Intro to Poetry Literary Terms

Alliteration
The repetition of two or more consonant sounds in successive words in a line of verse or prose.

Initial alliteration
the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words.

Internal alliteration
The repetition of consonant sounds in the middle of words.

Allusion
A brief, and sometimes indirect, reference in a text to a person, place, or thing–fictitious or practical. It is used to enhance meaning.

Apostrophe
A direct address to someone or something. In poetry it often addresses something not ordinarily spoken to.

Assonance
The repetition of two or more vowel sounds in successive words, which creates a kind of rhyme.

Auditory imagery
A word of sequence or words that refers to the sense of hearing.

Augustan Age
This term has two related meanings. It originally referred to the greatest period of Roman literature. It also refers to the early 18th century in English literature, a neoclassical period.

Ballad
A song that tells a story, characteristically compressed, dramatic, and objective in narrative style. Most consist of quatrains in a simple rhyme scheme.

Ballad stanza
The most common pattern of ballad makers consists of four lines rhymed abcb, in which the first and third lines have four metrical feet and the second and fourth have three feet.

Blank verse
The most common and well-known meter of unrhymed poetry in English. It has five iambic feet per line and is unrhymed.

Blues
A type of folk music originally developed by African Americans in the South, often about some pain or loss. The lyrics traditionally consist of three-line stanzas in which the first two identical lines are followed by a third concluding, rhyming line.

Cacophony
A harsh, discordant sound often mirroring the meaning of the context in which it is used.

Caesura, cesura
A pause within a line of verse

Child ballads
American scholar Francis J. Child compiled a collection of over three hundred authentic ballads in his book

Closed couplet
Two rhymed lines that contain an independent and complete thought or statement.

Close reading
A careful reading that is attentive to organization, figurative language, sentence structure, vocabulary, and other literary and structural elements of a text.

Colloquial English
The casual or informal but correct language of ordinary native speakers, which may include contractions, slang, and shifts in grammar, vocabulary, and diction.

Common meter
regular form of ballad meter with 2 sets of rhymes – ABAB

Conceit
A fanciful expression, usually in the form of an extended metaphor or surprising analogy between seemingly dissimilar objects

Connotation
All the meanings, associations, or emotions that a word suggests

Consonance or Slant Rhyme
Repetition of a consonant sound within two or more words in close proximity.

Couplet
A pair of rhymed lines that may or may not constitute a separate stanza in a poem

Decorum
Propriety or appropriateness, refers to the level of diction that is proper to use in a certain occasion.

Denotation
Literal meaning of a word as it appears in the dictionary

Dialect
A regional variety of a language distinguished by vocabulary, spelling, and pronunciation.

Diction
A writer’s or speaker’s choice of words.

Didactic Poetry
A kind of poetry intended to teach the readers a moral lesson or impart a body of knowledge. It aims for education over art.

Dramatic irony
A special kind of suspenseful expectation, when the audience or reader understands the implication and meaning of a situation and foresees the oncoming disaster or triumph but the character does not.

Dramatic monologue
A type of poem in which a speaker addresses a silent listener. As readers, we overhear the speaker in a ____ _____.

Dramatic poetry
Any verse written for the stage, also a kind of poetry that presents the voice of an imaginary character speaking directly, without any additional comments by the author.

Endnote
a note at the end of the document or section that is used to cite references or to give more information

End rhyme
A word at the end of one line rhymes with a word at the end of another line

English or Shakespearean sonnet
made up of three quatrains and a couplet and rhymes abab, cdcd, efef, gg

Euphony
Agreeableness of sound; pleasing effect to the ear; especially a pleasant sounding or harmonious combination or succession of words

Exact rhyme
Full rhyme in which the sounds following the initial letters of the words are identical in sound. Ex: follow and hollow, go and slow.

Explication
a slow unfolding, an act of interpreting or discovering the meaning of a text, usually involves close reading and special attention to figurative language.

Eye rhyme
rhyme that appears correct from spelling but does not rhyme because of pronunciation

Feminine rhyme
a rhyme of two syllables, one stressed and one unstressed, as

Figure of Speech
An expression or comparison that relies not on its literal meaning, but rather on its connotations and suggestions.

Folk ballads
Anonymous narrative songs, usually in ballad meter. They were originally created for oral performance, often resulting in many versions of a single ballad.

Formal English
The heightened, impersonal language of educated persons, usually only written, although possibly spoken on dignified occasions.

Free Verse
Poetry that does not have a regular meter or rhyme scheme

General English
ordinary speech of educated native speakers

Haiku
A Japanese form of poetry, consisting of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables

Heroic Couplet
(sometimes called a closed couplet) consists of two successive rhyming verses that contain a complete thought within the two lines. It usually consists of iambic pentameter lines.

