accentual stress meter
Lines of verse based on the metrical foot. This is the most common form of English poetry.
"The repetition of sounds in nearby words, most often involving the initial consonants of words (and sometimes the internal consonants in stressed syllables)."
"An indirect reference to a text, myth, event, or person outside the poem itself (compare echo). Although it is woven into the context of the poem, it carries its own history of meaning: for example, see the reference to Hamlet in T. S. Eliot, 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' (1917)."
The ability to mean more than one thing.
"Resemblance in certain respects between things that are otherwise unlike; also, the use of such likeness to predict other similarities."
"Two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one, as in 'unabridged' (see foot)."
"Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive lines. For example, see Anne Bradstreet, 'To My Dear and Loving Husband' (1678)."
"The repetition of vowel sounds in a line or series of lines. Assonance often affects pace (by working against short and long vowel patterns) and seems to underscore the words included in the pattern. For example, see the beginning of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 'Kubla Khan' (1816)."
"A lyric about the dawn (e.g., see John Donne, 'The Sun Rising' )."
"A narrative poem, impersonally related, that is (or originally was) meant to be sung. Characterized by repetition and often by a repeated refrain (a recurrent phrase or series of phrases), the earliest ballads were anonymous works transmitted orally from person to person through generations. For example, see 'Sir Patrick Spens.' Modern literary ballads imitate these folk creations (e.g., Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' )."
"A four-line stanza, the second and fourth lines of which are iambic trimeter and rhyme with each other; the first and third lines, in iambic tetrameter, do not rhyme. This form, frequently used in hymns, is also known as 'common meter'; a loose form of it is often used by Emily Dickinson."
"Unrhymed iambic pentameter; for example, see Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 'Ulysses' (1842)."
"A sign, used in scansion, that marks a natural pause in speaking a line of poetry."
"An attempt to supplement (or replace) verbal meaning with visual devices from painting and sculpture. A true concrete poem cannot be spoken; it is viewed, not read (compare pattern poetry)."
"A relatively new (or recently defined) kind of poetry in which the speaker focuses on the poet's own psychic biography. This label is often applied to writings of Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton."
"What is suggested by a word, apart from what it explicitly and directly describes (compare denotation). For example, the 'cypresses' of Eavan Bolands 'That the Science of Cartography Is Limited' (1994) connote death, because of their traditional associations with mourning."
"Metaphors that dominate or organize an entire poem. For example, metaphors of movement structure John Donne's 'A Valediction Forbidding Mourning' (1633)."
"Standard ways of saying things in verse, employed to achieve certain expected effects. Conventions may pertain to style (e.g., the rhyme scheme of the sonnet) or content (e.g., the figure of the shepherd in the pastoral)."
"A pair of lines, almost always rhyming, that form a unit."
"A stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones, as in 'screwdriver'. (see foot)."
The direct and literal meaning of a word or phrase (as distinct from its implication). Compare connotation.
"Poetry written in the voice of one or more characters assumed by the poet. For example, Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are dramatic narratives."
"A poem written in the voice of a character, set in a specific situation, and spoken to someone. This form is most strongly identified with poems of Robert Browning (e.g., 'My Last Duchess' ); see also Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 'Ulysses' (1842)."
"A reference that recalls a word, phrase, or sound in another text. For example, 'And indeed there will be time' in Eliot's 'Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' (1917) recalls both Ecclesiastes 3.1 ('To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven') and Andrew Marvell, 'To His Coy Mistress' (1681; 'Had we but world enough and time'). It is less specific than an allusion."
"In classical times, any poem on any subject written in 'elegiac' meter (dactylic couplets comprising a hexameter followed by a pentameter line), but since the Renaissance usually a formal lament for the death of a particular person. For example, see W. H. Auden, 'In Memory of W. B. Yeats' (1940)."
A line break that coincides with the end of the sentence (vs. a run-on line; compare enjambment).
