IB Lit Poetry Terms

Alliteration
A poetic device where the first consonant sounds or any vowel sounds in words or syllables are repeated.

Allusion
A reference to a familiar literary or historical person or event, used to make an idea more easily understood.

Apostrophe
A statement, question, or request addressed to an inanimate object or concept or to a nonexistent or absent person.

Assonance
The repetition of similar vowel sounds in poetry.

Ballad
A short poem that tells a simple story and has a repeated refrain. Ballads were originally intended to be sung. Early ballads, known as folk ballads, were passed down through generations, so their authors are often unknown. Later ballads composed by known authors are called literary ballads

Cadence
The natural rhythm of language caused by the alternation of accented and unaccented syllables. Much modern Poetry— notably free Verse — deliberately manipulates cadence to create complex rhythmic effects. Walt Whitman’s poetry uses cadence.

Caesura
A pause in a line of poetry, usually occurring near the middle. It typically corresponds to a break in the natural rhythm or sense of the line but is sometimes shifted to create special meanings or rhythmic effects.

Complaint
A lyric poem, popular in the Renaissance, in which the speaker expresses sorrow about his or her condition. Typically, the speaker’s sadness is caused by an unresponsive lover, but some complaints cite other sources of unhappiness, such as poverty or fate.

Confessional Poetry
A form of poetry in which the poet reveals very personal, intimate, sometimes shocking information about himself or herself.

Connotation
The impression that a word gives beyond its defined meaning. Connotations may be universally understood or may be significant only to a certain group. Both “horse” and “steed” denote the same animal, but “steed” has a different connotation, deriving from the chivalrous or romantic narratives in which the word was once often used.

Consonance
(Also known as Half Rhyme or Slant Rhyme.) Consonance occurs in poetry when words appearing at the ends of two or more verses have similar final consonant sounds but have final vowel sounds that differ, as with “stuff” and “off.” Consonance is found in “The curfew tolls the knells of parting day” from Thomas Grey’s “An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard.”

Couplet
Two lines of poetry with the same rhyme and meter, often expressing a complete and self-contained thought.

Denotation
The definition of a word, apart from the impressions or feelings it creates in the reader.

Dissonance
A combination of harsh or jarring sounds, especially in poetry. Although such combinations may be accidental, poets sometimes intentionally make them to achieve particular effects. Dissonance is also sometimes used to refer to close but not identical rhymes. When this is the case, the word functions as a synonym for consonance.

Dramatic Poetry
Any lyric work that employs elements of drama such as dialogue, conflict, or characterization, but excluding works that are intended for stage presentation. A monologue is a form of dramatic poetry.

Elegy
A lyric poem that laments the death of a person or the eventual death of all people. In a conventional elegy, set in a classical world, the poet and subject are spoken of as shepherds. In modern criticism, the word elegy is often used to refer to a poem that is melancholy or mournfully contemplative.

Foot
The smallest unit of rhythm in a line of poetry. In English-language poetry, a foot is typically one accented syllable combined with one or two unaccented syllables.
There are many different types of feet. When the accent is on the second syllable of a two syllable word (con-tort), the foot is an “iamb”; the reverse accentual pattern (tor-ture) is a “trochee.” Other feet that commonly occur in poetry in English are “anapest”, two unaccented syllables followed by an accented syllable as in in-ter-cept, and “dactyl”, an accented syllable followed by two unaccented syllables as in su-i-cide.

Free Verse
Poetry that lacks regular metrical and rhyme patterns but that tries to capture the cadences of everyday speech. The form allows a poet to exploit a variety of rhythmical effects within a single poem.

Internal Rhyme
rhyme that occurs within a single line of Verse.

Lyric Poetry
A poem expressing the subjective feelings and personal emotions of the poet. Such poetry is melodic, since it was originally accompanied by a lyre in recitals. Most Western poetry in the twentieth century may be classified as lyrical.

Meter
In literary criticism, the repetition of sound patterns that creates a rhythm in poetry. The patterns are based on the number of syllables and the presence and absence of accents. The unit of rhythm in a line is called a foot. Types of meter are classified according to the number of feet in a line. These are the standard English lines: Monometer, one foot; Dimeter, two feet; Trimeter, three feet; Tetrameter, four feet; Pentameter, five feet; Hexameter, six feet (also called the Alexandrine); Heptameter, seven feet (also called the “Fourteener” when the feet are iambic). The most common English meter is the iambic pentameter, in which each line contains ten syllables, or five iambic feet, which individually are composed of an unstressed syllable followed by an accented syllable.

Octave
A poem or stanza composed of eight lines. The term octave most often represents the first eight lines of a Petrarchan sonnet.

Ode
Name given to an extended lyric poem characterized by exalted emotion and dignified style. An ode usually concerns a single, serious theme. Most odes, but not all, are addressed to an object or individual. Odes are distinguished from other lyric poetic forms by their complex rhythmic and stanzaic patterns.

Onomatopoeia
The use of words whose sounds express or suggest their meaning. In its simplest sense, onomatopoeia may be represented by words that mimic the sounds they denote such as “hiss” or “meow.” At a more subtle level, the pattern and rhythm of sounds and rhymes of a line or poem may be onomatopoeic.

Pastoral
A term derived from the Latin word “pastor,” meaning shepherd. A pastoral is a literary composition on a rural theme. The conventions of the pastoral were originated by the third-century Greek poet Theocritus, who wrote about the experiences, love affairs, and pastimes of Sicilian shepherds. In a pastoral, characters and language of a courtly nature are often placed in a simple setting. The term pastoral is also used to classify dramas, elegies, and lyrics that exhibit the use of country settings and shepherd characters.

Quatrain
A four-line stanza of a poem or an entire poem consisting of four lines.

Refrain
A phrase repeated at intervals throughout a poem. A refrain may appear at the end of each stanza or at less regular intervals. It may be altered slightly at each appearance.

Rhyme
When used as a noun in literary criticism, this term generally refers to a poem in which words sound identical or very similar and appear in parallel positions in two or more lines. Rhymes are classified into different types according to where they fall in a line or stanza or according to the degree of similarity they exhibit in their spellings and sounds. Some major types of rhyme are “masculine” rhyme, “feminine” rhyme, and “triple” rhyme. In a masculine rhyme, the rhyming sound falls in a single accented syllable, as with “heat” and “eat.” Feminine rhyme is a rhyme of two syllables, one stressed and one unstressed, as with “merry” and “tarry.” Triple rhyme matches the sound of the accented syllable and the two unaccented syllables that follow: “narrative” and “declarative.”

Sonnet
A fourteen-line poem, usually composed in iambic pentameter, employing one of several rhyme schemes. The Shakespearean sonnet is divided into three quatrains and a couplet rhymed abab cdcd efef gg. The couplet provides an epigrammatic comment on the narrative or problem put forth in the quatrains. The Spenserian sonnet uses three quatrains and a couplet like the Shakespearean, but links their three rhyme schemes in this way: abab bcbc cdcd ee. The Spenserian sonnet develops its theme in two parts, its final six lines resolving a problem, analyzing a narrative, or applying a proposition put forth in its first eight lines.

Stanza
A subdivision of a poem consisting of lines grouped together, often in recurring patterns of rhyme, line length, and meter. Stanzas may also serve as units of thought in a poem much like paragraphs in prose.