Poetry Explained

How to TPCASTT a Poem with Worksheet

Like companies perform SWOT, we, the poetry analysts, perform TPCASTT in order to decipher the nuances of a piece of poetry.

TPCASTT is an innovative poetry analysis method that we often use to understand a poetic text in a holistic manner. The acronym is made up of the first letter of each step used in this method. For instance, the first letter “T” stands for the first step in which students need to analyze the title before reading the full poem. Likewise, “P” stands for the second step which tells us to paraphrase the poem in our own words. The technique is useful in writing poetry analysis essays. It helps us to organize our thoughts regarding a poem before diving into the writing part.

TPCASTT pronunciation: ti-pi-kast

Start your own TPCASTT Analysis

Read everything you need to know about TPCASST poetry analysis in this article and download the complimentary pdf to start analyzing poetry effectively with TPCASTT.

What is TPCASTT?

TPCASTT is a stepwise poetry analysis method used to analyze a text with specific emphasis on the title, content, connotation, attitude, shift, and theme.

The term TPCASTT comprises seven simple steps in order to point out the important aspects of a poem. This technique guides readers to appreciate a poetry text in a holistic manner. In the acronym:

  1. T means Title
  2. P means Paraphrase
  3. C means Connotation
  4. A means Attitude
  5. S means Shifts
  6. T means Title
  7. T means Theme

Note: Always remember – there are two T’s at the end of the acronym.

As we can see, the first and sixth step focuses on the title of a poem. Do we need to analyze a poem’s title twice? Yes, in the first step, you have to analyze only the title without reading the poem and in the sixth step, you have to figure out why the title is appropriate with respect to the subject matter. Let’s explore all the steps in detail below:

How to TPCASTT a Poem Explained

Step One – Read the Title

In the first step, you have to read the poem’s title and think about its significance. For your reference, there are two types of titles:

  • Interactive Title
  • Naming Title

Interactive titles generally have something to do with the text itself. Whereas naming titles gives out a general sort of information about the poem. In the first case, you have to be aware of the title’s implications. There are several poems, especially from the 19th and 20th centuries, that don’t have any titles. For those poems, consider the first line as its title. In this step, write down what you think about the title and what its significance could be.

Step Two – Paraphrase the poem

In the second step of TPCASTT, thoroughly paraphrase the poem by replacing the critical words with simple ones. For short poems, you have to write only three or four lines. In long poems, the paraphrase could be several lines longer. Always remember that your paraphrase must include the exact number of complete sentences, if any, used in the poem. To paraphrase a piece, you have to simplify the poem in easier terms. Writing a summary is like providing a snapshot of the piece, which is different from a paraphrase.

Step Three – Figuring out the connotations

The third step is the most important step of all the seven steps. It requires thorough knowledge of poetic devices, imagery, figurative language, diction, point of view, sound devices, etc. Otherwise, it is difficult to determine the figurative meaning of a line apart from its literal meaning. It is not expected of students to find out all the devices in order to figure out the connotation. They just need to point out the important ones and justify how those devices impact the poem’s overall meaning or the idea of a particular line.

Step Four – What’s the speaker’s attitude/tone?

In the fourth step, you have to identify the attitude or tone of the speaker to the subject. The information we gathered in the third step greatly helps us in this step. To determine the speaker’s tone one needs to examine the diction, imagery, and rhetorical details within the text. After pointing out the tone, you can talk about how it affects the mood or the impression of the poem on readers’ minds.

Step Five – Where do the shifts occur?

The fifth TPCASTT step deals with the shifts in a poem. What does shift mean? Consider shift as a change or transition from a specific thought to the next. In poetry analysis, we consider shifts as the change in attitude, word choice, structural divisions (stanza breaks or line breaks), punctuation marks, etc. In order to find the shifts in a poem, you have to critically examine the tone, punctuations, stanza breaks, changes in diction, etc.

Step Six – Reread the title

After completing the above steps, you have to read the title again. But, this time, you are reading the title from an analyst’s perspective. The first time, like a beginner, you’re speculating upon the title’s possible meanings. This time you have become familiar with the intricate details and connotations. So, try to figure out what new details the title provides. Compare your preliminary interpretation with your conclusive interpretation of the title. Explore how the title reveals more insights after a thorough analysis of the poem.

Step Seven – What’s the theme of the poem?

The final step is all about identifying the theme of the poem. Theme means a recurrent idea in a piece of poetry. Poets generally focus on a single idea throughout the text. For instance, the conventional sonnets typically deal with the theme of love and heartbreak. It is not that a poem taps on a single time. Sometimes, a poem includes more than one theme and all of them are important. Always write about a poem’s theme with related textual references.

TPCASTT Poetry Analysis Example (with Infographic)

TPCASTT-ing becomes easy when one has learned the above steps by heart. It is easy to remember the steps with the help of the acronym. We’ve also prepared an infographic to help you with recalling the steps.

TPCASTT Poetry Analysis Steps Infographic

With this TPCASTT of Sonnet 18,’ one of the best-known sonnets of William Shakespeare, it’d be easier to apply the steps yourself. You can find the full text below. Jump to the TPCASTT table first beneath the poem.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;

Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:

   So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

   So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

TPCASTT of Sonnet 18

TTitleThe poem does not contain a naming title or an interactive title. The first line, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”, regarded as the poem’s title, could be a reference to a speaker’s attempt to compare a friend, partner, lover, or someone else to a summer’s day. It could be a poem about a speaker’s inability to draw exact images in order to describe one’s beauty.

