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SOUND DEVICES USED IN POETRY

A List of Definitions
Sound devices are resources used by poets to convey and reinforce the meaning or experience of poetry through the skillful use of
sound. After all, poets are trying to use a concentrated blend of sound and imagery to create an emotional response. The words and
their order should evoke images, and the words themselves have sounds, which can reinforce or otherwise clarify those images. All in
all, the poet is trying to get you, the reader, to sense a particular thing, and the use of sound devices are some of the poets tools.
ACCENT
The rhythmically significant stress in the articulation of words, giving some syllables more relative prominence than others. In words of
two or more syllables, one syllable is almost invariably stressed more strongly than the other syllables. Words of one syllable may be
either stressed or unstressed, depending on the context in which they are used, but connective one-syllable words like, and, but, or,
to,etc., are generally unstressed. The words in a line of poetry are usually arranged so the accents occur at regular intervals, with
the meter defined by the placement of the accents within the foot. Accent should not be construed as emphasis.
Sidelight: Two degrees of accent are natural to many multisyllabic English words, designated as primary and secondary.
Sidelight: When a syllable is accented, it tends to be raised in pitch and lengthened. Any or a combination of
stress/pitch/length can be a metrical accent.
Sidelight: When the full accent falls on a vowel, as in PO-tion, that vowel is called a long vowel; when it falls on an
articulation or consonant, as in POR-tion, the preceding vowel is a short vowel.
ALLITERATION
Also called head rhyme or initial rhyme, the repetition of the initial sounds (usually consonants) of stressed syllables in neighboring
words or at short intervals within a line or passage, usually at word beginnings, as in "wild and woolly" or the line from the
poem, Darkness Lost:
From somewhere far beyond, the flag of fate's caprice unfurled,
Sidelight: The sounds of alliteration produce a gratifying effect to the ear and can also serve as a subtle connection or
emphasis of key words in the line, but should not "call attention" to themselves by strained usage.
ASSONANCE
The relatively close juxtaposition of the same or similar vowel sounds, but with different end consonants in a line or passage, thus a
vowel rhyme, as in the words, date and fade.
CONSONANCE
A pleasing combination of sounds; sounds in agreement with tone. Also, the repetition of the same end consonants of words such
as boat and night within or at the end of a line, or the words, cool andsoul, as used by Emily Dickinson in the third stanza of He
Fumbles at your Spirit.
CACOPHONY (cack-AH-fun-ee)
Discordant sounds in the jarring juxtaposition of harsh letters or syllables, sometimes inadvertent, but often deliberately used in poetry
for effect, as in the opening line of Fences:
Crawling, sprawling, breaching spokes of stone,
Sidelight: Sound devices are important to poetic effects; to create sounds appropriate to the content, the poet may
sometimes prefer to achieve a cacophonous effect instead of the more commonly sought-for euphony. The use of words
with the consonants b, k and p, for example, produce harsher sounds than the soft f and v or the liquid l, m and n.
DISSONANCE
A mingling or union of harsh, inharmonious sounds that are grating to the ear.
EUPHONY (YOO-fuh-nee)
Harmony or beauty of sound that provides a pleasing effect to the ear, usually sought-for in poetry for effect. It is achieved not only by
the selection of individual word-sounds, but also by their relationship in the repetition, proximity, and flow of sound patterns.
Sidelight: Vowel sounds are generally more pleasing to the ear than the consonants, so a line with a higher ratio of vowel
sounds will produce a more agreeable effect; also, the long vowels in words like moon and fate are more melodious than
the short vowels in cat and bed.
INTERNAL RHYME
Also called middle rhyme, a rhyme occurring within the line, as in the poem, The Matador:
His childhood fraught with lessons taught by want and misery
METER
A measure of rhythmic quantity, the organized succession of groups of syllables at basically regular intervals in a line of poetry,
according to definite metrical patterns. In classic Greek and Latinversification, meter depended on the way long and short syllables
were arranged to succeed one another, but in English the distinction is between accented and unaccented syllables. The unit of meter is
the foot. Metrical lines are named for the constituent foot and for the number of feet in the line: monometer (1), dimeter (2), trimeter
(3), tetrameter (4), pentameter (5), hexameter (6), heptameter (7) andoctameter (8); thus, a line containing five iambic feet, for
example, would be called iambic pentameter. Rarely does a metrical line exceed six feet.
Sidelight: In the composition of verse, poets sometimes make deviations from the systematic metrical patterns. This is
often desirable because (1) variations will avoid the mechanical "te-dum, te-dum" monotony of a too-regular rhythm and
(2) changes in the metrical pattern are an effective way to emphasize or reinforce meaning in the content. These variations
are introduced by substituting different feet at places within a line. (Poets can also employ a caesura, use run-on lines and
vary the degrees of accent by skillful word selection to modify the rhythmic pattern, a process called modulation. Accents

