AP Literary Terms: Poetry

Verse
any composition in lines of more or less regular rhythm, usually ending in rhymes, is verse

Paraphrasing a poem
putting into one’s own words what we understand the poem to say, restating ideas that seem essential, coming out and stating what a poem may only suggest.

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Summary
– a brief condensation of gist, main idea, or story

Theme
the message or deeper meaning of a poem (not its subject, main topic)

Lyric poetry
a short poem expressing the thoughts and feelings of a single speaker

Narrative poetry
one whose main purpose is to tell a story

Dramatic poetry
presents the voice of an imaginary character (or characters) speaking directly, without any additional narration by the author.

Dramatic Monologue
a poem written as a speech made by a character (other than the author) at some decisive moment.

Tone
the attitude the poet wants a reader to take towards a theme or subject of a poem.

Satiric Poetry
a kind of comic poetry that generally conveys a message with a tone of detached amusement, withering contempt, and/or implied superiority

Denotation
dictionary definition of a word

Connotation
our associations and suggestions related to a word.

Diction
a writer’s choice of words

Concrete diction
words that we can immediately perceive with our senses. Ex. Dog, actor, chemical, etc.

Pun
a play on words

Paradox
a statement that at first strikes us as self- contradictory but that on reflection makes some sense.

Synecdoche
is the use of a part of a thing to stand for the whole of it or vice versa ex. She lent me her hand, meaning her entire presence.

Metonymy
when the name of a thing is substituted for that of another closely associated with it.
Ex. The White House decided, meaning the president decided

Apostrophe
a way of addressing someone or something invisible or not ordinarily spoken to

Levels of diction
Colloquial vs. general vs. Formal English – A ladder is imagined where words, phrases, and sentences can be ranked in ascending order of formality. Casual every day speech- general English which is not pretentious but more studied, impersonal language of educated persons usually only written, possibly spoken on dignified occasions.

Simile
a comparison of two things using like or as

Metaphor
a statement that one thing is something else, which in a literal sense is not true. It can be an implied metaphor, meaning the verb to be was not used.

Haiku
poem that consist many of images in 3 lines of a 5-7-5 syllables traditionally. Some English haiku poets do not follow this formula.

Imagery
to speak of all the images of a poem taken together. Often more useful than to speak of only one image.

Image (in poetry)
a word of sequence of words that refer to any sensory experience. (Visual imagery – sight, auditory imagery – sound, tactile imagery – texture/touch)

Dialect
a particular variety of language spoken by an identifiable regional group or social class of persons.

Abstract diction
words that express ideas of concepts.
Ex. love, time, truth, etc.

Allusion
an indirect reference to any person, place, or thing – fictitious, historical, or actual.

Euphony
pleasing sound of words in a poem

Conventional symbol
Symbols that, because of their frequent use, have acquired a standard significance. They may range from complex metaphysical images such as those of Christian saints in Gothic art to social customs such as a young bride in a white dress. They are conventional symbols because they carry recognizable meanings and suggestions.

Symbolic act
An actual whose significance goes well beyond its literal meaning. In literature, symbolic acts often involve a primal or unconscious ritual element such as rebirth, purification, forgiveness, vengeance, or initiation.

Allegory
A description – often a narrative – in which the literal events (persons, places, and things) consistently point to a parallel sequence of ideas, values, or other recognizable abstractions. An allegory has two levels of meaning: a literal level that tells a surface story and a symbolic level in which the abstractions unfold.

Symbol
A person, place, or thing in a narrative that suggests meanings beyond its literal sense. Symbol is related to allegory, but it works more complexly. A symbol bears multiple suggestions and associations. It is unique to the wok, not common to a culture.

Cacophony
a harsh, discordant effect of sound in a poem

Concrete Poetry
A visual poetry composed exclusively for the page in which a picture or image is made of printed letters and words. Concrete poetry attempts to blur the line between language and visual objects, usually relying on puns and cleverness.

Prose Poetry
Poetic language printed in prose paragraphs, but displaying the careful attention to sound, imagery, and figurative language characteristic of poetry.

Free verse
From the French vers libre. Free verse is poetry whose lines follow no consistent meter. It may be rimed, but usually is not. In the last hundred years, free verse has become a common practice.

Open Form
Poems that do not have a rhyme scheme nor a basic meter are in open form. Also called free verse.

