In my post Goodbyes, No Tears, I paraphrased John Donne's poem, A Valediction: Forbidden Morning. One of my commentors asked what benefit I gleaned from the paraphrase.I thought I'd respond in a new post.
The most obvious answer is that I was able to see how clearly form is tied to meaning. You just don't get as much out of my three paragraph summarization of what happens in the poem. The connotations behind the words in the poem, the flowing rhymes and the feel of the meter; these all contribute unique meaning to the poem itself and cannot be accurately captured in a paraphrase.
Despite this, I still found that paraphrasing the work forced me to spend more time digesting it. I looked up words instead of glossing over what I thought the intended meaning was. One example is the word melt in the fifth line. One definition of melt is actually to soften as in to make more mild. I was then able to understand the intended meaning of the stanza better. My interpretation of the poem greatly depends on the meaning of this word: that Donne would like his lover's and his parting to be soft and sweet, not stormy and emotional. So, paraphrasing was very useful to me in understanding the poem.