heightened by semantic emphasis also provide diversity.) A proficient writer of poetry, therefore, is not a slave to the
dictates of metrics, but neither should the poet stray so far from the meter as to lose the musical value or emotional
potential of rhythmical repetition. Of course, in modern free verse, meter has become either irregular or non-existent.
MODULATION
In poetry, the harmonious use of language relative to the variations of stress and pitch.
Sidelight: Modulation is a process by which the stress values of accents can be increased or decreased within a
fixed metrical pattern.
NEAR RHYME
Also called slant rhyme, off rhyme, imperfect rhyme or half rhyme, a rhyme in which the sounds are similar, but not exact, as
in home and come or close and lose.
Sidelight: Due to changes in pronunciation, some near rhymes in modern English were perfect rhymes when they were
originally written in old English.
ONOMATOPOEIA (ahn-uh-mah-tuh-PEE-uh)
Strictly speaking, the formation or use of words which imitate sounds, like whispering, clang and sizzle, but the term is generally
expanded to refer to any word whose sound is suggestive of its meaning.
Sidelight: Because sound is an important part of poetry, the use of onomatopoeia is another subtle weapon in the poet's
arsenal for the transfer of sense impressions through imagery.
Sidelight: Though impossible to prove, some philologists (linguistic scientists) believe that all language originated through
the onomatopoeic formation of words.
PHONETIC SYMBOLISM
Sound suggestiveness; the association of particular word-sounds with common areas of meaning so that other words of similar sounds
come to be associated with those meanings. It is also called sound symbolism.
Sidelight: An example of word sounds in English with a common area of meaning is a group beginning with gl, all having
reference to light, which include:gleam, glare, glitter, glimmer, glint, glisten, glossy and glow.
RESONANCE
The quality of richness or variety of sounds in poetic texture, as in Milton's
. . . and the thunder . . . ceases now
To bellow through the vast and boundless Deep.
RHYME
In the specific sense, a type of echoing which utilizes a correspondence of sound in the final accented vowels and all that follows of two
or more words, but the preceding consonant sounds must differ, as in the words, bear and care. In a poetic sense, however, rhyme refers
to a close similarity of sound as well as an exact correspondence; it includes the agreement of vowel sounds in assonance and the
repetition of consonant sounds in consonance and alliteration. Differences as well as identity in sound echoes between words contribute
to the euphonic effect, stimulate intellectual appreciation, provide a powerful mnemonic device, and serve to unify a poem. Terms
like near rhyme, half rhyme, and perfect rhyme function to distinguish between the types of rhyme without prejudicial intent and should
not be interpreted as expressions of value. Usually, but not always, rhymes occur at the ends of lines.
Sidelight: Originally rime, the spelling was changed due to the influence of its popular, but erroneous, association with the
Latin word, rhythmus. Many purists continue to use rime as the proper spelling of the word.
Sidelight: Early examples of English poetry used alliterative verse instead of rhyme. The use of rhyme in the end words
of verse originally arose to compensate for the sometimes unsatisfactory quality of rhythm within the lines; variations in
the patterns of rhyme schemes then became functional in defining diverse stanza forms, such as, ottava rima, rhyme
royal, terza rima, theSpenserian stanza and others. Rhyme schemes are also significant factors in the definitions of whole
poems, such as ballade, limerick, rondeau, sonnet, triolet and villanelle.

