Poetry 101

allegory
a story in which people, things, and happenings have a hidden or symbolic meaning: allegories are used for teaching or explaining ideas, moral principles, etc.

alliteration
The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words
EX) “She sells sea-shells down by the sea-shore”

allusion
a reference to something literary, mythological, or historical that the author assumes the reader will recognize

anaphora
repetition of a word or phrase as the beginning of successive clauses
EX) “I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun.”

antanaclasis
repetition of key word in a phrase as a play on words; the sense or meaning of the word changes in the second instance
EX) “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

antithesis “an-TITH-uh-sis”
a statement in which two opposing ideas are balanced
EX) “Give me liberty or give me death.”

apostrophe
in which the speaker addresses an absent quality, object or person as if it were present and sentient

assonance
the act of repeating a vowel sound in a phrase or sentence, often in poetry
EX) “True, I do like Sue.”

blank verse
unrhymed verse (usually in iambic pentameter)

caesure “sa-SUR-uh”
a break or pause in a line of verse, usually about the middle of the line and is shown in scanning by the sign ?

consonance
the repetition of consonants or of a consonant pattern, especially at the ends of words
EX) blank and think or strong and string

couplet
a unit of verse consisting of two successive lines, usually rhyming and having the same meter and often forming a complete thought or syntactic unit.
EX) “For I have sworn thee fair and thought thee bright / Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.”

elision
the omission of an unstressed vowel or syllable to preserve the meter
EX) “Now his huge bulk o’er Afric’s sands careened,”

end-rhyme
rhyme that occurs at the end of two or more lines of poetry
EX) “Twinkle, twinkle little star,
How I wonder where you are.”

epistrophe
repetition of a word or expression at the end of successive phrases, clauses, sentences, or verses; opposite of anaphora
EX) “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.”

eye rhyme
rhyme that appears correct from spelling but does not rhyme because of pronunciation; aka “sight rhyme”
EX) love, move

end-stopped
a line of poetry that ends with a natural pause often indicated by a mark of punctuation

enjambment
the running-on of thought from one line, couplet, or stanza to the next without a syntactical break

feminine ending
the ending of a metrical line on an unstressed syllable
EX) DOU/ble, DOU/ble, TOIL and TROU/ble

masculine ending
the ending of a metrical line on a stressed syllable
EX) LIFE is BUT an EMP/ty DREAM

heroic couplet
two rhymed lines of iambic pentamenter that contain a completed thought
EX) “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”

hyperbole
extravagant exaggeration
EX) It was so cold, I saw polar bears wearing jackets.

imagery
Description that appeals to the senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) to evoke a picture or a concrete sensation of a person, thing, place, or experience

internal rhyme
a rhyme between words in the same line
EX) I went to town to by a gown.

litotes
understatement for rhetorical effect (especially when expressing an affirmative by negating its contrary)
EX) saying ‘I was not a little upset’ when you mean ‘I was very upset’

metaphor
comparing two things without using ‘like’ or ‘as’
EX) Her eyes were sparkling diamonds.

metonomy
when the name of one object is substituted for that of another closely associated with it
EX) The White House declared vs. The President declared

meter
rhythm as given by division into parts of equal time

off rhyme
rhyme that does not perfectly match in vowel or consonant sound; aka “slant rhyme”
EX) barn, yard; orange, scourge

onomatopoeia
The use of words that imitate the sounds of the object or action they’re describing
EX) ‘train’ being called ‘choo-choo’

oxymoron
a figure of speech contianing contradictory terms
EX) deafening silence, jumbo shrimp

paradox
a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth
EX) I always lie –> if you’re lying, it’s actually true and if you’re telling the truth, you’re lying

paralipsis
a point is stressed by suggesting that it is too obvious or well-known to mention
EX) Not to mention the expense involved…

parallelism
the use of corresponding or parallel constructions

personification
the act of attributing human characteristics to abstract ideas, objects or animals

pun
a humorous play on words

quatrain
a four line stanza

rhyme
be similar in sound, especially with respect to the last syllable
EX) hat, cat

simile
comparing two things with ‘like’ or ‘as’
EX) Her eyes sparkled like diamonds.

stanza
a group of lines arranged together

tautology
when you repeat what you’re defining in its definition
EX) Tritone is tritone.

terza rime
three-line stanza using chain rhyme ABA BCB CDC DED

ballad
a narrative (and lyrical) poem of popular origin
EX) ‘Famous Flower of Serving Men’

dramatic monologue
a poem in which a speaker addresses a silent listener
EX) ‘Ulysses’ – Alfred Lord Tennyson

elegy
a mournful poem, a lament for the dead
EX) ‘To His Mistress Going to Bed’ – John Donne

free verse
unrhymed verse without a consistent metrical pattern
EX) ‘America’ – Allen Ginsberg

ode
a lyrical poem usually addressed to a particular person, object or event that has stimulated deep and noble feelings in the poet
EX) ‘The Rising Sun’ – John Donne

sestina
a lyric form that consists of six stanzas of six lines each followed by a three-line conclusion or envoy; this form requires a strict pattern of repetition of six key words that end the lines of the first stanza
EX) ‘Ye wastefull woodes, bear witness of my woe’ – Edmund Spenser

sonnet
a 14-line poem, usually with strict rhyme scheme and 10-ish syllables per line, may be divided into an octet and a sestet with a volta in between
EX) ‘Lucifer in Starlight’ – George Meredith

villanelle
written in tercets, usually five in number, followed by a final quatrain, all being based on two rhymes
EX) ‘Do Not Go Gentle In to that Good Night’ – Dylan Thomas

monometer
one-foot line (2 syllables)

dimeter
two-foot line (4 syllables)

trimeter
three-foot line (6 syllables)

tetrameter
four-foot line (8 syllables)

pentameter
five-foot line (10 syllables)

hexameter
six-foot line (12 syllables)

heptameter
seven-foot line (14 syllables)

octameter
eight-foot line (16 syllables)

iambic
one word, two syllables – unstressed, stressed
EX) hell/O

trochaic
one word, two syllables – stressed, stressed; generally eerie sounding
EX) TROU/ble

anapestic
one word, three syllables – unstressed, unstressed, stressed
EX) un/der/STAND

dactylic
one word, three syllables – stressed, unstressed, unstressed
EX) CAN/o/py

spondaic
two words, one syllable each – both stressed
EX) WORK SONG

pyrrhic
two words, one syllable each – both unstressed
EX) to a