"Three four-line stanzas and a couplet, rhymed abab cdcd efef gg. For example, see William Shakespeare, Sonnet 146 (1609; 'Poor soul, the center of my sinful earth')."
"The use of a line that 'runs on' to the next line, without pause, to complete its grammatical sense (compare end stop). For example, see Gwendolyn Brooks, 'We Real Cool' (1960)."
"A short concluding stanza found in certain poetic forms (e.g., the sestina) that often provides a concise summing-up of the poem."
"A long poem, in a continuous narrative often divided into 'books,' on a great or serious subject. Traditionally, it celebrates the achievements of mighty heroes and heroines, using elevated language and a grand, high style (e.g., Homers Iliad), but later epics have been more personal (e.g., William Wordsworths Prelude [1805 / 1850]) and less formal in structure (e.g., H. D. is Helen in Egypt )."
"Originally any poem carved in stone (on tombstones, buildings, gates, etc.), but in modern usage a very short, usually witty verse with a quick turn at the end (e.g., much of the light verse of Ogden Nash)."
"Detailed and complex metaphors that extend over a long section of a poem (e.g., the metaphor of grass in Whitmans 'Song of Myself' , section 6 or of the compass in Donnes 'A Valediction Forbidding Mourning')."
"Rhymes comprised of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable (e.g., see George Gordon, Lord Byron, Don Juan 1.38 : 'He learn'd the arts of riding, fencing, gunnery, / And how to scale a fortress- or a nunnery'). Compare masculine rhyme."
figures of speech
"Uses of a word or words that go beyond the literal meaning to show or imply a relationship, evoking a further meaning. Such figures, sometimes called 'tropes' (i.e., rhetorical 'turns'), include anaphora, metaphor, metonymy, and irony."
"The basic unit, consisting of two or three syllables, into which a line is divided in scansion. Verse is labeled according to its dominant foot (e.g., iambic) and the number of feet per line (e.g., pentameter). Lines of one, two, three, four, five, and six feet are respectively called monometer, dimeter, trimeter, tetrameter, pentameter, and hexameter. See anapest, iamb, dactyl, spondee, and trochee."
"Poetry that does not follow the rules of regularized meter and strict form. However, these open forms continue to rely on patterns of rhythm and repetition to impose order; for example, see Whitman, 'Song of Myself' (1881)."
"A pair of rhymed lines of iambic pentameter. For example, see Geoffrey Chaucer, 'The Pardoner's Tale.' Perhaps the most polished instances of this form are provided by Alexander Pope."
"An unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one, as in 'above' (see foot). Iambic is the most common meter in English poetry."
A mental representation of a particular thing able to be visualized (and often able to be apprehended by senses other than sight).
"A figure in which what is stated is the opposite of what is meant or expected. For example, see Wilfred Owen is ironic use of Horace, Odes 3.2.13, in 'Dulce Et Decorum Est' (1920)."
"An octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines); typically rhymed abbaabba cdecde, it has many variations that still reflect the basic division into two parts separated by a rhetorical turn of argument (e.g., see Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese )."
"A five-line light poem, usually in anapestic rhythm. The first, second, and fifth lines are rhymed trimeter; lines three and four are rhymed dimeter. The rhymes are frequently eccentric, and the subject matter is often nonsensical or obscene."
"Originally a poem meant to be sung to the accompaniment of a lyre. Now, a lyric is the most common verse form: any fairly short poem in the voice of a single speaker, usually expressing personal concerns rather than describing a narrative or dramatic situation."
Rhymes that consist of a single stressed syllable. This is the most common form of end rhyme in English (compare feminine rhyme).
"A contemplation of some physical object as a way of reflecting upon some larger truth, often (but not necessarily) a spiritual one. For example, see Wallace Stevens, 'Sunday Morning' (1923)."