RHYTHM
An essential of all poetry, the regular or progressive pattern of recurrent accents in the flow of a poem as determined by
the arses and theses of the metrical feet, i.e., the rise and fall of stress. The measure of rhythmic quantity is the meter.
Sidelight: A rhythmic pattern in which the stress falls on the final syllable of each foot, as in the iamb or anapest, is called
a rising or ascending rhythm; a rhythmic pattern with the stress occurring on the first syllable of each foot, as in
the dactyl or trochee, is a falling or descending rhythm.
Sidelight: From an easy lilt to the rough cadence of a primitive chant, rhythm is the organization of sound patterns the poet
has created for pleasurable reading.

Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic[1][2][3] qualities of languagesuch
as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metreto evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of,
the prosaic ostensible meaning.
Kinds of Poetry
Acrostic Poetry:
In Acrostic poems, the first letters of each line are aligned vertically to form a word. The word often is the subject of the poem.

L oves to play on the computer


A lways humorous
U nique in every way
R unning, jumping, tumbling at gym
E xceptionally bright
L earner
Cinquain:
Cinquain poems are five lines long with a certain number of syllables or words in each. Cinquain poems do not rhyme. There are many ways
to write cinquain poems. Here is an example of one cinquain pattern.
Line 1: Title - one word or two syllables
Line 2: Description or example of the title - 2 words or four syllables
Line 3: Action about the title - a 3 word phrase or six syllables
Line 4: a 4 word phrase describing a feeling about the title or 8 syllables
Line 5: Synonym for the title - one word - 2 syllables
Line 1: Panther
Line 2: Sleek, graceful
Line 3: Running, hiding, emerging
Line 4: Happy to be free
Line 5: Cat
Concrete Poetry:
Concrete poems form a picture of the topic or follows the contour of a shape that is suggested by the topic. For example:
Couplets:
The couplet is the easiest of the verse forms. It consists of two lines with an end rhyme.
Grandmother sits in her old rocking chair.
She rocks and she rocks all day there.
Diamonte:
Diamonte poems are easy poems to write. You need to think of a subject and its opposite and then follow the format listed below:
First line: one word (subject).
Second line: two adjectives describing the subject
Third line: three words ending in -ing telling about the subject
Fourth line: four words, the first two describe the subject and the last two describe its opposite
Fifth line: three words ending in -ing telling about the opposite
Sixth line: two adjectives describing the opposite
Seventh line: one word (opposite from the first line)
Example:
Limericks:
A limerick is a funny little poem containing five lines. The last words of the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each other (A) and the
last words of the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other so the pattern is AABBA. It should also have a rhythm pattern, like
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM for the first, second, and fifth lines (A)
and da da DUM da da DUM for the third and fourth lines (B). Make sure your limerick has the pattern by reciting it with da for all
unaccented or unstressed syllables and DUM for all the accented or stressed syllables.

Here is an example of a limerick:


