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What Do You Call It When...

What Do You Call It When...

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Published by William Burn
A guide to help you understand poetic terminology (essenial for success at GCSE). It's put together so that, when you notice a feature of language, you can identify what it's called. It also contains a section on Metaphors and how to analyse them.
A guide to help you understand poetic terminology (essenial for success at GCSE). It's put together so that, when you notice a feature of language, you can identify what it's called. It also contains a section on Metaphors and how to analyse them.

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Published by: William Burn on Jan 25, 2010
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05/13/2010

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Poetry: What do you call it when…

• • • • • Several words in a line have similar consonant sounds: alliteration o Over his shoulder, digging down and down [Digging] Several words have similar vowel sounds: assonance o Till wind distresses tail and mane [At Grass] Two words have the same sound: rhyme o …rasping sound / gravely ground [Digging] Two words almost rhyme, but not fully: pararhyme o …shadows / … meadows [At Grass] A line has punctuation at the end of it, especially a full-stop or semi-colon: end-stopped line o I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. [Mirror] • A line ‘runs on’ to the next, having no punctuation at its end: enjambment o In a cage of first March sun a woman / sits not listening (N.B.: the / indicates where the line ends) [Miracle on St David’s Day] • An object or action in the poem suggests many possible ideas: symbolism o The squat pen [Digging]; o Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, [The Road not Taken] • A poet makes a direct comparison of one thing to another: simile o Outside the daffodils are as still as wax [Miracle on St David’s Day] • A writer uses another object, event or action to describe something they have experienced: metaphor o Now I am a lake. [Mirror] • A writer uses a part of an object to represent the whole of it: metonym o Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds /Bends low (Note that Heaney uses the ‘rump’ to stand for the whole of his father.) [Digging] • A poem is a story told in the first person, often in the present tense: monologue: o When I am an old woman I shall wear purple [Warning] • A series of statements begin with the same word or words: anaphora o You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me … [Still I Rise] • A writer uses a word whose sound is reminiscent of the sound being described: onomatopoeia: o A clean rasping sound [Digging]

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A writer gives human attributes to an object or animal: anthropomorphism o Look at Mirror. A writer describes a non-human animal or object as if it were a person: personification (this is itself a form of metaphor): o The musty dark hoarded an armoury [The Barn] A group of lines are put together: stanza A weak syllable is followed by a stressed syllable: iamb o The eye can hardly pick them out [At Grass] A stressed syllable is followed by a weak syllable: trochee: o I am silver and exact [Mirror] What do I call the vowel sounds ‘ee’ ‘ay’ ‘ai’ ‘oh’ ‘ewe’? Open vowels (their opposites, such as the ‘i’ in ‘opposite’ are closed vowels o Vowels can also be front or back: ‘ay’ (as in ‘say’) is fronted (it is formed at the front of the mouth), as is ‘ee’; the others are back vowels. Front vowels are much brighter, whereas back vowels are darker and heavier.

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What do I call the consonants ‘b’ and ‘p’? Plosives What do I call the consonants ‘d’ and ‘t’? Dentals What do I call the consonants ‘f’ and ‘v’? Fricatives What do I call the consonants ‘s’ and ‘z’? Sibillants What do I call the consonant ‘l’? Liquid

Reading Metaphors and Similes: Metaphors and similes are essential parts of language: without them, we would be unable to communicate. They carry out three main functions: 1. When I wish to communicate to you something that you have no experience of, I need to find some ‘common ground’, an experience or idea we both share, so that you may understand my thoughts or feelings. For example: a. ‘My Year 9 lesson today was a battle.’ (you were not there, but you understand from the idea of a battle that the experience was a difficult, painful and arduous one for me.) b. ‘Mr Smith brought a breath of fresh air to the discussion.’ (We all know that fresh air is a pleasant experience, and suggests that Mr Smith was able to enliven and rejuvenate a stale meeting. – Note that ‘stale’ is itself a metaphor: I am using the concept of food to enrich your understanding of the idea.) 2. We use metaphors to allow us to understand abstract concepts, such as time, love, relationships: a. Time can be: i. A liquid (it flows) ii. Money (it can be saved or wasted, and spent wisely or foolishly) b. Love can be: i. A flame ii. An arrow to your heart iii. Deeply, shatteringly disappointing 3. Poets often use metaphors in a lively, unconventional way, to bring new life to a stale or everyday concept: a. ‘The air was thick with a bass chorus.’ [Death of a Naturalist]. Here, Heaney uses the metaphor of music to describe the sound the frogs make (achieving thereby a comic, if also threatening contrast between the vile croaking of the frogs and the wonderful sound of music); he also uses the metaphor of cloth to describe the air, which adds to the oppressive, suffocating mood of the line. 4. Sometimes poets create metaphors out of several linked ideas. For example, in Digging, Heaney uses the peat which his father and grandfather dug as a metaphor for the history of Ireland and of their family. The ‘living roots’ and ‘good turf’ contrast with the dry lifelessness of the ‘clean, rasping sound’ of gravel. Writing About Them: The important feature of figurative language is to look at the image the poet has chosen to illuminate the object or event they wish to describe. When Gillian Clarke likens daffodils to ‘wax’ we must think about what wax suggests to us: it can be cold, lifeless and perhaps eerie, in the way it is used to create life-like models of people.

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