Hyperbole
using exaggeration to give impact to a statement

Iamb
A metrical foot in verse in which an unaccented syllable is followed by an accented one. It is the most common meter used in English poetry.

Iambic meter
A verse meter consisting of a specific recurring number of iambic feet per line.

Image
Imagery is the use of vivid language to represent objects, actions, or ideas. Details usually refer to the 5 senses.

Imagery
The collective set of images in a poem or other literary work.

implied metaphor
does not state explicitly the two terms of the comparison:

Internal rhyme
A poetic device in which a word in the middle of a line rhymes with a word at the end of the same metrical line.

Ironic point of view
The perspective of a character or narrator whose voice or position is rich with ironic contradictions.

Irony
A contrast or discrepancy between what is stated and what is really meant, or between what is expected to happen and what actually does happen.

Irony of fate
a type of situational irony that can be used for either tragic or comic purposes; the discrepancy between actions and their results, between what characters deserve and what they get

Italian sonnet
Also called Petrarchan sonnet, it rimes the octave (the first 8 lines) a, b, b, a, a, b, b, a; the sestet (last 6 lines) may follow any rime pattern, as long as it does not end in a couplet. The poem traditionally turns, or shifts in mood or tone after the octave.

Levels of diction
In English there are four basic levels of formality in word choice, vulgate, colloquial, general, and formal English

Literary Ballad
Ballad not meant for singing, written for literate readers by sophisticated poets rather than arising from oral tradition

Lyric
A short poem expressing the thoughts and feelings of a single speaker.

Madrigal
A short secular song for three or more voices arranged in counterpoint.

masculine rhyme
Either a rhyme of one syllable words (fox and socks) or in polysyllabic words (contrive and survive)

Metaphor
A statement that one thing is something else, which, in a literal sense, it is not.

Meter
A recurrent, regular, rhythmic pattern in verse. When stresses recur at fixed intervals

Metonymy
Figure of speech in which the name of a thing is substituted for that of another closely associated with it

mixed metaphor
A metaphor that trips over another metaphor–usually unconsciously–already in the statement. Results from combining two or more incompatible metaphors resulting in ridiculousness or nonsense.

Narrative poem
A poem that tells a story

New Formalism
A term for a recent literary movement in which young poets began using rhyme, meter, and narrative again

Octave
A stanza of eight lines

Onomatopoeia
A literary device that attempts to represent a thing or action by the word that imitates the sound associated with it

Overstatement
Exaggeration to emphasize a point.

Paradox
A statement that at first strikes one as self-contradictory, but that a reflection reveals some deeper sense.

Paraphrase
The restatement in one’s own words of what we understand a literary work to say.

Parody
A mocking imitation of a literary work or individual author’s style, usually for comic effect

Pentameter
A verse meter consisting of five metrical feet, or five primary stresses, per line

Personification
A figure of speech in which a thing, an animal, or an abstract term is endowed with human characteristics

Poetic diction
Strictly speaking, any language deemed suitable for verse, but the term generally refers to elevated language intended for poetry rather than common use

Portmanteau word
An artificial word that combines parts of other words to express some combination of their qualities

Pun
A play on words in which one word is substituted for another similar or identical sound, but of very different meaning

Quatrain
A stanza consisting of four lines. The most common stanza form used in English-language poetry

Rap
A popular style of music that emerged in the 1980’s in which lyrics are spoken or chanted over a steady beat

Refrain
A word, phrase or stanza repeated at intervals in a song or poem

Rhythm
A pattern of stresses and pauses in a poem

Rhyme
Two or more words that contain an identical or similar vowel sound, especially accented, with following consonant sounds identical as well

Rhyme Scheme
Any recurrent pattern of rhyme within an individual poem or fixed form

Rising Meter
A meter whose movement rises from an unstressed syllable to a stressed syllable. Iambic and Anapestic are examples.

Sarcasm
A conspicuously bitter form of irony in which the ironic statement is designed to hurt or mock its target

Satiric poetry
Poetry that blends criticism with humor to convey a message

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 pauses.

Simile
A comparison of two things, indicated by a connective, usually like or as.

Slant rhyme
A rhyme in which the final consonant sounds are the same but the vowel sounds are different, and in letter and litter

Sonnet
“little song,” A traditional and widely used verse form, especially popular for love poetry. It has a fixed form of 14 lines, usually in iambic pentameter and made of an octave and a sestet.

Stanza
“stopping place,” A recurring pattern of two or more lines of verse, poetry’s equivalent to the paragraph

stress
An emphasis or accent placed on a syllable in speech

Subject
The main topic of a poem, story, or play

Summary
A brief condensation of the main idea or story of a literary work, less detailed than a paraphrase.

Synecdoche
The use of a significant part of a thing to stand for the whole of it or vice versa.

