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But, It’s Too Hard!
Approaching difficult
poetry and prose
without Mrs.
Scenario: TPCASTT this poem…
Much Madness is divinest Sense By Emily
To a discerning Eye —
Much Sense — the starkest Madness —
’Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevail —
Assent — and you are sane —
Demur — you’re straightway dangerous —
And handled with a Chain —
Steps for Understanding Difficult Poetry
1. Read it once. Then read it
2. Look up the words you
don’t know and write a
synonym for that word
above each one.
3. Re-read the poem using
the synonyms you found.
Make sure you reference
any footnotes.
4. Google search online
summaries for the
poem, and then reread the poem after
reading the summary.
5. Finish the TPCASTT.
• Read the poem out loud.
Listen to your partner
read it out loud.
• Work with your partner
on analyzing the poetryactually have a discussion
about it!
• After you have tried these
things, then as Mrs. B for
help and be very specific
about where you are
• Remember Billy Collins’
advice: approach it with
an attitude of curiosity
and discovery, not dread
and pain! 
Credible Web Sources for Poetry Help
• Online Dictionary
• Online Thesaurus (for
• Spark Notes Poetry Help
• How to Read a Poem