading.
The rhythm and structure of a poem is also an important topic in poetry explication. In poetry, words and phrases are often chosen very carefully because of the sounds and rhythms that they produce. Such sound and rhythm often has a significant effect on the tone of a poem and may even provide clues as to how one should interpret the poem's meaning. Irregularities in the rhythm or sound are also important and are often the subject of poetry explication because they are almost always intentional and meaningful.