Word cloud of keywords and phrases from the poem Winter Swans

Interpreting and analysing a poem is not necessarily a matter of finding the right answer.

Poems are complex creations and are open to many different interpretations. Your interpretation is as valid as anyone else's - as long as you can back it up with suitable evidence from the text.

Remember to avoid simply identifying what techniques or approaches poets use. Aim to show an understanding of how form, language and structure create meanings and effects.

Below are some differing interpretations of the poem. How would you interpret the poem?


Interpretation of the lines: ‘the waterlogged earth/ gulping for breath at our feet’

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The earth is heavy after days of rain.The rain has caused the ground to become ‘waterlogged’ and difficult to walk through.
The ground represents the state of the relationship, which has also come through a storm.The way the earth is ‘waterlogged’ represents the way their communication has become difficult. It is ‘gulping for breath’, which suggests crying or an effort to speak.

Interpretation of the line: ‘like boats righting in rough weather.’

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The simile describes how the swans tip themselves back to a stable swimming position.The swans are stable even in storms and find their way to balance, despite the ‘rough weather’.
The simile also refers to the couple.The way the boats ‘right’ themselves suggests that the couple can also come through difficult times and find their balance again.

Interpretation of the line: ‘like a pair of wings settling after flight.’

InterpretationReason for interpretation
The simile compares the couple’s hands to wings.The image reminds us of the swans’ wings and reminds us of the swans’ inclination to mate for life.
The couple return to a place of love in the end.The word ‘pair’ implies that the two people belong together and their ‘settling’ suggests that a fight has come to an end.