1. Poetry is written in verse.
a. Verse is writing that has rhythm or a regular beat (like music).
b. Poems are divided into groups of lines called stanzas. Stanzas are often separated by spaces within the poem.
2. Poetry often has rhyme.
a. Rhyme is the repetition of like-sounding words at the ends of lines. Poetry, however, does not have to rhyme.
3. Poetry is concerned with sound as well as sense.
a. Poetry is meant to be read or sung aloud; therefore, the way it is written is almost as important as what it is about. In addition to rhythm and rhyme, certain devices are used to help create effective sound in poetry.
a) Alliteration: the repetition of starting sounds in words (usually consonants)
i. Eg: “The slither of stones, the lone second of silence”
b) Onomatopoeia: the use of words that sound like what they mean.
i. Eg: whisper, buzz, belch, screech, creak
c) Repetition: the repeating of a word, line or verse throughout a poem.
4. Poetry appeals to the senses through imagery.
a. Imagery is the creation of mental pictures for the reader or listener. Effective imagery appeals to all the senses, not just sight.
i. Eg: The chirp of a cricket lulled me to sleep.
The dew on the grass soaked through my shoes.
Certain figures of speech are used in creating these mental pictures.
a) Metaphor: a comparison in which one thing is said to be something else.
a. Eg: The woman was a tower of strength.
An eagle is the wind.
b) Simile: a comparison using “like” or “as”
a. Eg: She was a busy as a bee.
My love is like a red, red rose.
c) Personification: giving a non-human thing human qualities.
a. Eg: The clouds strolled across the sky.
The sun smiled gently on my shoulders.
d) Symbolism: the use of something concrete to represent something abstract.
a. Eg: the dove = peace or freedom
a rose = love or beauty
a candle = life or welcoming
5. Poetry is writing from the heart to the heart.
The appeal in poetry is often to the reader’s emotions. In poetry, generally the subject is something about which the poet has very strong feelings. The purpose of the poem is to get those feelings across to the reader in a meaningful, effective way.
Because of this emotional appeal, poetry is often used to examine important global, social and personal issues.
6. Poetry is subjective.
Each person tends to react to poetry in a different manner because of the emphasis on feelings. What one person gets out of a poem may be very different than another person’s interpretation. There are, however, generally accepted themes or meanings for most poems.
7. There are many types of poetry.
Lyric: a short poem expressing the poet’s feelings about his or her subject.
- it presents a single, unified impression.
Narrative: a poem which tells a story
Epic: a long narrative poem written in a dignified style (too long to be read all at once)
- usually tells the story of a real or mythical hero
Ballad: a shorter narrative poem meant to be sung
Free Verse: poetry without regular rhythm or line length and usually without rhyme
Haiku: a three line poem consisting of seventeen syllables
- presents a single “snapshot” image, usually of nature
For each poem you study, you should be able to give a summary of its content, explain its theme (author’s message), describe the tone (feeling created by poem), point out specific figures of speech and tell whether it is narrative, descriptive or expository.
Narrative: tells a story
Descriptive: describes something
Expository: explains something
Additional Poetic Terms
Alliteration: repetition of the same sound beginning several words in sequence.
*Let us go forth to lead the land we love. J. F. Kennedy, Inaugural
Anaphora: the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses or lines.
Antithesis: opposition, or contrast of ideas or words in a balanced or parallel construction.
Apostrophe: a sudden turn from the general audience to address a specific group or person or personified abstraction absent or present.
*For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar's angel.
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
Archaism: use of an older or obsolete form.
*Pipit sate upright in her chair
Some distance from where I was sitting; T. S. Eliot, "A Cooking Egg"
Assonance: repetition of the same sound in words close to each other.
*Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.
Cacophony: harsh joining of sounds.
*We want no parlay with you and your grisly gang who work your wicked will. W. Churchill
Euphemism: substitution of an agreeable or at least non-offensive expression for one whose plainer meaning might be harsh or unpleasant.
Hyperbole: exaggeration for emphasis or for rhetorical effect.
Irony: expression of something which is contrary to the intended meaning; the words say one thing but mean another.
Metaphor: implied comparison achieved through a figurative use of words; the word is used not in its literal sense, but in one analogous to it.
Metonymy: substitution of one word for another which it suggests.
*He is a man of the cloth.
*The pen is mightier than the sword.
*By the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat thy bread.
Onomatopoeia: use of words to imitate natural sounds; accommodation of sound to sense.
Oxymoron: apparent paradox achieved by the juxtaposition of words which seem to contradict one another.
*I must be cruel only to be kind. Shakespeare, Hamlet
Paradox: an assertion seemingly opposed to common sense, but that may yet have some truth in it.
*What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young. George Bernard Shaw
Personification: attribution of personality to an impersonal thing.
*England expects every man to do his duty. Lord Nelson
Simile: an explicit comparison between two things using 'like' or 'as'.
Syntax: The way in which words and clauses are ordered and connected so as to form sentences; or the set of grammatical rules governing such word order.
Symbol:[S]omething that is itself and also stands for something else. . . . In a literary sense, a symbol combines a literal and sensuous quality with an abstract or suggestive aspect
Motif: A recurrent image, word, phrase, represented object or action that tends to unify the literary work or that may be elaborated into a more general theme. Also, a situation, incident, idea, image, or character type that is found in many different literary works, folktales, or myths.
Denotation: The basic dictionary meaning of a word, as opposed to its connotative meaning.
Connotation: The emotional implications and associations that words may carry, as distinguished from their denotative meanings
Allusion: An indirect or passing reference to some event, person, place, or artistic work, the nature and relevance of which is not explained by the writer but relies on the reader’s familiarity with what is thus mentioned. The technique of allusion is an economical means of calling upon the history or the literary tradition that author and reader are assumed to share
Allegory: A story or visual image with a second distinct meaning partially hidden behind its literal or visible meaning. In written narrative, allegory involves a continuous parallel between two (or more) levels of meaning in a story, so that its persons and events correspond to their equivalents in a system of ideas or a chain of events external to the tale.
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