How to Paraphrase a Poem

Posted by Splice, Essay Tips Chief Writer

How to Paraphrase a Poem. In paraphrasing poems, you have to consider a few things. First, ask yourself, is it better if I simply directly quote a few lines from the poem instead of paraphrasing them? If the message of the poem is best expressed by the original words, it is recommended that you directly quote them instead. This will help retain the strength of the message in the poem. However, if your answer to that question is "no", then read on and learn to paraphrase that poem.

Before you can even attempt to paraphrase a few lines from a poem, make sure that you are already familiar with the poem's message. Otherwise, you have to read the poem again and get a good idea of the message it is trying to give you.

After making sure that you already know the poem's message, close your copy of the poem and try reciting it using your own words. Imagine the poem's message in your head. This way, you'll be able to have a few words of your own. This is the initial step to effectively paraphrasing the poem.

Next, grab a pen and a piece of paper (or open your word editing software such as MSWord) and rewrite the thoughts that you had in imagining the poem's message. Make sure that you're not taking a peek at the copy of your poem so that what you'll be writing is independent from the poem's original text.

Now, what you have just written down is you may refer to as the "draft" of your poem's paraphrase. The next step is to take a good look at the original text of the poem and see if there are any words that you have written down which aren't exactly referring back to the message of the poem. Edit your initial paraphrase in terms of its sentence structure and message.

Here is an example on how to paraphrase a poem:

[Original text]

I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
Then.

Besides,
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--

I, too, am America.


[Paraphrase text]

Although the color of my skin may be different than yours, I am also like the rest of my fellowmen and you. And because we are not any different, I can also eat at the table with the company of other people. My darker complexion makes me no less beautiful than everybody else, which should make them feel sorry for treating me like less than the average individual. I am also like the rest of you.

You may also want to read what paraphrasing is in general, quotes versus paraphrase, how to paraphrase direct quotes from other articles such as books and journals or read some paraphrasing samples.

paraphrasing samples
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