The Qualities of Poetry

“Are words arranged in a rhythmic pattern with
regular accents (like beats in music), words which
are carefully selected for sound, accent and
meaning to express, imaginatively, ideas and
emotions. Each poem has rhythm, melody, imagery,
and form”
SUBJECT MATTER, simply put, is the person, place, object or item about
which the poem is written.
THEME is more challenging, it is the moral lesson to be drawn from the
poem. This is usually foreshadowed by the title and opening verse,
however may require closer examination of the conflict and resolution to
truly discover deeper meaning.
Remember, sometimes theme is abstract or implied rather than stated.
The basic unit of poetry is the line. It serves the same
function as the sentence in prose, although most poetry
maintains the use of grammar within the structure of the
Most poems have a structure in which each line contains a set
amount of syllables; this is called meter.
Lines are also often grouped into stanzas.
The stanza in poetry is equivalent or equal to the paragraph in
prose. Often the lines in a stanza will have a specific rhyme
scheme. Some of the more common stanzas are:
Couplet: a two line stanza
Triplet: a three line stanza
Quatrain: a four line stanza
Cinquain: a five line stanza
Meter is the measured arrangement of words in poetry,
the rhythmic pattern of a stanza, determined by the kind
and number of lines. Meter is an organized way to
arrange stressed/accented syllables and
unstressed/unaccented syllables.
Whose woods / these are / I think /I know
Rhyme is when the endings of the words
‘sound’ the same. Read the poem below:
Dust of Snow
by Robert Frost
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And save some part
Of a day I had rued.
Rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyming words at the end of each
line. Not all poetry has a rhyme scheme. They are not hard to
identify, but you must look carefully at which words rhyme and which
do not.
Dust of Snow
Poems of more
than one stanza
often repeat the
same rhyme
scheme in each
by Robert Frost
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And save some part
Of a day I had rued.
Generally speaking, poetry can be of either fixed or free form.
 Fixed form is a poem that may be categorized by the pattern of its lines,
meter, rhythm, or stanzas; a style of poetry that has set rules. Ex: sonnet,
villanelle, limerick
 Free Form (free verse) is a poem that has neither regular rhyme nor regular
meter. Free verse often uses cadences (A falling inflection of the voice, as at
the end of a sentence) rather than uniform metrical feet.
Fixed form poems come in many shapes and sizes but some of the more well
known examples include: sonnets, haiku, cinquain, limericks and even monologues.
Cinquain: a poem with five lines
Line 1 is one word (the title)
Line 2 is two words that describe the title.
Line 3 is three words that tell the action
Line 4 is four words that express the feeling
Line 5 is one word that recalls the title
Strong, Tall
Swaying, swinging, sighing
Memories of summer
Create your own Cinquain and share it with the
Time – 7 minutes.
A free form poem is literary piece that has no restrictions in terms of how it is organized. Unlike conventional
poems it has no specific rhythm, structure, metre and measure. Free form poems are based on exactly what
their name or title implies.
Washed Away by Katherine Foreman
Nothing's changed except me and the facts
And the sadness I didn't mean to start.
But it feels different now you've said
It's wrong, and I still can't see your point.
And I think as water runs over my hands that
That's really all there is or can be.
The gold is wearing off the infamous ring
And something wears away from around my heart.
For tomorrow’s class, I want you to write a ten line free
form poem about a subject of your own choosing.
Select something that you are passionate about and/or
upsets you.
You may be asked to share your poem with the class.
Writers generally have some feelings about their subjects and sometimes these
feelings are immediately evident, we call this tone. Tone is the manner in which
a poet makes his statement; it reflects his attitude toward his subject. Since
printed poems lack the intonations of spoken words, the reader must learn to
"hear" their tones with his mind's ear
Similarly, atmosphere is more of a general feeling that surrounds the poem. It
is established through setting and diction (author’s choice of words).
Rhyme is the repetition of similar sounds in two or more words. In poetry, these words are
usually at the end of a line “end rhyme” and help create a certain rhythm. For example tree,
me, see, be, flee all rhyme because they end with the same sound.
Rhyme Scheme is the pattern in which rhyming happens. For example,
There once was a big fat cat, a
That liked to eat cute little mice. b
All day he watched while he sat, a
For those mice that tasted so nice. B
Cat and sat rhyme, as well as mice and nice.
So, the rhyme scheme is a, b, a, b.
Rhythm (or "measure") in writing is like the beat in music.
In poetry, rhythm implies that certain words are produced
more force- fully than others, and may be held for longer
duration. The repetition of a pattern of such emphasis is
what produces a "rhythmic effect." The word rhythm
comes from the Greek, meaning "measured motion."
In speech, we use rhythm without consciously creating
recognizable patterns. For example, almost every
telephone conversation ends rhythmically, with the
conversants understanding as much by rhythm as by the
meaning of the words, that it is time to hang up.
Frequently such conversations end with Conversant A
uttering a five- or six-syllable line, followed by
Conversant B's five to six syllables, followed by A's twoto four-syllable line, followed by B's two to four syllables,
and so on until the receivers are cradled.
Well I gotta go now.
Okay, see you later.
Sure, pal.
So long.
See you.
Take care.
Bye bye.
Bye bye.
The most obvious king of rhythm is the regular repetition of stressed and unstessed
syllables found in some poetry.
The most common units ("feet") of rhythm in English are:
The iamb, consisting of two syllables, only the second accented (as in "good-bye")
The trochee, two syllables, only the first accented (as in "awful")
The anapest, three syllables, with only the third stressed (as in "Halloween")
The dactyl, one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed (as in "wonderful")
The spondee, two consecutive syllables that are both stressed (as in "big deal")
To conjure images in a reader’s mind, poets frequently compare both similar and dissimilar
objects or states of mind. It can be directly stated like a “bird swooping in like a thunderbolt”
or may be spoken of as though it were another. For example, talking about the eagle as
though it were a person, “he clasped the crag with crooked hands”.
Authors also try to invoke the readers senses, as imagery depends upon it – They appeal to:
Touch (Tactile)
Taste (Gustatory)
Smell (Olfactory)
Sound (Auditory) or
Sight (Visual)
Generally speaking, when we read poetry we try to:
1. Hear the words – rhyme, rhyme scheme, new words or expressions
(neologism) and poetic devices like alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia
2. Look at the words – diction: connotation vs. denotation, enjambment, meter,
flow of the language etc.
3. Look at the big picture (structure) – lines, stanzas, punctuation etc.
You will be introduced to the TPCASTT method of analysis when it comes to
poetry, but here are some tips to help you:
Read the poem slowly and out loud to help hear the “musicality” of the
Be patient, for poems can be ambiguous or confusing. Talk about it with
others who have read it, when possible.
Read the poem several times.
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