Villanelle
a fixed form that emphasizes the repetition of two distinct lines through six stanzas. Look up “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas.

Sestina
a fixed form involving six end-words are repeated in a specific pattern. My favorite is simply titled “Sestina” by Elizabeth Bishop.

English Sonnet
Also called Shakespearean Sonnet, it has the following rime scheme organized into three quatrains and a concluding couplet: a b a b c d c d e f e f g g. The poem may turn – that is shift in mood or tone – between any of the
rhyme clusters.

Onomatopoeia
an attempt to represent a thing or action by a word that imitates the sound associated with it. Ex zoom, buzz, crash, etc.

Italian Sonnet
Also called Petrachan sonnet, it rimes the octave (the first eight lines) a b b a a b b a; the sestet (the last six lines) may follow any rime pattern, as long as it does not end in a couplet. The poem traditionally turns, or shifts in mood or tone, after the octave.

Sonnet
A fixed form of fourteen lines, traditionally written in iambic pentameter and rimed throughout.

Epigram
A very short, comic poem, often turning at the end with some sharp wit or unexpected stinger.

Epic
A long narrative poem tracing the adventures of a popular hero. Epic poems are usually written in a consistent form and meter throughout.

Quatrain
A stanza consisting of four lines, it is the most common stanza form used in English-language poetry.

Closed couplet
Two rimed lines of iambic pentameter that usually contain an independent and complete thought or statement. Also called heroic couplet.

Couplet
A two-line stanza in poetry, usually rimed and with lines of equal length.

Blank verse
Blank verse contains five iambic feet per line (iambic pentameter) and is not rimed. “Blank” means unrimed.

Closed Form
A generic term that describes poetry written in a pattern of meter, rime, lines, or stanzas. A closed form adheres to a set structure.

Alliteration
repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words (initial alliteration), in the middle of words (internal alliteration), or in sounds that do not look alike but have similar sounds (hidden alliteration)

Fixed Form
A traditional verse form requiring certain predetermined elements of structure – for example, a stanza pattern, set meter, or predetermined line length.

Form
In a general sense, form is the means by which a literary work expresses its content. In poetry, form is usually to describe the design of a poem.

Monometer
one foot

dimeter
two feet

trimeter
three feet

Dactylic
a line made up primarily of dactyls = one stressed followed by two unstressed syllables. (opposite of Anapestic)

Ex. Take her up tenderly

Trochaic
a line made up primarily of trcohees = stressed followed by an unstressed (opposite of Iambic)

Ex. Double, double, toil and trouble

Anapestic
– a line made up primarily of anapests = two unstressed followed by a stressed.

Ex. Now this is the Law of the Jungle-as old and as true

Assonance
repetition of vowel sounds. Can also be initial or internal

Rhyme
when two or more words or phrases contain an identical or similar vowel sound, usually accented, and the consonant-sounds (if any) that follow the vowel-sound are identical ex. Hay/ sleigh, prairie schooner/piano tuner. (exact rhyme)

Iambic
a line made up primarily of iambs =unstressed followed by a stressed syllable

Ex. But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

Foot
a unit of two or three syllables that contains one strong stress as a building block for a fixed meter

Prosody
the study of meter

Scansion
the art of listening to the poem for its meter

Cesura/Caesura
any pause within a line of poetry (not at the end of the line)
Meter – the fixed intervals of stressed and unstressed syllables

Consonance
a kind of slant rhyme when the rhymed words or phrases have the same beginning and end consonant sounds but a different vowel sound.
Ex. Reader to rider.

Slant rhyme
when final consonant sounds are the same but the vowel sounds are different.
Ex. Sun with bone, moon, rain, green, gone. Also called a near rhyme, off rhyme, or imperfect rhyme.

End Rhyme
comes at the end of lines. Internal Rhyme comes in the middle of a line of poetry.

End-stopped
when there is some form of punctuation at the end of a line of poetry.

Stress (accent)
syllable given more force Slack – the unstressed syllables

Rhythm
the recurrance of stresses and pauses within a poem.

Masculine Rhyme
one-syllable rhyme (jail/bail) or in words of two or more syllables the second syllable is stressed. (di-VORSE, re-MORSE)

Feminine Rhyme
a rhyme of two or more syllables with the stress on a syllable other than the last (FER-tile, TUR-tle)