Note: Don’t read the whole poem. Only read the first line.
PParaphraseShall I compare you to a summer’s day? You are more lovely and more pleasant: rough winds do shake the darling May buds and summer’s lease is too short; sometimes heaven’s eye shines too hot and often his gold color is dimmed; and every fair thing sometimes declines in its fairness, by chance or nature’s changing untrimmed course; but your eternal summer shall not fade, nor lose ownership of that beauty you own; nor shall death boast you wander in his shade when in (my) eternal lines you grow with time: so long as men can breathe or eyes can see, so long lives this (my poem), and this gives life to you.

Note: The full poem is a single sentence comprising a number of clauses. This piece could be regarded as a long one-liner address to a speaker’s beloved.
CConnotationThe diction or word choice of William Shakespeare reflects a sense of confidence and fearlessness. The use of the legal term “lease,” enhances this piece’s credulity. The use of archaic terms “thou” and “ow’st” hints that this piece is from the Renaissance period.

This sonnet is written using the ABAB CDCD EFEF GG and in iambic pentameter. So, there are four quatrains and a rhyming couplet at the end. This form is also known as the Shakespearean sonnet form. In the quatrains, the speaker paints the speculative future of his beloved, unaltered by time, change, or death. In the final quatrain (specifically in the last three lines), he describes why his beloved’s fairness or beauty will not fade.

The poet uses a rhetorical question (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”), hyperbole (“more lovely,” “more temperate,” etc.), personification (“wind,” “summer,” “sun,” “time,” “nature,” and “death” are personified), metaphor (“summer’s lease hath too short a date,” “the eye of heaven,” etc.), and anaphora (in the last couplet).
AAttitudeThe speaker’s attitude or tone in the overall poem is confident, fearless, and optimistic. He discusses how his lover’s beauty won’t fade with specific references to natural imagery that is bound to decay. The speaker feels confident about the fact that his verse would live as long as humans breathe or their eyes see. Therefore, through his poem, his lover would live and his fairness won’t fade, in fact, it would grow with time.
SShiftsThere is a shift in the speaker’s tone in the ninth line, “But thy eternal summer shall not fade.” It slightly differs from the tone with which the second line begins. The use of the stressed syllable “But” at the beginning of line 9 somehow paints the speaker’s hidden sense of fear that is natural in every human being. It is the fear of “death,” in whose “shade” humans wander. There is another shift in line 13, where the speaker’s attitude becomes more confident than in the previous lines.
TTitleThe sonnet’s title or the first line, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”, is not expressive of a speaker’s inability to paint his beloved’s beauty, but it refers to the speaker’s conviction. He is confident of the fact that his lover is too beautiful to describe using stock-in-trade imagery. Therefore, the beautiful day of May seems less magnificent in comparison to the lover’s fairness.
TThemeThis sonnet incorporates a number of important themes, such as the immortalization of love, the timelessness of poetry, and intellectual beauty. The central theme of this piece is the immortalization of love. Throughout this piece, the speaker negates the fact that his lover is mortal. Unlike other human beings, death or time will have no authority over his lover as he immortalizes the person through his poetry.

Read about the most important themes in poetry.

Explore all 154 sonnets of Shakespeare.

Practice TPCASTT – Example Poetry

To master any poetry analysis technique, you have to practice, not once, but a number of times, before you fully understand the importance of applying each step. Here you can find poems from beginner to advanced levels of difficulty to help you with your poetry analysis journey. Use the TPCASTT worksheet while analyzing the following poems.




Final Words

TPCASTT is one of the most comprehensive and useful poetry analysis techniques that we often use to analyze poems. It not only covers all of the important aspects of a poem but also helps us organize our thoughts before writing a proper poetry analysis piece. However, there are some easier poetry analysis techniques that you can consider using while analyzing a poem. TPCASTT is not recommended for those who have just started their poetry analysis journey. Instead, they could use SMILE and TOASTT, or TPFASTT, an alternative for TPCASTT.

Start your own TPCASTT Analysis

Read everything you need to know about TPCASST poetry analysis in this article and download the complimentary pdf to start analyzing poetry effectively with TPCASTT.


What does TPCASTT mean?

TPCASTT is a comprehensive poetry analysis technique that comprises seven steps. It is used to organize our thoughts before diving straight to the conclusion. Using this method, one can analyze a poem in a holistic manner.

How do you analyze a poem using TPCASTT?

In the first step of TPCASTT, we have to analyze the title of a poem without reading the text. Secondly, we paraphrase the poem. Thirdly, we figure out the connotations of the lines. Fourthly, we determine the speaker’s attitude or tone. In the fifth step, we find out where the shifts occur in the poem. The sixth step is about rereading and reanalyzing the title. In the last step, we figure out the theme of the poem.

What does shift mean in TPCASTT?

In poetry, shift generally occurs near the end or somewhere in the middle of the text. A shift means a change in the speaker’s tone and the poem’s diction. It is comparable to the volta in sonnets.

How do you paraphrase a poem in TPCASTT?

In TPCASTT, the second step is about paraphrasing a poem. In order to paraphrase a poem, we have to write the poem’s lines in simple sentences, by replacing the critical words with their easy-to-understand synonyms.

Other Resources

Sudip Das Gupta Poetry Expert
A complete expert on poetry, Sudip graduated with a first-class B.A. Honors Degree in English Literature. He has a passion for analyzing poetic works with a particular emphasis on literary devices and scansion.
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