How to Annotate a Poem

How to Annotate a Poem (a Guide with an Example)

Learning how to annotate a poem as a student is a valuable skill if you want to ace your English literature course. Use this article as a reference.

How to Annotate a Poem

How to Annotate a Poem

The process of analyzing and comprehending a written work is known as annotating. Annotations are more than just a summary of what is going on; they also examine the tone, speaker, language, imagery, symbolism, or other characteristics.

You must ask and answer several questions when annotating a poem, such as identifying the speaker and determining the poem’s purpose.

Use the guide below to help you take notes on the poem’s theme, mood, structure, and literary devices.

The History of Annotation

Text annotation may be as old as writing on media, where an additional copy could be made with reasonable effort. Around 1000 AD, it became a prominent activity in Talmudic commentaries and Arabic rhetorical treatises. 

During the Medieval era, scribes who copied manuscripts frequently made marginal annotations that circulated with the manuscripts and were thus shared with the community; occasionally, annotations were copied over to new versions when such manuscripts were later recopied.

Annotations made on shared copies of texts (such as library books) are sometimes regarded as devaluing or defacing the text.

Individual and socially shared text annotations enabled by computer-based technologies serve a variety of purposes, including readers’ individual reading goals, learning, social reading, writing and editing, and other practices. 


Guides on How to Annotate a Poem

Below are useful guides you can follow to help you annotate a poem.

1. Scan

Highlight words that you don’t understand. Look for a synonym that you are familiar with and write it next to the word in the poem.

2. Read

Perform a first reading of the poem. Fill in the margins with any questions that come to mind.

3. Analyze

Examine the poem’s structure. Determine the rhyme scheme, poem type, and repetition.

4. Identify

All of the figurative languages should be circled. Determine its significance, plausible purpose, and impact.

5. Think

Words and phrases that have an impact and are interesting should be circled. Consider how this demonstrates the author’s attitude toward a subject (the tone) and the mood created through word choice. Note ideas in the margins.

6. Determine

Determine the poem’s theme. Consider what the author hoped you would learn or take away from the poem.


7. Write

Write about your reaction to the poem. What drew your attention? Did you enjoy it or dislike it? Why? What did it cause you to consider? How did you feel after you finished reading it?

8. Reread

Read the poem again. Make a list of new insights, questions, and ideas. Put a box around the title and write your thoughts on why the author chose that particular title.

How to Annotate a Poem

An Example of an Annotated Poem

Below is an example of an annotated work with an explanation to back it up for better understanding. 

Edmund Spencer: Sonnet 75

One day I wrote her name upon the strand,

But came the waves and washed it away:

Agayne I wrote it with a second hand,

But came the tyde, and made my paynes his pray.

“Vayne man,” sayd she, “that doest in vaine assay.

A mortal thing so to immortalize,

For I my selve shall lyke to this decay,

and eek my name bee wyped out lykewize.”

“Not so,” quod I, “let baser things devize,

To dy in dust, but you shall live by fame:

My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,

And in the heavens wryte your glorious name.

Where when as death shall all the world subdew,

Our love shall live, and later life renew.”



The bold italic has been used to indicate the repetition of words.

You can further use symbols to highlight the patterns in a poem. You can also make an asterisk mark to help you make a headnote or footnote to add references and/or any other information about the poem.

Why Do We Annotate a Poem?

You can ensure that you understand what is happening in a text after reading it by annotating it. You should annotate the author’s main points, shifts in the text’s message or perspective, key areas of focus, and your own thoughts as you read. 

However, annotating isn’t just for people who struggle to read academic texts. Even if you understand and remember what you read on a regular basis, annotating will help you summarize a text, highlight important pieces of information, and ultimately prepare yourself for discussion and writing prompts from your instructor.

Annotating implies that you are doing the hard work while reading, allowing you to refer to previous work and have a clear starting point for future work.

We hope this article on how to annotate a poem has been helpful. Please endeavour to share this article with family, friends, and colleagues.

Daily Time Poems.

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