Example of repeated vowel sounds (from “The Mother”):
why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?
Example of repeated consonant sounds (from “The Mother”):
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
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Example of lines with words that have harsh, jarring sounds (from “Upon the Burning of Our House”):
I waken’d was with thund’ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice
Example of a line with words that have gentle, pleasing sounds (from “Upon the Burning of Our House”):
The world no longer let me love
Examples of words whose sound echoes or suggests their meaning (from “To a Daughter Leaving Home”):
Example of a phrase, clause, or sentence that spans MORE THAN ONE LINE of poetry (from “To a Daughter Leaving Home”):
When I taught you
at eight to ride
Example of an audible PAUSE that BREAKS UP A LINE OF POETRY (from “My Father’s Coat” — note the period in the middle of the second line):
I’m wearing the coat of my father,
Who is dead. I didn’t like him…
Perfect or exact rhyme
Examples of rhyme that occurs when differing consonant sounds precede identically stressed vowel sounds (all from “The Mother”):
Slant, half, or near rhyme
Examples of rhyme that occurs when only the final consonant sounds of the rhyming words are identical (from “The Southern Cop”):
When he found what the Negro was running for,
It was too LATE;
And all we can say for the Negro is
It was UNFORTUNATE.
Example of words that do not really rhyme; they just look like they should: cough – bough – rough
Example of rhyme that occurs at the ends of lines (from “The Mother”):
You will never neglect or BEAT
Them, or silence or buy with a SWEET.
Example of rhyme that occurs within a single line of verse:
When I was EIGHT I could not WAIT
For winter’s big vacation.
Example of a stanza of two lines, usually with end rhyme:
Nature puts on little shows
Every time it rains or snows.
Example of speech directed to an imaginary or absent person or abstract quality or idea (from “Upon the Burning of Our House” — speaker is speaking to the ashes of her destroyed home)
Under thy roof no guest shall sit
Nor at thy table eat a bit…
No candle ‘ere shall shine in thee…
In silence ever shalt thou lie.
Adieu, adieu, all’s vanity.
Example of the substitution of a mild or less negative word or phrase for a harsh or blunt one (from “My Father’s Coat”):
I answer that it was my father’s
Who is now gone, PASSED AWAY.
Example of a word that gives an impression beyond its defined meaning (from “The Southern Cop”):
Having to hear the WENCHES wail
And the dying Negro moan.
Note: the definition of the word WENCH is “a girl or young woman” but its use here is derogatory, since the term is associated with pirate culture and voluptuous females who usually hang around taverns and bars (and who might be prostitutes).
Example of the dictionary definition or literal meaning of a word
(from “The Southern Cop”):
Having to hear the WENCHES wail
And the dying Negro moan.
Note: the word WENCHES literally means “girls or young women,” but it is not enough to consider only the literal definition here.
Example of words chosen to convey a particular idea within a poem:
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
Note: words like “goin’,” “climbin’,” “I’se,” and “ain’t” suggest the speaker’s Southern roots and perhaps her minimal level of education, which help readers understand the struggles she faced as a Black woman in the pre-civil rights era.
Example of the ordering of words into meaningful verbal patterns such as phrases, clauses, and sentences. Poets often manipulate syntax (by putting words in an unusual order) to emphasize certain words OR to provide rhyme.
Example of a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (from “Those Winter Sundays”):
love’s austere and lonely offices
Note: “austere” (which means harsh, cold, or unemotional) and “lonely” seem strangely paired with the word “love”
Other examples of contradictory word combinations:
Two examples of statements that are seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet are perhaps true (from “The Mother”):
“the children you GOT that you DID NOT GET”
“in my DELIBERATENESS I was NOT DELIBERATE”
Example of an outrageous exaggeration:
I had a TRUCKLOAD of homework last night
Example of the writer’s attitude toward the subject matter and/or readers (from “The Southern Cop”): the speaker is very sarcastic when he suggests that we should “forgive,” “understand,” “condone,” and “pity” Ty Kendricks for killing what seems like an innocent man.
Example of a question asked for effect, not actually expecting or requiring an answer (from “Those Winter Sundays”):
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
Example of a figure of speech in which an inanimate object or abstraction is endowed with human qualities or abilities (from “The Mother”):
Abortions will not let you forget.
Example of two or more things placed side by side for contrast (from “The Mother”):
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
Note: the close proximity of these two descriptions highlights the contrast between the fetuses (“pulps” – they don’t sound human yet) and the grown-up human beings they could have become (singers and workers).
Example of a comparison using “like” or “as” (from “The First Snowfall”):
I remember the gradual PATIENCE
THAT FELL from that cloud LIKE SNOW
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
The scar of our deep-plunged woe.
Example of figures of speech using implied or direct comparison of seemingly unlike things:
The theft occurred during the CURTAIN of NIGHT
Example of a metaphor that runs through most of a passage or poem and is central to its meaning (from “Mother to Son”):
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor –
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Note: The speaker is comparing her journey through life to the act of climbing a staircase in need of repair. She is encouraging her son to persist even when life is not easy or pleasant.
Example of a cross-sensory metaphor (from “Those Winter Sundays”):
“the blueblack cold”
Note: color is SEEN and cold is FELT