Poetry Terminology

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Alliteration

The repetition of identical consonant sounds, most often the sounds beginning words, in close proximity. Example: pensive poets, nattering nabobs of negativism.

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Allusion

Unacknowledged reference and quotations that authors assume their readers will recognize.

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Anaphora

Repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of a line throughout a work or the section of a work.

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Assonance

The repetition of identical vowel sounds in different words in close proximity. Example: deep green sea.

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Ballad

A narrative poem composed of quatrains (iambic tetrameter alternating with iambic trimeter)  rhyming x-a-x-a. Ballads may use refrains.

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Blank verse

Unrhymed iambic pentameter. Example: Shakespeare's plays

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Caesura

A short but definite pause used for effect within a line of poetry. Poetry concerned with the shortness of life and the need to act in or enjoy the present.

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Consonance

Is the counterpart of assonance; the partial or total identity of consonants in words whose main vowels differ. Example: shadow meadow; pressed, passed; sipped, supped. Owen uses this "impure rhyme" to convey the anguish of war and death.

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Couplet

Two successive rhyming lines. Couplets end the pattern of a Shakespearean sonnet.

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Diction

Diction is usually used to describe the level of formality that a speaker uses.

  • Diction (formal or high): Proper, elevated, elaborate, and often polysyllabic language. This type of language used to be thought the only type suitable for poetry
  • Neutral or middle diction: Correct language characterized by directness and simplicity.
  • Diction (informal or low): Relaxed, conversational and familiar language.
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Dramatic Monologue

A type of poem, derived from the theater, in which a speaker addresses an internal listener or the reader.  In some dramatic monologues, the speaker may reveal his personality in unexpected and unflattering ways.

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End-Stopped Line

A line ending in a full pause, usually indicated with a period or semicolon.

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Enjabment

A line having no end punctuation but running over to the next line.

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Heroic Couplet

Two successive rhyming lines of iambic pentameter; the second line is usually end-stopped.

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Hyperbole (overstatement) and litotes (understatem

Hyperbole is exaggeration for effect; litotes is understatement for effect, often used for irony.

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Iambic Pentameter

An unstressed stressed foot.The most natural and common kind of meter in English; it elevates speech to poetry.

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Imagery

Images are references that trigger the mind to fuse together memories of sight (visual), sounds (auditory), tastes (gustatory), smells (olfactory), and sensations of touch (tactile). Imagery refers to images throughout a work or throughout the works of a writer or group of writers.

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Internal Rhyme

An exact rhyme (rather than rhyming vowel sounds, as with assonance) within a line of poetry: "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary."

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Metaphor

A comparison between two unlike things, this describes one thing as if it were something else. Does not use "like" or "as" for the comparison (see simile)

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Metaphysical Conceit

An elaborate and extended metaphor or simile that links two apparently unrelated fields or subjects in an unusual and surprising conjunction of ideas. The term is commonly applied to the metaphorical language of a number of early seventeenth-century poets, particularly John Donne. Example: stiff twin compasses//the joining together of lovers like legs of a compass.

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Onomatopoeia

A blending of consonant and vowel sounds designed to imitate or suggest the activity being described. Example: buzz, slurp.

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Personification

Attributing human characteristics to nonhuman things or abstractions.

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Simile

A direct comparison between two dissimilar things; uses "like" or "as" to state the terms of the comparison.

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Stanza

A group of poetic lines corresponding to paragraphs in prose; the meters and rhymes are usually repeating or systematic.

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Syntax

Word order and sentence structure.

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