1. There once was a girl named Cheryl (A)
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
2. Who dreamed she was in great peril (A)
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
3. She awoke wtth a fright B)
da da DUM da da DUM
4. When she discovered the sight (B)
da da DUM da da DUM
5. The monster was just a small squirrel. (A)
da DUM da da DUM da da DUM
Haiku:
A form of centuries old Japanese poetry that consists of seventeen syllables and has nature as its subject or theme. Haiku is very short and
has a 5-7-5 syllable structure with 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line, and 5 syllables in the third line. With just a
couple of words, haiku poetry conveys emotion. It suggests that the reader look and listen to the world. This poetry was created by a famous
writer named Issa. He had a very sad life. His mother died when he was two and his own four children all died before they were a year old.
As a writer and poet, this sadness, loneliness and compassion helped him be more sensitive to everything around him. Issa took the time to
listen and enjoy the beauty he found as he heard crickets chirp and as he gazed at the skies. Issa saw the beauty of the natural world around
him; he valued every living thing, even insects, and wanted to share his love of nature through his haiku. Haiku requires you to observe!
Here is an example of haiku:
As I lay and gaze
Blue skies and white clouds
Billowing high above me
Tanka:
Tanka is another form of Japanese poetry that consists of 31 syllables (5-7-5-7-7). The themes for Tanka are love, nature, seasons, and
friendships, Here is an example of Tanka:
Types of Poetry
When studying poetry, it is useful first of all to consider the theme and the overalldevelopment of the theme in the poem. Obviously, the
sort of development that takes place depends to a considerable extent on the type of poem one is dealing with. It is useful to keep two
general distinctions in mind (for more detailed definitions consult Abrams 1999 and Preminger et al 1993): lyric poetry and narrative poetry.
Lyric Poetry
A lyric poem is a comparatively short, non-narrative poem in which a single speaker presents a state of mind or an emotional state. Lyric
poetry retains some of the elements of song which is said to be its origin: For Greek writers the lyric was a song accompanied by the lyre.
Subcategories of the lyric are, for example elegy, ode, sonnet and dramatic monologue and most occasional poetry:
In modern usage, elegy is a formal lament for the death of a particular person (for example Tennysons In Memoriam A.H.H.). More broadly
defined, the term elegy is also used for solemn meditations, often on questions of death, such as Gray's Elegy Written in a Country
Churchyard.
An ode is a long lyric poem with a serious subject written in an elevated style. Famous examples are Wordsworths Hymn to
Duty or Keats Ode to a Grecian Urn.
The sonnet was originally a love poem which dealt with the lovers sufferings and hopes. It originated in Italy and became popular in
England in the Renaissance, when Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey translated and imitated the sonnets written by Petrarch (Petrarchan
sonnet). From the seventeenth century onwards the sonnet was also used for other topics than love, for instance for religious experience
(by Donne and Milton), reflections on art (by Keats or Shelley) or even the war experience (by Brooke or Owen). The sonnet uses a single
stanza of (usually) fourteen lines and an intricate rhyme pattern (see stanza forms). Many poets wrote a series of sonnets linked by the same
theme, so-called sonnet cycles (for instance Petrarch, Spenser, Shakespeare, Drayton, Barret-Browning, Meredith) which depict the various
stages of a love relationship.
In a dramatic monologue a speaker, who is explicitly someone other than the author, makes a speech to a silent auditor in a specific
situation and at a critical moment. Without intending to do so, the speaker reveals aspects of his temperament and character.
In Browning's My Last Duchess for instance, the Duke shows the picture of his last wife to the emissary from his prospective new wife and
reveals his excessive pride in his position and his jealous temperament.
Occasional poetry is written for a specific occasion: a wedding (then it is called anepithalamion, for instance Spensers Epithalamion), the
return of a king from exile (for instance Drydens Annus Mirabilis) or a death (for example MiltonsLycidas), etc.

Narrative Poetry
Narrative poetry gives a verbal representation, in verse, of a sequence of connected events, it propels characters through a plot. It is always
told by a narrator. Narrative poems might tell of a love story (like Tennyson's Maud), the story of a father and son
(like Wordsworth's Michael) or the deeds of a hero or heroine (likeWalter Scott's Lay of the Last Minstrel).
Sub-categories of narrative poetry:
Epics usually operate on a large scale, both in length and topic, such as the founding of a nation ( Virgils Aeneid) or the beginning of world
history (Milton'sParadise Lost), they tend to use an elevated style of language and supernatural beings take part in the action.
The mock-epic makes use of epic conventions, like the elevated style and the assumption that the topic is of great importance, to deal with
completely insignificant occurrences. A famous example is Pope's The Rape of the Lock, which tells the story of a young beauty whose
suitor secretly cuts off a lock of her hair.
A ballad is a song, originally transmitted orally, which tells a story. It is an important form of folk poetry which was adapted for literary
uses from the sixteenth century onwards. The ballad stanza is usually a four-line stanza, alternating tetrameter and trimeter.
Descriptive and Didactic Poetry
Both lyric and narrative poetry can contain lengthy and detailed descriptions (descriptive poetry) or scenes in direct speech (dramatic
poetry).
The purpose of a didactic poem is primarily to teach something. This can take the form of very specific instructions, such as how to catch a
fish, as in James Thomsons The Seasons (Spring 379-442) or how to write good poetry as inAlexander Popes Essay on Criticism. But it
can also be meant as instructive in a general way. Until the twentieth century all literature was expected to have a didactic purpose in a
general sense, that is, to impart moral, theoretical or even practical knowledge; Horace famously demanded that poetry should
combineprodesse (learning) and delectare (pleasure). The twentieth century was more reluctant to proclaim literature openly as a teaching
tool.
Elements of Poetry
POETRY ASSUMPTIONS
Readers of poetry often bring with them many related assumptions:

