Poetry Terms by Definition

alliteration
—repetition of consonant sounds, usually at the beginning of words, e.g., Sally sells sea shells…

allusion
—reference to a well-known text (book, song, movie, historical event, etc.), e.g., If it keeps raining, we’ll have to build an ark.

assonance
—repetition of vowel sounds (like alliteration, but vowels)

blank verse
—unrhymed poetry that has a regular rhythmic pattern (such as iambic pentameter)

connotation
—images and feelings associated with a word, e.g., nude (positive) versus naked (negative)

couplet
—two lines of rhymed poetry (aa, bb, cc rhyme scheme)

denotation
—literal, dictionary meaning of word, e.g., nude and naked both mean without clothes

diction
—author’s choice of words; determines mood/tone; related to connotation of words

epic
—long, narrative poem about a hero/quest, e.g., The Odyssey

free verse
—unrhymed poetry that follows no rhythmic pattern

Haiku
—Japanese form of poetry; traditionally about nature; follows syllabic pattern 5-7-5 (3 lines)

hyperbole
—exaggeration for effect, e.g., I’m so hungry I could eat a horse; I want to kiss your lips for eternity

iambic pentameter
—5 (penta) feet of unstressed/stressed syllable (iams), e.g., “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”

imagery
—words/phrases that appeal to the 5 senses; related to connotation and diction

inversion
—reversal of word order (syntax); usually done to follow rhythm or rhyme pattern, e.g., “Our milk supply is getting low,/ to the store I must go…”

lyric
—form of poetry that expresses thoughts & feelings in a song-like style (so it is rhythmic & flowing)

metaphor
—comparison in which one thing “becomes” another, e.g., “I want to swim in the pools of your eyes.”

meter/rhythm
—pattern of unstressed/stressed syllables in a line of poetry

narrative poetry
—form of poetry that tells a story

onomatopoeia
—recreation of sounds with “words,” e.g., BUZZZ, pop, shhhh, whoosh, crack, bang, brrr

personification
—giving human characteristics to a non-living object or idea, e.g. The recliner swallowed me.

repetition
—used for emphasis, reader involvement, and rhythm, e.g., “EIEI-O” part of Old MacDonald’s song

rhyme scheme
— patterns of rhyme; labeled with letters; e.g., couplet=2 lines (AA), tercet=3 lines (ABA or ABB), quatrain=4 lines (ABAB or ABBA), etc.

sonnet
— 14 line poem that follows a strict rhyme scheme & meter (3 types: Shakespearean, Petrarchan, Spenserian)

stanza
— groups of lines within a poem separated by white space; usually share a common rhyme scheme in rhymed poetry

symbolism
— concrete object that stands for an abstract idea, e.g., “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.” In which “scarlet” = sin/guilt and “white” = purity

white space
—how a poem is arranged on the page, including line breaks, page layout/format, and spacing

parallelism
the use of a series of words, phrases, or sentences that have similar grammatical form

paradox
a seemingly contradictory statement that is, in fact, true

humor
an event or story made up of at least one of the following elements: (1) Incongruity (something being out of place; ironic) (2) Surprise (something being shocking; unexpected), and (3) Recognition (something that makes sense; easily understood by audience).

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