Diction is the choice and use of words in the poem. The diction that the poet chooses obviously has a profound effect on the poem. It is important to consider whether the poet has used a specific type of language in the poem.

This may be:

  • conversational
  • reflective
  • dialect
  • formal
  • narrative
  • persuasive

Look carefully at the poem. Once you have established the dictionused, you should consider specific words or phrases which show this.

Analysing the cultural and social context of a poem can sometimes tell you quite a lot.

Try asking yourself these questions:

  • Does the diction give you clues as to when the poem was written?
  • Does the language seem traditional, modern, formal, or colloquial?
  • Has the poet used slang? Why? What would be lost if this slang were replaced with formal language?
  • What does the use of language tell you about when the poem was written? Does the poet uses phrases which are not used in modern times?
  • Are there words that are specific to a certain culture, age group or gender? Why have these words been used? Is the poem focusing specifically on a particular social group?

Often poets use dialect in their poems. There are different reasons for the use of dialect and ways in which it is used.

Asking yourself the following questions will help you identify these:

  • Is the entire poem written in dialect?
  • What effect does the dialect create and what would be lost if the poem didn't use dialect?
  • Are only certain words written in dialect? If so, why? Are memories attached with the words?
  • Does the slang or dialect date the poem?
  • Is the dialect vital in conveying the cultural context of the poem?
  • Has the poet only used dialect in speech and only for certain characters?

The use of tense influences the way the reader interprets a poem.

Consider the following:

  • Which tenses does the poet use?
  • If the poem is written entirely in the past tense, then is the poet simply reflecting on what has happened? Or does the poet finish in the present tense, thus suggesting that what has happened in the past relates to the present?

Perhaps the poem is written in the present tense.

  • If so, is the poet creating an environment for the reader/listener to imagine? How successful is this?
  • Has the poet used the conditional tense (for example, "would", "could", "might", "should")? Is the poet exploring possibilities, or imagining? Is there a sense of persuasion in the poem?
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