That a poem is to be read for its "message,"

That this message is "hidden" in the poem,

The message is to be found by treating the words as symbols which naturally do not mean what they say but stand for something
else,

You have to decipher every single word to appreciate and enjoy the poem.

There are no easy ways to dispel these biases. Poetry is difficult because very often its language is indirect. But so is experience - those
things we think, feel, and do. The lazy reader wants to be told things and usually avoids poetry because it demands commitment and energy.
Moreover, much of what poetry has to offer is not in the form of hidden meanings. Many poets like to "play" with the sound of language or
offer an emotional insight by describing what they see in highly descriptive language. In fact, there can many different ways to enjoy poetry;
this reflects the many different styles and objectives of poets themselves. For an overview of the many ways to read a poem, click here.
Finally, if you are the type to give up when something is unclear, just relax! Like we just said, there can be many different approaches to
examining poetry; often these approaches (like looking for certain poetic devices or examining the meaning of a specific phrase) do not
require a complete and exhaustive analysis of a poem. So, enjoy what you do understand!
FIRST APPROACHES
Read the poem (many students neglect this step). Identify the speaker and the situation. Feel free to read it more than once! Read the
sentences literally. Use your prose reading skills to clarify what the poem is about.Read each line separately, noting unusual words and
associations. Look up words you are unsure of and struggle with word associations that may not seem logical to you.Note any changes in the
form of the poem that might signal a shift in point of view. Study the structure of the poem, including its rhyme and rhythm (if any). Re-read
the poem slowly, thinking about what message and emotion the poem communicates to you.

STRUCTURE and POETRY


An important method of analyzing a poem is to look at the stanza structure or style of a poem. Generally speaking, structure has to do with
the overall organization of lines and/or the conventional patterns of sound. Again, many modern poems may not have any identifiable

structure (i.e. they are free verse), so don't panic if you can't find it!
STANZAS: Stanzas are a series of lines grouped together and separated by an empty line from other stanzas. They are the equivalent of a
paragraph in an essay. One way to identify a stanza is to count the number of lines. Thus:

couplet (2 lines)

tercet (3 lines)

quatrain (4 lines)

cinquain (5 lines)

sestet (6 lines) (sometimes it's called a sexain)

septet (7 lines)

octave (8 lines)

