poetryterms File

1. Imagery- the descriptive language used in
literature to re-create sensory experiences.
The images in a work supply details of sight,
sound, taste, touch, smell, or movement and
help the reader to sense the experience being
“Living Tenderly” -Mary Swenson
My body a rounded stone
with a pattern of smooth seams.
My head a short snake,
retractive, projective.
My legs come out of their sleeves
or shrink within,
and so does my chin.
My eyelids are quick clamps.
2. Figurative Language- one of the elements
that make poetry, poetry- based on some
sort of comparison that is not literally true.
Such language is so natural to us that we use
it every day.
An example of figurative language:
The Budget Committee hammered at the
Treasury Secretary for three hours.
3. Metaphor- a figure of speech in which one
thing is spoken of as if it were something
else. It is an implied comparison through
identification. (Death is a long sleep)
“Metaphor” -Eve Merriam
Morning is
A new sheet of paper
for you to write on.
Whatever you want to say,
all day,
until night
folds it up
and files it away.
The bright words and the dark words
are gone
until dawn
and a new day
to write on.
4. Simile- a figure of speech that makes a
direct comparison between two subjects
using either like or as.
from “Tiger Year” -Laura Tokunaga
planets circle in the gathering
dark like pale insects
around the opened throats of flowers
5. Personification- type of metaphor in which a
nonhuman thing or quality is talked about as if
it were human. In the example below, trees
are personified as women throwing off their
The trees are undressing, and fling in many
On the gray road, the roof, the window sill—
Their radiant robes and ribbons and yellow
--Thomas Hardy,
from “Last Week in October”
6. Theme- general idea or insight about life
that the work reveals, often is only implied,
or suggested. You can identify theme
through careful reading, analysis, and
7. Tone- how the speaker’s words
communicate the speaker’s attitude toward
the poem’s subject. The speaker’s tone
helps convey a poem’s meaning and create
its effect on its audience. (i.e. - serious, sad
, and bitter)
8. Voice/Speaker- the speaker is the imaginary
voice assumed by the writer of the poem. In
other words, the speaker is the character
who says the poem. This character often is
not identified by name.
9. Style/Word Choice- A writer’s style is his or
her typical way of writing. Style includes word
choice, sentence length, grammatical
structure, organization, degree of formality,
tone, figurative language, and rhythm.
10. Rhythm- the pattern of beat, or stresses, in
a spoken or written language. In traditional
poetry, regular rhythmic pattern, or meter is
used. Poetry that is rhythmic but does not
have a regular pattern is called free verse.
Instead of following a set metrical pattern, a
poem in free verse has its own rhythm that
suits its meaning.
11. Rhyme- a repetition of sounds at the ends
of words. Rhymed words have the same
vowel sounds in their accented syllables.
first stanza from “The Raven” -Edgar Allan Poe
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered,
weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of
forgotten loreWhile I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there
came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my
chamber door,
“ ‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, tapping at
my chamber doorOnly this and nothing more.
12. Repetition- reinforces the emotional effect
“My cognizance of the pit had become known
to the Inquisitorial agents—the pit, whose
horrors had been destined for so bold a
recusant as myself—the pit, typical hell and
regarded by rumor as the ultima Thule of all
their punishments. The plunge into this pit I
had avoided…”
13. Alliteration- the repetition of initial
consonant sounds. Writers and poets use
alliteration to create pleasing musical effects.
from “I Was a Skinny Tomboy Kid” -Alma
I grew like a thin, stubborn weed
watering myself whatever way I could.
14. Onomatopoeia- the use of words to imitate
sounds. Examples of such words include hiss,
hum, murmur, and rustle.
Robert Frost uses onomatopoeia in this line:
“The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard.”
Onomatopoeia is used to create musical effects and
to reinforce meaning, especially in poetry.
15. Atmosphere- mood or feeling in a work of
literature (also called mood) Atmosphere is
usually created through descriptive details and
evocative language. In “The Pit and the
Pendulum,” Edgar Allan Poe creates a dizzying
atmosphere of horror.
16. Stanza- group of consecutive lines that
form a single unit in a poem. A stanza in a
poem is something like a paragraph in prose:
It often expresses a unit of thought. A
stanza may consist of only one line or of any
number of lines beyond that. A.E.
Housman’s “Loveliest of Trees” consists of
three four-line stanzas, or quatrains, each
expressing a unit of thought.
17. Irony- the discrepancy between
expectations and reality
Samuel Taylor Coleridge uses irony in his poem, “Rime of
the Ancient Mariner” when he writes:
Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.
It is ironic that there is water everywhere, but none that
is actually drinkable. One would expect that with a lot of
water around, one would not go thirsty.