Poetry Terms for AP Lit and SAT English subject test

lyric
Subjective, reflective poetry with regular rhyme scheme and meter which reveals poet’s thoughts and feelings to create a singe, unique impression.

Ex. “Because I could not stop for death” (Emily Dickinson 110-111)

narrative
non-dramatic, objective verse (usually with regular rhyme scheme and meter) which relates a story or narrative

Ex. “Out, Out—” (Robert Frost 139-140)

sonnet
a rigid 14-line verse form, with variable structure and rhyme scheme according to type; usually written in iambic pentameter

Shakespearean sonnet
three quatrains and concluding couplet in iambic pentameter, rhyming abab cdcd efef gg or (less commonly) abba cddc effe gg.; also known as an English sonnet.

Ex. “That time of year” (William Shakespeare 250)

Petrarchan sonnet
An octave and sestet, between which a break in thought. The traditional rhyme scheme is abba abba cde cde (or-cdcdcd); also known as an Italian sonnet.

Ex. “The world is too much with us” (William Wordsworth 51)

ode
elaborate lyric verse which praises and explores the meaning of the subject

Ex. “___ on a Grecian Urn” (John Keats 278-279)

blank verse
unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter; Shakespeare used this commonly in his plays.

Ex. “I Knew a Woman” (Theodore Roethke 398-399)

free verse
unrhymed lines without regular rhythm

Ex. “good times” (Lucille Clifton 349)

epic
a long, dignified narrative poem which gives the account of a hero important to his or her nation or race.

Ex. The Odyssey (Homer)

dramatic monologue
a lyric poem in which the speaker addresses himself to persons around him; his speech deals with a dramatic moment in his life and manifests his character
Ex. “My Last Duchess” (Robert Browning 135-136)

elegy
a poem of lament, meditating on the death of an individual

Ex. In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII: 27 (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174603

ballad
simple, narrative verse which tells a story to be sung or recited: the folk ballad is anonymously handed down, while the literary ballad has a single author

Ex. “La Belle Dame sans Merci” (John Keats 379-381)

idyll
lyric poetry describing the life of the shepherd in pastoral, bucolic, idealistic terms

Ex. “The Solitary Reaper” (William Wordsworth 418-419)

villanelle
French verse form, strictly calculated to appear simple and spontaneous; five tercets and a final quatrain, rhyming aha aha aha aha aha ahaa. Lines l, 6, 12, 18 and 3, 9, 15, 19 are refrain.

Ex. “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” (Dylan Thomas 252-253)

light verse
general category of poetry written to entertain, such as lyric poetry, epigrams, and limericks. It can also have a serious side as in parody or satire

Ex. “The Jabberwocky” (Lewis Carroll)
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171647

haiku
Japanese verse in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables, often depicting a delicate image.

Ex. The lightening flashes!
And slashing through the darkness, A night-heron’s screech. (Matsuo Basko)

meter
Poetry’s rhythm, or its pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. It is measured in units of feet ; the five basic kinds of feet are indicated below. Accent marks indicate stressed(/) or unstressed (U) syllables.

These units are the building blocks of lines of verse: lines are named according to the number of feet they contain:

iambic
describes a two-syllable foot: unstress stress (ex. balloon)

trochaic
describes a two-syllable foot: stress unstress (ex. soda)

anapestic
describes a three-syllable foot: unstress unstress stress (ex. contradict)

dactylic
describes a three-syllable foot: stress unstress unstress (ex. paradise)

spondaic
describes two syllables stressed equally: stress stress (ex. man-made)

monometer
one metrical foot

dimeter
two metrical feet

trimeter
three metrical feet

tetrameter
four metrical feet

pentameter
five metrical feet

hexameter
six metrical feet

heptameter
seven metrical feet

scansion
the analysis of these mechanical elements within a poem to determine meter. Feet are marked off with slashes and accented appropriately (/ = stress; u = unstress)

(for review, 204-216)

stanza
a poetry “paragraph” set off by spaces (one exception is when talking about sonnets, where shifting rhyme schemes may indicate these)

couplet
two-line stanza

tercet
three-line stanza

quatrain
four-line stanza

cinquain
five-line stanza

sestet
six-line stanza

septet
seven-line stanza

octave
eight-line stanza; also known as an octet

*Note: after eight lines, refer to stanza lengths as x-line stanza; ex. “Oliver’s 14-line stanza explores…”

caesura
a pause in the meter or rhythm of a line.