FORM: A poem may or may not have a specific number of lines, rhyme scheme and/or metrical pattern, but it can still be labeled according
to its form or style. Here are the three most common types of poemsaccording to form:
1. Lyric Poetry: It is any poem with one speaker (not necessarily the poet) who expresses strong thoughts and feelings. Most poems,
especially
modern
ones,
are
lyric
poems.
2. Narrative Poem: It is a poem that tells a story; its structure resembles the plot line of a story [i.e. the introduction of conflict and
characters,
rising
action,
climax
and
the
denouement].
3. Descriptive Poem: It is a poem that describes the world that surrounds the speaker. It uses elaborate imagery and adjectives. While
emotional, it is more "outward-focused" than lyric poetry, which is more personal and introspective.
In a sense, almost all poems, whether they have consistent patterns of sound and/or structure, or are free verse, are in one of the three
categories above. Or, of course, they may be a combination of 2 or 3 of the above styles! Here are some more types of poems that are
subtypes of the three styles above:
Ode: It is usually a lyric poem of moderate length, with a serious subject, an elevated style, and an elaborate stanza pattern.
Elegy: It is a lyric poem that mourns the dead. [It's not to be confused with a eulogy.]It has no set metric or stanzaic pattern, but it usually
begins by reminiscing about the dead person, then laments the reason for the death, and then resolves the grief by concluding that death
leads to immortality. It often uses "apostrophe" (calling out to the dead person) as a literary technique. It can have a fairly formal style, and
sound
similar
to
an
ode.
Sonnet: It is a lyric poem consisting of 14 lines and, in the English version, is usually written in iambic pentameter. There are two basic
kinds of sonnets: the Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet and the Shakespearean (or Elizabethan/English) sonnet. The Italian/Petrarchan sonnet is
named after Petrarch, an Italian Renaissance poet. The Petrarchan sonnet consists of an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). The
Shakespearean sonnet consists of three quatrains (four lines each) and a concluding couplet (two lines). The Petrarchan sonnet tends to
divide the thought into two parts (argument and conclusion); the Shakespearean, into four (the final couplet is the summary).
Ballad: It is a narrative poem that has a musical rhythm and can be sung. A ballad is usually organized into quatrains or cinquains, has a
simple
rhythm
structure,
and
tells
the
tales
of
ordinary
people.
Epic: It is a long narrative poem in elevated style recounting the deeds of a legendary or historical hero.
Qualities of an Epic Poem:

narrative poem of great scope; dealing with the founding of a nation or some other heroic theme requires a dignified
theme requires an organic unity requires orderly progress of the action always has a heroic figure or figures involves
supernatural forces

written in deliberately ceremonial style

Other types of poems include:


Haiku: It has an unrhymed verse form having three lines (a tercet) and usually 5,7,5 syllables, respectively. It's usually considered a lyric
poem.
Limerick: It has a very structured poem, usually humorous & composed of five lines (a cinquain), in an aabba rhyming pattern; beat must

be anapestic (weak, weak, strong) with 3 feet in lines 1, 2, & 5 and 2 feet in lines 3 & 4. It's usually a narrative poem based upon a short and
often ribald anecdote.
SOUND PATTERNS
Three other elements of poetry are rhyme scheme, meter (ie. regular rhythm) and word sounds (like alliteration). These are sometimes
collectively called sound play because they take advantage of the performative, spoken nature of poetry.

RHYME

Rhyme is the repetition of similar sounds. In poetry, the most common kind of rhyme is the end rhyme, which occurs at the end of two or
more lines. It is usually identified with lower case letters, and a new letter is used to identify each new end sound. Take a look at the rhyme
scheme for the following poem :
I saw a fairy in the wood,
He was dressed all in green.
He drew his sword while I just stood,
And realized I'd been seen.
The rhyme scheme of the poem is abab.
.Internal rhyme occurs in the middle of a line, as in these lines from Coleridge, "In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud" or "Whiles all the
night through fog-smoke white" ("The Ancient Mariner"). Remember that most modern poems do not have rhyme.
NOTE: Rhyme (above) and rhythm (below) are two totally different concepts!
RHYTHM AND METER
.Meter: the systematic regularity in rhythm; this systematic rhythm (or sound pattern) is usually identified by examining the type of
"foot" and the number of feet.
1. Poetic Foot: The traditional line of metered poetry contains a number of rhythmical units, which are called feet. The feet in a line are
distinguished as a recurring pattern of two or three syllables("apple" has 2 syllables, "banana" has 3 syllables, etc.). The pattern, or foot, is
designated according to the number of syllables contained, and the relationship in each foot between the strong and weak syllables.Thus:
__ = a stressed (or strong, or LOUD) syllable
U = an unstressed (or weak, or quiet) syllable

In other words, any line of poetry with a systematic rhythm has a certain number of feet, and each foot has two or three syllables with
a constant beat pattern .
a. Iamb (Iambic) - weak syllable followed by strong syllable. [Note that the pattern is sometimes fairly hard to maintain, as in the third
foot.]

b.

c.

