Lit. Poetry

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Last updated: December 2, 2019

verse
any single line of poetry or any composition written in separate lines of more or less regular rhythm, in contrast with prose.

paraphrase
the restatement in one’s own words of what one understands a poem to say or suggest. similar to summary, although not as brief or simple

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summary
a brief condensation of the main idea or plot of a work.

similar to paraphrase, but less detailed

subject
the main topic of a work, whatever the work is “about”

theme
a generally recurring subject or idea noticeably evident in a literary work. not all subjects in a work can be considered this, only the central ones

lyric poem
a short poem expressing the thoughts and feelings of a single speaker. often written in the first person, it traditionally has a songlike immediacy and emotional force (ex. Those Winter Sundays)

narrative poem
a poem that tells a story. ballads and epics are two common forms of narrative poetry (ex. Out, Out–)

dramatic monologue
a poem written as a speech made by a character at some decisive moment. the speaker is usually addressing a silent listener (ex. My Last Duchess)

dramatic poetry
presents the voice of an imaginary character(s) speaking directly, without any additional narration by the author (ex.

My Last Duchess)

didactic poem
a poem intended to teach a moral lesson or impart a body of knowledge

diction
word choice or vocabulary. this refers to the class of words that an author chooses as appropriate for a particular work

concrete diction
words that specifically name or describe things or persons. concrete words refer to what we can immediately perceive with our senses (ex. dog)

abstract diction
words that express general ideas or concepts (ex. love)

poetic diction
strictly speaking, this means any language deemed suitable for verse, but the term generally refers to elevated language intended for poetry rather than common use

allusion
a brief, sometimes indirect, reference in a text to a person, place, or thing.

these imply a common body of knowledge between reader and writer and act as a literary short-hand to enrich the meaning of a text (ex. Friend, on this scaffold Thomas More lies dead & Grass)

vulgate
the lowest level of diction, this is the language of the common people. not necessarily containing foul or inappropriate language, it refers simply to unschooled, everyday speech.

colloquial english
the casual or informal but correct language of ordinary native speakers. conversational in tone, it may include contractions, slang, and shifts in grammar, vocabulary, and diction

general english
the ordinary speech of educated native speakers. most literate speech and writing is this. Between formal and colloquial

formal english
the heightened, impersonal language of educated persons, usually only written, although possibly spoken on dignified occasions

dialect
a particular variety of language spoken by an identifiable regional group or social class of persons

denotation
the literal, dictionary meaning of a word

connotation
an association or additional meaning that a word, image, or phrase may carry, apart from its literal denotations or dictionary definition. a word may pick up this from the uses to which it has been put in the past

image
a word or series of words that refers to any sensory experience (usually sight, although also sound, smell, touch, or taste). This is a direct or literal recreation of physical experience and adds immediacy to literary language.

(ex. The piercing chill I feel)

imagery
the collective set of images in a poem or other literary work (ex. Reapers)

haiku
a Japanese verse form that has three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. traditional this is often serious and spiritual in tone, relying mostly on imagery, and usually set (often by implication instead of direct statement) in one of the four seasons.

modern this in English often ignore strict syllable count, and may have a more playful, worldly tone. (ex. Heat-lightning streak)

simile
a comparison of two things, indicated by some connective, usually like, as, or than, or a verb such as resembles.

metaphor
a statement that one thing is something else, which, in a literal sense, it is not. this creates a close association between the two entities and underscores some important similarity between them (ex. My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun)

implied metaphor
a comparison that uses neither connectives nor the verb to be.

one part may not be physically stated

mixed metaphor
the combining of two or more incompatible comparison, resulting in ridiculousness or nonsense.

personification
the endowing of a thing, an animal, or an abstract term with human characteristics.

apostrophe
a direct address to someone or something.

a speaker may address an inanimate object, a dead or absent person, an abstract thing, or a spirit

overstatement
also called a hyperbole, it is used to emphasize a point

understatement
an ironic figure of speech that deliberately describes something in a way that is less than the case

metonymy
figure of speech in which the name of a thing is substituted for that of another closely associated with it. (ex. the White House decided…)

synecdoche
the use of a significant part of a thing to stand for the whole of it, or vice versa. (ex.

