Your personal response

Board with questions to ask yourself when first looking at a poem (i.e. 'what does this poem make me feel')

Read a poem and think about the effect it has on you. Read it through again at least two or three times before starting to write about it. If you are writing about a poem you have already studied before, re-reading it will remind you of its effect.

If there are parts of the poem you don’t understand or confuse you, don’t worry. At this stage, you are just trying to work out your general response to the poem.

Questions to consider:

  • how does this poem make me feel?
  • are there particular parts of the poem that stand out for me and why?
  • what is the poet saying or how is the poet expressing themselves that makes me feel this way?
  • are there other ways that someone else might interpret the poem?
  • what are the details in the poem that might support another interpretation?

Example question

Read this first stanza of Jackie Kay’s poem Dusting the Phone. Think about what your response to it is and what stands out to you. Try reading it twice and closing your eyes and looking away, what do you remember from it?

Dusting the Phone

by Jackie Kay
I am spending my time imagining the worst that could happen.
I know this is not a good idea, and that being in love, I could be
spending my time going over the best thing that has been happening.

Sample response

We can see that the speaker is 'in love' and she imagines 'the worst that could happen'. This is striking because we imagine being in love as being something that makes people happy. However the first stanza shows that this isn’t always the case and that love can make someone anxious and worried.


This response demonstrates the reader’s engagement with the poem and shows an understanding of the way the poem offers a surprising view of love. It includes short references from the poem that is effectively woven into the response.

Explore the study guide for 'Dusting the Phone'.