Trochee

Anapest

(Trochaic):

(Anapestic):

strong

two

syllable

weak

syllables

e.g.
In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed...
From "The Writer", by Richard Wilbur
d.

Dactyl (Dactylic): a strong syllable followed by two weak syllables.


DD

Here's another (silly) example of dactylic rhythm.


DDDA was an / archer, who / shot at a / frog
DDDB was a / butcher, and / had a great / dog

followed

followed

by

by

weak

syllable.

strong

syllable.

DDDC was a / captain, all / covered with / lace


DDDD was a / drunkard, and / had a red / face.

e.

Spondee (Spondaic): two strong syllables (not common as lines, but appears as a foot). A spondee usually appears at the end of a line.

2. The Number of Feet: The second part of meter is the number of feet contained in a line.
Thus:
one
two
three
four
five
six feet=hexameter (when hexameter is in iambic rhythm, it is called an alexandrine)

foot=monometer
feet=dimeter
feet=trimeter
feet=tetrameter
feet=pentameter

Poems with an identifiable meter are therefore identified by the type of feet (e.g. iambic) and the number of feet in a line (e.g.
pentameter). The following line is iambic pentameter because it (1) has five feet [pentameter], and (2) each foot has two syllables with the
stress on the second syllable [iambic].
That time | of year | thou mayst | in me | behold
Thus,

you

will

hear

meter

identified

as

iambic

pentameter,

trochaic

tetrameter,

and

so

on.

3. Irregularity: Many metered poems in English avoid perfectly regular rhythm because it is monotonous. Irregularities in rhythm add
interest and emphasis to the lines. In this line:

The first foot substitutes a trochee for an iamb. Thus, the basic iambic pentameter is varied with the opening trochee.

4. Blank Verse: Any poetry that does have a set metrical pattern (usually iambic pentameter), butdoes not have rhyme, is blank verse.
Shakespeare frequently used unrhymed iambic pentameter in his plays; his works are an early example of blank verse.

5. Free Verse: Most modern poetry no longer follows strict rules of meter or rhyme, especially throughout an entire poem. Free verse,
frankly, has no rules about meter or rhyme whatsoever! [In other words, blank verse has rhythm, but no rhyme, while free verse
has neither rhythm norrhyme.] So, you may find it difficult to find regular iambic pentameter in a modern poem, though you might find it
in particular lines. Modern poets do like to throw in the occasional line or phrase of metered poetry, particularly if theyre trying to create a
certain
effect.
Free
verse
can
also
apply
to
a
lack
of
a
formal
verse
structure.

How do I know if a poem has meter? How do I determine the meter?


To maintain a consistent meter, a poet has to choose words that fit. For example, if a poet wants to write iambic poetry, s/he has to choose
words that have a naturally iambic rhythm. Words like betray and persuade will work in an iambic poem because they are naturally iambic.
They sound silly any other way. However, candle and muscle will work best in a trochaic poem, because their natural emphasis is on the
first syllable. (However, a poet can use trochaic words if s/he places a one syllable word in front of them. This often leads to poetic feet
ending in the middle of words - after one syllable - rather than the end.) It's not surprising that most modern poetry is not metered, because it
is very restrictive and demanding.
Determining meter is usually a process of elimination. Start reading everything in iambic by emphasizing every second syllable. 80 to 90%
of metered poetry is iambic. If it sounds silly or strange, because many of the poem's words do not sound natural, then try trochaic, anapestic
or dactylic rhythms. If none of these sounds natural, then you probably do not have metered poetry at all (ie. it's free verse).

