How to TPCasTT a Poem. Don’t sell yourself
short by thinking that a poem is beyond you. The poet had a message, so use the acronym
for “Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Attitude, Shifts, Title, and Theme” to guide you as
you figure it out. You will need Poem Gut reaction and analytical skills. Step 1. Determine
what you understand of the poem’s title without referring to the actual poem. Don’t intellectualize
it, either — make a wild guess at first. Step 2. Paraphrase the poem, finding a way
to simplify and relate to what’s going on. Rely on your gut instinct and your own words.
Step 3. Consider the connotation of the poem, studying the poet’s deeper intentions through
symbolism, allusions, imagery, metaphors, and more. Poets use words like conductors
use music — to lead the reader to feel and think a certain way. Investigate like a detective,
logically figuring out the author’s intent. Step 4. Observe the poem’s speaker’s attitude
and intent through the poem. Like anyone convincing you of their viewpoint, poets will intentionally
influence with a tone — at times friendly, conspiratorial, or adversarial. Step 5. Pay
attention to shifts in the speaker’s tone or new directions and cadences signaled by
punctuation, transitions, stanza length, or even structural changes often meant to draw
your attention. Ask yourself what these might mean. Step 6. Turn to the title again, this
time re-evaluating your first impression in light of the new information you have gleaned.
Keep in mind that most great poems are not jotted down in one impressionistic draft,
but revised many times over months of work. Step 7. Identify the theme and how it relates
to the poem or what it says about the human condition rather than just what it subjectively
means to you. Did you know J. D. Salinger’s title Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters
is a reference to a poem fragment by the ancient Greek poet Sappho.