Ex. “Flood-tide below me! I see you face to
face!”
(Walt Whitman: “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”);

In this line, the pause is between “me!” and “I.”

enjambement
a run-on line, one continuing into the text without a grammatical break

Ex. “Green rustlings, more-than-regal charities / Drift cooly from that tower of whispered light.” (Hart Crane: “Royal Palm”)

end rhyme
rhyme occuring at end of verse line; most common rhyme form.

Ex. “I was angry with my friend,
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.”
(William Blake, “A Poison Tree”)

internal rhyme
rhyme contained within a line of verse.

The splendor falls on castle walls”
(Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Blow, Bugle, Blow”)

rhyme scheme
pattern of rhymes within a unit of verse; in analysis, each new end rhyme-sound is represented by a new letter

masculine rhyme
rhyme in which only the last, accented syllable of the rhyming words correspond exactly in sound; most common kind of end rhyme; also known as single rhyme

Ex. chemistry / free

feminine rhyme
rhyme in which two consecutive syllables of the rhyme-words correspond, the first syllable carrying the accent; also know as double rhyme

Ex. passing / massing

approximate rhyme
imperfect rhyme; also known as half or slant rhyme

assonance
repetition of two or more vowel sounds within a line

Ex. The moaning and woeful tone (repeated “oh” sound)

consonance
repetition of two or more consonant sounds within a line (not just at the beginning of words)

Ex. Crack and pick a canary’s tracks (repeated “ck” sound)

alliteration
repetition of two or more initial sounds in words within a line

Ex. “Bright black-eyed creature, brushed with brown.” (Robert Frost, “To a Moth Seen in Winter”)

onomatopoeia
the technique of using a word whose sound suggests its meaning

Ex. “The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard.” (Robert Frost, “Out, Out”)

euphony
the use of compatible, harmonious sounds to produce pleasing, melodious effect.

Ex. “I knew a woman, lovely in her bones,
When small birds sighed, she would sigh back at them.” (Theodore Roethke, “I Knew a Woman”)

cacophony
the use of inharmonious sounds in close conjunction for effect; opposite of euphony

Ex. “But when loud surges lash the sounding shore” (Alexander Pope, “Sound and Sense”)

metaphor
figure of speech which makes a direct comparison between two unlike objects by identification (a simile is one type of this literary device that uses like or as)

conceit
an extended metaphor comparing two extremely unlike objects with powerful effect. (It owes its roots to elaborate analogies in Petrarch and to the Metaphysical poets, particularly Donne.)

Ex. “If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th’ other do.”
(John Donne, “Valediction Forbidding Mourning”)

personification
figure of speech in which objects and animals are given human qualities (also known as anthropomorphizing)

apostrophe
directly addressing a person or personified object not present

Ex. Little Lamb, who made thee?
(William Blake, “The Lamb”)

metonymy
the substitution of a word which relates to the object or person to be named, in place of the name of that thing itself

Ex. A spotted shaft is seen
(Emily Dickinson, “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass”) “spotted shaft” is a this term for a snake

synecdoche
figure of speech in which a part represents the whole object or idea (a type of metonymy)

Ex. “Not a hair perished.”
(William Shakespeare, The Tempest)
“Hair” is a this term for “person.”

hyperbole
gross exaggeration for effect; overstatement

litotes
understatement for effect

irony
the contrast between actual meaning and the suggestion of another meaning.

verbal irony
saying one thing and meaning another

(sarcasm is one type of this term, but not all this term is sarcastic)

dramatic irony
when the reader knows something the characters do not and which would drastically affect their actions

Ex. When Romeo kills himself thinking Juliet is dead, but the audience knows she is not really dead.

situational irony
when the reality of a situation differs from the anticipated or intended effect; when something unexpected occurs

Ex. A character who hates dogs becomes reliant on a seeing eye dog after going blind.

symbolism
the use of one object to suggest another, hidden object or idea

imagery
the use of words to represent things, actions, or ideas by sensory description; words/descriptions that invoke the senses

paradox
a statement which appears self-contradictory, but underlines a basis of truth

Ex. “Elected silence, sing to me.”
(Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Habit of Perfection”)

oxymoron
contradictory terms brought together to express a paradox for strong effect

Ex. “Beloved enemy!”

allusion
a reference to an outside fact, event, or literary story

heroic couplet
rhymed two-line stanza