If

there

are

some

lines

that

sound

metered,

but

some

WORD

that

don't,

the

poem

has

an irregular rhythm.
SOUNDS

Another type of sound play is the emphasis on individual sounds and words:
Alliteration:
the
repetition
of
initial
sounds
on
the
same
line
or
stanza
- Big bad Bob bouncedbravely.
Assonance: the repetition of vowel sounds (anywhere in the middle or end of a line or stanza) - Tilting at windmills
Consonance: the repetition of consonant sounds (anywhere in the middle or end of a line or stanza) - And a ll the air a solemn stillness
holds. (T.
Gray)
Onomatopoeia: words that sound like that which they describe - Boom! Crash! Pow! Quack! Moo!Caress...
Repetition:
the
repetition
of
entire
lines
or
phrases
to
emphasize
key
thematic
ideas.
Parallel Stucture: a form of repetition where the order of verbs and nouns is repeated; it may involve exact words, but it more importantly
repeats sentence structure - "I came, I saw, I conquered".
MEANING and POETRY
I said earlier that poetry is not always about hidden or indirect meanings (sometimes called meaning play). Nevertheless, if often is a major
part of poetry, so here some of the important things to remember:

CONCRETENESS and PARTICULARITY


In general, poetry deals with particular things in concrete language, since our emotions most readily respond to these things. From the
poem's particular situation, the reader may then generalize; the generalities arise by implication from the particular. In other words, a poem
is most often concrete and particular; the "message," if there is any, is general and abstract; it's implied by the images.
Images, in turn, suggest meanings beyond the mere identity of the specific object. Poetry "plays" with meaning when it identifies
resemblances or makes comparisons between things; common examples of this "figurative" comparison include:

ticking of clock = mortality

hardness of steel = determination

white = peace or purity

Such terms as connotation, simile, metaphor, allegory, and symbol are aspects of this comparison. Such expressions are generally
called figurative or metaphorical language.

DENOTATION AND CONNOTATION


Word meanings are not only restricted to dictionary meanings. The full meaning of a word includes both the dictionary definition and the
special meanings and associations a word takes in a given phrase or expression. For example, a tiger is a carnivorous animal of the cat
family. This is the literal or denotative meaning. But we have certain associations with the word: sinuous movement, jungle violence, and
aggression. These are the suggestive, figurative or connotative meanings.

FIGURATIVE/CONNOTATIVE DEVICES
1.

Simile is the rhetorical term used to designate the most elementary form of resemblances: most similes are introduced by "like" or
"as." These comparisons are usually between dissimilar situations or objects that have something in common, such as "My love is
like a red, red rose."

2.

A metaphor leaves out "like" or "as" and implies a direct comparison between objects or situations. "All flesh is grass." For more
on metaphor, click here.

3.

Synecdoche is a form of metaphor, which in mentioning an important (and attached) part signifies the whole (e.g. "hands" for
labour).

4.

Metonymy is similar to synecdoche; it's a form of metaphor allowing an object closely associated (butunattached) with a object or
situation to stand for the thing itself (e.g. the crown or throne for a king or the bench for the judicial system).

5.

A symbol is like a simile or metaphor with the first term left out. "My love is like a red, red rose" is a simile. If, through persistent
identification of the rose with the beloved woman, we may come to associate the rose with her and her particular virtues. At this
point, the rose would become a symbol.

6.

Allegory can be defined as a one to one correspondence between a series of abstract ideas and a series of images or pictures
presented in the form of a story or a narrative. For example, George Orwell's Animal Farm is an extended allegory that represents
the Russian Revolution through a fable of a farm and its rebellious animals.

7.

Personification occurs when you treat abstractions or inanimate objects as human, that is, giving them human attributes, powers,
or feelings (e.g., "nature wept" or "the wind whispered many truths to me").

8.

Irony takes many forms. Most basically, irony is a figure of speech in which actual intent is expressed through words that carry the
opposite meaning.
o

Paradox: usually a literal contradiction of terms or situations

Situational Irony: an unmailed letter

Dramatic Irony: audience has more information or greater perspective than the characters

Verbal Irony: saying one thing but meaning another

Overstatement (hyperbole)

Understatement (meiosis)

Sarcasm

Irony may be a positive or negative force. It is most valuable as a mode of perception that assists the poet to see around and behind opposed
attitudes, and to see the often conflicting interpretations that come from our examination of life.