wheels for a car)

paradox
a statement that at first strikes one as self-contradictory, but that on reflection reveals some deeper sense. often achieved by a play on words

pun
play on words (ex. Coward)

alliteration
the repetition of a consonant sound in a line of verse or prose. this can be used at the beginning of words (initial this) or internally on stressed syllables (internal this)

assonance
the repetition of two or more vowel sounds in successive words, which creates a kind of rhyme. like alliteration, it may occur initially or internally

cacophony
a harsh, discordant sound often mirroring the meaning of the context in which it is used

euphony
the harmonious effect when the sounds of the words connect with the meaning in a way pleasing to the ear and mind

onomatopoeia
an attempt to represent a thing or action by a word that imitates the sound associated with it

rhyme
two or more words that contain an identical or similar vowel sound, usually accented, with following consonant sounds identical as well.

an exact this is a full this in which the sounds following the initial letters of the words are identical in sound

consonance
also called slant rhyme. a kind of rhyme in which the linked words share similar consonant sounds but have different vowel sounds, as in reason and raisin, mink and monk. sometimes only the final consonant sound is identical, as in fame and room

end rhyme
this that occurs at the end of lines, rather than within them. the most common kind of this in english-language poetry

internal rhyme
this that occurs within a line of poetry, as opposed to end rhyme

masculine rhyme
either a rhyme of one-syllable words or — in polysyllabic words — a rhyme on the stressed final syllables

feminine rhyme
a rhyme of two or more syllables with stress on a syllable other than the last

eye rhyme
a “false” rhyme in which the spelling of the words is alike, but the pronunciations differ (daughter and laughter)

stress
an emphasis, or accent, place on a syllable in speech. the unstressed syllable in a line of verse is called the slack syllable

rhythm
the recurring pattern of stresses and pauses in a poem. a fixed this in a poem is called meter

prosody
the study of metrical structures in poetry

scansion
a practice used to describe rhythmic patterns in a poem by separating the metrical feet, counting the syllables, marking the accents, and indicating the cesuras

cesura
a light but definite pause within a line of verse. often appear near the middle of a line, but their placement may be varied for rhythmic effect

run-on line
a line of verse that does not end in punctuation, but carries on grammatically to the next line.

end-stopped line
a line of verse that ends in a full pause, often indicated by a mark of punctuation

foot
the basic unit of measurement in metrical poetry.

each separate meter is identified by the pattern and order of stressed and unstressed syllables in its this.

iamb
a metrical foot in verse in which an unaccented syllable is followed by an accented one.

iambic pentameter
the most common meter in English verse, five iambic feet per line. many fixed forms, such as the sonnet and heroic couplets use this

anapest
a metrical foot in verse in which two unstressed syllables are followed by a stressed syllable

trochee
a metrical foot in which a stressed syllable is followed by an unstressed one

spondee
a metrical foot of verse consisting of two stressed syllables

accentual meter
verse meter based on the number of stresses per line, not the number of syllables

form
in a general sense, this is the means by which a literary work expresses its content. in poetry, it is usually used to describe the design of a poem

fixed form
a traditional verse form requiring certain predetermined elements of structure

closed form
a generic term that describes poetry written in a pattern of meter, rhyme, lines, or stanzas.

adheres to a set structure

open form
verse that has no set scheme — no regular meter, rhyme, or stanzaic pattern. aka free verse

blank verse
contains five iambic feet per line and is not rhymed

couplet
a two-line stanza in poetry, usually rhymed with lines of equal length

closed couplet
two rhymed lines of iambic pentameter that usually contain an independent and complete thought or statement. aka heroic couplet

quatrain
a stanza consisting of four lines, it is the most common stanza form used in English-language poetry

epic
a long narrative poem tracing the adventures of a popular hero. usually written in a consistent form and meter throughout

epigram
a very short, comic poem, often turning at the end with some sharp wit or unexpected stinger

sonnet
a fixed form of fourteen lines, traditionally written in iambic pentameter and rhymed throughout

Italian sonnet
aka Petrarchan sonnet, it rhymes the octave a b b a a b b a; the sestet may follow any rhyme pattern, as long as it does not end in a couplet. the poem traditionally turns, or shifts in mood or tone, after the octave

English sonnet
aka Shakespearean sonnet, it has the following rhyme scheme organized into three quatrains and a concluding couplet; a b a b c d c d e f e f g g the poem may turn — that is, shift in mood or tone– between any of the rhyme clusters

open form
poems that have neither a rhyme scheme nor a basic meter are in this

free verse
poetry whose lines follow no consistent meter.

it may be rhymed, but usually is not. in the last hundred years, this has become a common practice

prose poetry
poetic language printed in this paragraphs, but displaying the careful attention to sound, imagery, and figurative language characteristic of poetry

concrete poetry
a visual poetry composed exclusively for the page in which a picture or image is made of printed letters and words. this attempts to blur the line between language and visual objects, usually relying on puns and cleverness

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