"A figure of speech that relies on a likeness or analogy between two things to equate them and thus suggest a relationship between them. For example, in 'A Far Cry from Africa' (1962) Derek Walcott portrays the continent as an animal, with a 'tawny pelt' and 'bloodstreams.' Compare metonymy, simile."
"The formal organization of the rhythm of a line into regular patterns; see foot, scansion."
"A figure that relies on a close relationship other than similarity (compare metaphor) in substituting a word or phrase for the thing meant. For example, the 'scepter' in Tennyson's 'Ulysses' (1842) represents the rule of Ithaca."
"Forms, such as rhyme, built into poems to help reciters remember the poems."
"A recurrent device, formula, or situation that deliberately connects a poem with preexisting patterns and conventions. For example, Edmund Spensers Sonnet 75 (1595; 'One day I wrote her name upon the strand') relies on the motif of immortality through poetry (cf. William Shakespeare, Sonnet 55 )."
"Poetry that tells a story and is primarily characterized by linear, chronological description."
"A poem written about or for a specific occasion, public or private (e.g., Maya Angelou s poem for the 1993 presidential inauguration, 'On the Pulse of Morning'). Such poems can transcend the particular incident that inspired them; for example, see William Butler Yeats, 'Easter 1916' (1916)."
"An extended lyric, usually elevated in style and with an elaborate stanzaic structure (e.g., see Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 'Dejection: An Ode' )."
"Rhyme that does not perfectly match in vowel or consonant sound; for example, see William Butler Yeats, 'Easter 1916' (1916): faces / houses, gibe / club, etc."
"Use of a word or words the sound of which approximates the sound of the thing denoted (e.g., 'splash')."
"A figure of speech that combines two apparently contradictory words (e.g, John Milton's description of the flames of hell as giving 'No light, but rather darkness visible' in Paradise Lost 1.63 )."
"A poem that imitates another poem closely, but changes details for comic or critical effect. For example, 'The Dover Bitch' by Anthony Hecht (1968) parodies Matthew Arnold's 'Dover Beach' (1867)."
"A poem (also called an eclogue, a bucolic, or an idyll) that portrays the simple life of country folk, usually shepherds, as a timeless world of beauty, peace, and contentment. From its beginnings (the Greek Idyls of Theocritus, third century B.C.), pastoral has idealized rural life; poets have used the conventions of this highly artificial form to explore subjects having little to do with any actual countryside (for example, see Christopher Marlowe, 'The Passionate Shepherd to His Love' [1599, 1600]). There is also a large subgenre of pastoral elegy (e.g., see John Milton, 'Lycidas' )."
"A poem with lines in the shape of the subject of the poem. This form was popular in English poetry in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (e.g., George Herbert, 'Easter Wings' ) and again in the twentieth century (notably by John Hollander and May Swenson). Compare with concrete poetry."
A voice assumed by the author of a poem. See speaker.
"Treating an abstraction as if it were a person, endowing it with humanlike qualities. For an extended example, see Emily Dickinson, no.712 (1890; 'Because I could not stop for Death')."
See Italian sonnet.
"An attack, sometimes indirect, on institutions or social injustices. For example, see Anna Letitia Barbauld, 'The Rights of Woman' (1825)."
two successive unstressed or lightly stressed syllables.
"A four-line stanza, whether rhymed or unrhymed. This is the most common stanza form in English poetry."
"The repetition of the same ('perfect rhyme') or similar sounds, most often at the ends of lines. See off-rhyme, vowel rhyme."
"A seven-line iambic pentameter stanza, rhymed ababbcc. For example, see Thomas Wyatt, 'They Flee from Me' (1557)."
"The analysis of a line of poetry (by 'scanning') to determine its pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables, which usually are divided into metrical feet. See foot."
