English Poetry Terms

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Last updated: November 29, 2019

alliteration
The repetition of words with the same consonants within a line of poetry.

assonance
The repetition of words with the same vowel sounds within a line of poetry.

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audience
The character within a poem who is listening to the speaker, or the readership for which a poet writes a poem.

ballad
A lyric poem that tells a story in quatrains; some but not all ballads use the standard ballad stanza.

consonance
The rhyme where the words have the same beginning consonant sounds and ending consonance sounds.

conventional symbol
An object that carries symbolic meaning only within a particular culture.

Couplet
Two consecutive rhymed lines of poetry usually containing a complete thought.

enjambment
The continuation of the sense and grammatical construction beyond the end of a line of verse.

euphony
The quality of being pleasing to the ear, esp. through a harmonious combination of words.

extended metaphor
A metaphoric comparison that extends beyond a single line of poetry.

figurative language
Expressions that communicate beyond their literal meanings and therefore must be interpreted in some other way.

iambic pentameter
A common meter in poetry consisting of an unrhymed line with five feet or accents, each foot containing an unaccented syllable and an accented syllable

image/imagery
A sensation — visual, tactile, olfactory, or gustatory — conveyed by language. Anything you see, hear, feel, smell, or taste in a poem is an image.

limerick
A five-line poem that is meant to be humorous, witty, or nonsense. (a humorous verse form of 5 anapestic lines with a rhyme scheme aabba)

literary symbol
An object that carries symbolic meaning only within the context of a particular literary work. (can mean other things in different contexts)

logopoeia
The “dance of intellect among the words and ideas” = meaning.

melopoeia
The musicality, sound, and euphony of a poem.

metaphor
A figure of speech that compares one object to another; the expression will literally make no sense; its meaning can be understood only by applying one term’s connotations to the other.

meter
The measurement of poetry’s rhythms based on stressed and unstressed syllables as well as describing line lengths.

ode
A usually long lyric poem, often irregular in form, on an occasion of public or private reflection in which personal emotion and general meditation are united.

onomatopoeia
Using words that imitate the sound they denote.

paraphrase
A translation of a poem or part of a poem into the style of everyday, common prose to understand the poem’s literal meaning.

personification
A type of metaphor in which some nonhuman object or abstraction is compared to a human being.

prose
A short piece of writing in paragraph form rather than in meter, but which in other ways resembles a poem. The subject matter and treatment are like poetry, and the sentences, despite the lack of meter, create a strong sense of rhythm.

quatrain
a four-line stanza

rhetorical situation
The fictional scene that encompasses a poem: who the speaker is; who the audience is; the setting surrounding them; the occasion that has prompted the speaker to speak. Sometimes the rhetorical situation is impossible to define.

rhyme
The repetition of sounds.

rhythm
The musical quality of a poem usually established by a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.

simile
A metaphor that introduces its comparison with the word “like” or “as.

slant rhyme /off-rhyme
The final consonant sounds are the same, but the vowel sounds are different. (sun, green)

sonnet
A fourteen-line poem, usually in iambic pentameter. The two main types of sonnet are English and Italian.

Often they are written in cycles, or sequences of many poems, and they typically explore the theme of love.

speaker
The person who is uttering the words in a poem. Unless you have evidence to the contrary, you should assume that the speaker is not the poet – that the speaker is a fictional persona.

stanza
A division of lines within a poem.

symbol
An object that carries meaning on the literal level and also stands for something else on a figurative level. (representation)

synthesia
A mix of senses.

tenor
The subject that the vehicle illuminates or illustrates.(within a metaphor)

tercet
A three line stanza

tone
The verbal indication of a speaker’s (and a poet’s) attitude toward a poem’s subject.

universal symbol
Symbols that seem to carry the sam meanings in many cultures.

vehicle
The concrete image that is linked with the tenor. (within a metaphor)

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