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References to other literature

Many poems have subtle references to other pieces of literature (not necessarily poetry, in fact, more often not) that, when the reader ‘gets’ the reference, vastly increases their understanding and enjoyment of the poem. Common references include the Bible (and other religious references), classic literary works, and major events, such as wars. When reading a poem, keep an eye out for phrases that you recognise as direct references, and also for phrases that don’t quite make sense to you or seem out of place. Often, once you understand the reference, the phrase will fit perfectly.