Tactile imagery
A word or sequence of words that refers to the sense of touch

Tercet
A group of three lines of verse, usually all ending in the same end rhyme

Terminal refrain
A refrain that appears at the end

Terza Rima
A verse form made up of three-line stanzas that are connected by an overlapping rhyme scheme

Theme
A generally recurring subject or idea conspicuously eveident iin a literary work

Tone
The attitude toward a subject conveyed in a literary work

Trochaic or trochee
a metrical foot in which a stressed syllable is followed by an unstressed syllable as in the words sum-mer and chor-us. It is often associated with songs, chants, and magic spells in English

Troubadours
lyric poets who sang

Understatement
An ironic figure of speech that deliberately describes something in a way that is less than the true case

Verbal Irony
A statement in which the speaker or writer says the opposite of what is really meant

Verse
“to turn” It has two meanings. It refers to any single line of poetry, and it also refers to any composition in lines of more or less regular rhythm

Villanelle
A fixed form developed to imitate the Italian folk song. It consists of six rhymed stanzas in which two lines are repeated in a prescribed pattern

Visual imagery
A word or sequence of words that refers to the sense of sight or [represents something one may see]

Vulgate
The lowest level of formality in language. The diction of common people with no refinements or elevations. It refers to unschooled, everyday language

Accent
An emphasis or stress on a syllable in speech. Clear pronunciation of polysyllabic words almost always depends on correct placement of their stresses.

Accentual meter
A meter that uses a consistent number of strong speech stresses per line.

Acrostic
A poem in which the initial letters of each line, when read downward, spell out a hidden word of words.

Allegory
A narrative in verse or prose in which the literal events consistently point to a parallel sequence of symbolic ideas.

Anapest
A metrical foot in verse in which two unstressed syllables are followed by a stressed syllable, as in “on a boat” or “in a slump”

Clerihew
Two couplets with a focus on a well-known person who is named in the first line

Closed form
A generic term that describes poetry written in a pattern of meter, rime, lines, or stanzas. A closed form adheres to a set structure.

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

Dactyl
A metrical foot consisting of one accented syllable followed by two unaccented syllables

dimeter
A line of poetry consisting of two metrical feet.

Elegy
A lament, melancholy composition.

End-stopped line
line of poetry that has a full pause at the end, typically indicated by a period or semicolon

Epic
A long narrative poem that records the adventures of a hero.

Epigram
A short poem that ends in a witty or ingenious turn of thought, to which the rest of the composition is intended to lead up.

Epigraph
A brief quotation preceding a story or other literary work. it usually suggests the subject, theme, or atmosphere the story will explore,

Falling meter
Poetic meters such as trochaic and dactylic that move or fall from a stressed to an unstressed syllable.

Fixed form
A traditional verse form requiring certain predetermined elements of structure – for example, a stanza pattern, set meter, or predetermined line length.

Form
The means by which a literary work conveys its meaning.

Heptameter
A verse line containing seven feet

Hexameter
a verse line having six metrical feet

limerick
a humorous verse form of 5 anapestic lines with a rhyme scheme aabba

Monometer
A metrical line containing one foot

Octameter
a verse line having eight metrical feet

Open form
A type of structure or form in poetry characterized by freedom from regularity and consistency in such elements as rhyme, line length, metrical pattern, and overall poetic structure.

Projective verse
Charles Olson’s theory that poets compose by listening to their own breathing and using it as a rhythmic guide rather than poetic meter or form.

Run-on line
A line of poetry without punctuation at its end.

Sestet
A six-line unit of verse constituting a stanza or section of a poem; the last six lines of an Italian sonnet.

Sestina
39-line poem of six stanzas of six lines each and a final stanza (called an envoi) of three lines. Rhyme plays no part in the sestina. Instead, one of six words is used as the end word of each of the poem’s lines according to a fixed pattern.

Spondee
a metrical unit with stressed-stressed syllables

Tetrameter
a verse line having four metrical feet

Trimeter
A line of verse consisting of three metrical feet.

Prosody
the study of poetic meter and the art of versification

Envoy
A conventionalized stanza at the close of a poem, which is addressed to a prince or patron, usually having four lines rhyming abab

Cowboy poetry
a contemporary genre of folk poetry written by people with firsthand experience in the life of horse, trail, and ranch

Convention
(adj) 1) following accepted custom or practice 2) conforming to traditional standards

Closed Couplet
two rimed lines of iambic pentameter that usually contain an independent and complete though or statement. Also called heroic couplet.

Bathos
A sudden and unexpected drop from the lofty to the trivial or excessively sentimental. Intended to create humor though fails

Broadside ballads
Poems printed on a single sheet of paper, often set to traditional tunes.

incremental refrain
a refrain whose words change slightly with each recurrence

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