poetry critical terms

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Last updated: December 11, 2019

alliteration
the repetition of usually initial consonant sounds through a sequence of words

assonance
the repetition of vowel sounds in a sequence of words with different endings

ballad stanza
a common stanza form consisting of a quatrain that alternates four foot and three foot lines

blank verse
the metrical verse form most like everyday human speech; blank verse consists of unrhymed lines in iambic pentameter

couplet
two consecutive lines of verse linked by rhyme and meter; the meter of a heroic couplet is iambic pentameter

diction
choice of words

dramatic monologue
a type or subgenre of poetry in which a speaker addresses a silent auditor or auditors in a specific situation and setting that is revealed entirely through the speakers words

dramatic poetry
a poem structured so as to present a scene of series of scenes, as in a work of drama

English (or Shakespearean) sonnet
consists of three quatrains and a couplet; rhymes usually as abab cdcd efef gg; in iambic pentameter

enjambment
in poetry, the technique of running over from one line to the next without stop

free verse
poetry characterized by varying line lengths, lack of traditional meter and non rhyming lines

iambic pentameter
a metrical form in which most lines consist of five iambs; unstressed followed by stressed syllable

Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnet
consists of an octave and a sestet; rhymes in abbacddc defdef; iambic pentameter

line
a discrete organization of words

lyric poetry
a poem meant to be sung to the accompaniment of a lyre; now, any relatively short poem in which the speaker expresses his or her thoughts and feelings in the first person

metonymy
a figure of speech in which the name of one thing is used to refer to another associated thing

meter
the more or less regular pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry

narrative poetry
a poem in which a narrator tells a story

octave
eight lines of a verse linked by a pattern of end rhymes, especially the first eight lines of an Italian or Petrarchan sonnet

ode
a lyric poem characterized by a serious topic and formal tone but without a prescribed formal pattern in which the speaker talks about, and often to, an especially revered person or thing

onomatopoeia
a word capturing or approximating the sound of what it describes

quatrain
a four line unit of verse, whether an entire poem, a stanza, or a group of four lines linked by a pattern of rhyme

rhyme
repetition or correspondence of the terminal sounds of words

rhyme scheme
the pattern of end rhymes in a poem, often noted by small letters, such as abab or abba

rhythm
the modulation of weak and strong elements in the flow of speech

sestet
six lines of verse linked by a pattern of rhyme, as in the last six lines of an Italian Sonnet

simile
a figure of speech involving a direct, explicit comparison of one thing to another, usually using words like or as to draw the connection

speaker
anyone who speaks dialogue in a work of fiction, poetry, or drama

stanza
a section of a poem, marked by extra line spacing before and after, that oftenhas a single pattern of meter and/or rhyme

theme
a topic explored in a literary work

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