SOAPStone and DIDLS for Poetry Analysis

Following are a handful of techniques you can use to perform a close reading on a poem.  Using one or a combination will jumpstart your thinking when preparing to write an essay.  Not all of these skills will work for you on every poem you read, but if you memorize these, one or more of them should assist you in figuring just about any poem put in front of you. You can also click here for a slightly different approach to analyzing poetry.


SOAPS is handy as a general introduction to a poem.  If you are having a tough time getting any meaning at all from a poem, SOAPS will lead you to at least a basic understanding.

Subject—the general topic, content and ideas in the poem.

Occasion—The time and place of the poem.  Try to understand the context that encouraged the poem to be written.

Audience—To whom is the poem written?

Purpose—What is the reason behind the writing of the poem?

Speaker—What can you say about the voice speaking the poem?

After reading the poem through once, take a moment to write a few complete thoughts regarding each of the above subjects.


Often, the poetry question on the AP  or IB examination will ask you to consider the tone of a poem.  If this is the case, use DIDLS to establish how the author creates tone.

Diction—the connotation of the word choice

Consider the following when discussing diction

·   monosyllabic/polysyllabic

· colloquial/informal/formal

·    denotative/connotative

·    euphonious/cacophonous

Images—vivid appeals to understanding through the senses

Details—Facts that are included or omitted

Language—The overall use of language, formal, colloquial, clinical, jargon, etc…

Sentence Structure—How structure affects the reader’s attitude

After reading the poem, consider each carefully.  As with SOAPS, spend some time writing down your thoughts.


Arm yourself with three different colored highlighters.  Use these pens to divide the poem as you read it.  Your divisions depend on the poem you are reading.  For example, you might find a poem to be heavy in images of nature, while the author’s diction leads toward words that provide a connotation of cold.  Use your pens, one color to highlight the images, another for diction.  Or you could highlight shifts in tone or attitude with one color, and use another to highlight important punctuation that speeds up or slows down the rhythm of the poem.  You get the idea.

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