"Six six-line stanzas and a final three-line stanza in a complex form that repeats words, not lines (as in the villanelle) or rhymes. The final word in each line of the first stanza becomes the final word in other stanzas (in a set pattern: ABCDEF, FAEBDC, CFDABE, ECBFAD, DEACFB, BDFECA); the lines in the concluding stanza, or envoy, usually end ECA and each line contains one of the remaining three end words. Invented in the twelfth century by the troubadours, the form has again come into use in the twentieth century (e.g., by Marilyn Hacker); the repetitions often convey a sense of circling around a subject."
The time and place of the action in a poem.Shakespearean sonnet: See English sonnet.
"A direct, explicit comparison of one thing to another that usually draws the connection with the words 'like' or 'as.' Compare metaphor."
"The context of the action in a poem; that is, what is happening when the poem begins."
"A form, usually only a single stanza, that offers several related possibilities for its rhyme scheme; however, it is always fourteen lines long and usually written in iambic pentameter. See English sonnet, Italian sonnet, and Spenserian sonnet."
"The person, not necessarily the author, who is the voice of a poem. See persona."
"Three four-line stanzas (interwoven by overlapping rhyme) and a couplet; this sonnet is rhymed abab bcbc cdcd ee. For example, see Edmund Spenser, 'Sonnet 71' (1595; 'One day I wrote her name upon the strand')."
"Eight lines of iambic pentameter and a ninth line of iambic hexameter, called an alexandrine, rhymed ababbcbbc. The name of the stanza comes from Edmund Spenser's use of it in 'The Faerie Queene' (1596); see also John Keats, 'The Eve of St. Agnes' (1820)."
"A stressed syllable followed by another syllable of approximately equal stress, as in 'hot dog' (see foot)."
"Gerard Manley Hopkins' blending of accentual meter with the more familiar feet of accentual-syllable meter. In his system, each foot begins with a stress; the line is measured by the number of stresses, which fall with normal word stress (and need not be separated by unstressed syllables)."
"Groups of lines, usually in some predetermined pattern of meter and rhyme, that are set off from one another by a space."
The general or specific area of concern of a poem; also called its topic.
"A form in which the poet establishes a precise number of syllables to a line, without regard to their stress, and repeats them in subsequent stanzas. For example, see Marianne Moore, 'Poetry' (1921)."
"A word or image that stands for something else in a vivid but indeterminate way: it suggests more than what it actually says. For example, see Li-Young Lee, 'Persimmons' (1986)."
"A poem in which the use of symbols is so pervasive and internally consistent that the larger referential world is distanced, if not forgotten. For example, see Adrienne Rich, 'Diving into the Wreck' (1973)."
"Figurative expression of the perception of one sense in terms of another. For example, see William Blake, 'London' (1794): 'And the hapless Soldier's sigh / Runs in blood down Palace walls.'"
The formal arrangement of words in a sentence.
"A series of three-line stanzas with interlocking rhymes, invented by Dante for The Divine Comedy (aba, bcb, cdc, ded, etc.) in the early fourteenth century. For an English example, see Percy Bysshe Shelley, 'Ode to the West Wind' (1820)."
"The statement a poem makes about its subject. Although, generally speaking, the theme is what a poem is 'about,' the meaning of a poem can never be reduced to one or more of the themes within the poem."
The attitude taken in or by a poem toward the subject and theme.
A customary practice or a widely accepted way of viewing or representing things; it usually includes many conventions.
"A stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one, as in 'liar' (see foot)."
"A poem that contains five three-line stanzas and a final four-line stanza. Only two rhyme sounds are permitted in the entire poem, and the first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated, alternately, as the third line of subsequent three-line stanzas; the last stanza ends with these two lines. Like the sestina, the villanelle is a circular form; its movement recalls a dance, and indeed it was originally derived from an Italian folk song. For a loose example, see Rita Dove, 'Parsley: 1. The Cane Fields' (1983); for a stricter example, see Dylan Thomas, 'Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night' )."
"Rhyme words that have only their vowel sounds in common. For example, see Dylan Thomas, 'Fern Hill' (1946): boughs / towns, green / leaves, etc."