Elements of Poetry

Elements of Poetry
Key Concepts and Examples
What is poetry?
O No single definition
O Most concentrated and condensed form of
O Intense focus on each word and line and how
they operate together to communicate
O Focus on communicating experiences
O No lesson or moral required
O Not always beautiful
Where do we begin?
O Denotation vs. Connotation
O Literal meaning vs. Figurative meaning
O Figures of speech and figurative language
O Sound devices and musicality
O Rhythm and meter
O Tone and Theme
What do words mean?
O Denotation
O Dictionary definition of a word; literal meaning
O Connotation
O Implied or suggested meaning of a word
O Depends upon implication or shared emotional
O Example:
O “Greasy” has a negative connotation,
independent of dictionary definition
Literal meaning vs. figurative
O Literal Meaning
O The simplest, most obvious meaning
O Tied to denotation of words
O “The sky is gray” tells the color of the sky.
O Figurative Meaning
O Associational or connotative meaning
O Tied to representations, symbolic meaning
O “The sky is gray” suggests an ominous,
foreboding atmosphere.
Why are connotation and
figurative meaning important?
O Poems do not have only a literal meaning, but
they have deeper meanings tied to their
connotative or figurative meaning
O Poets use connotations to develop or complicate
a poem’s meaning
O William Carlos Williams, “The Red
O Ezra Pound, “In a Station of the Metro”
What is figurative language?
O Language that cannot be taken literally or only
O Language that employs figures of speech
O Figures of speech – ways of saying something
other than the ordinary way, where you say one
thing and mean another
O Examples: “It’s raining cats and dogs” or “I
could eat a horse”
Types of figurative language
O Simile
O A comparison of two essentially unlike things using
“like” or “as”
O Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”
O Metaphor
O A comparison of two essentially unlike things without
using words; application of a name or description to
something to which it is not literally applicable
O Literal and figurative terms may be named or implied
O Ezra Pound, “In a Station of the Metro”
Types of Figurative Language
O Personification
O Giving the attributes of a person to an animal,
object, or concept
O Tennyson, “The Eagle”
O Apostrophe
O Addressing someone absent or dead or
something nonhuman as if that person or thing
were present and alive
O Angelou, “Woman Work”
Types of Figurative Language
O Hyperbole
O Overstatement, exaggeration in the service of
O Tennyson, “The Eagle”; Wordsworth, “I
Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”
O Understatement
O Saying less than one means
O Hayden, “Those Winter Sundays”; Hardy, “The
Man He Killed”
Types of Figurative Language
O Symbol
O Something that means, suggests more than what
it is
Functions both literally (what the symbol is) and
figuratively (what the symbol represents)
Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”
Hayden, “Those Winter Sundays”
Wordsworth, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”
What is the relationship between
symbols and similes/metaphors?
O Similes and metaphors compare two seemingly
unlike things
O “Some dirty dog stole my wallet”
O Symbols associate two things using literal and
figurative meaning
O “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”
Types of Figurative Language
O Paradox
O A seeming contradiction that is somehow true
O Valuable for shock effect, attracts attention
O Example: “Poetry is a language that tells us,
through a more or less emotional reaction,
something that cannot be said.” Edwin Robinson
O Example: “Cowards die many times before their
deaths; / The valiant never taste of death but
once.” Shakespeare
Types of Figurative Language
O Irony
O When you say or get the opposite of what you
mean or expect
O Verbal irony – discrepancy between what the
speaker says and what the speaker means
O Dramatic irony – discrepancy between what the
speaker says and what the poem means
O Owen, “Dulce et Decorum Est”
O Brooks, “We Real Cool”
Types of Figurative Language
O Pun
O A play on words; a humorous use of a single
word or sound with two or more implied
O Oxymoron
O A compact paradox in which two successive
words seemingly contradict one another
O Examples: bittersweet, wild civility, cold heat
Types of Figurative Language
O Metonymy
O The use of something closely related for the
thing actually meant
O Example: “The pen is mightier than the sword”
O Synecdoche
O A part substituted for the whole
O Yeats “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”
What poetic elements exist?
O Imagery
O Words or sequence of words that represent a
sensory experience (sight, smell, hearing, taste,
O Collins, “Introduction to Poetry” and nearly all
What poetic elements exist?
O Allusion
O A reference to something in history or previous
O Hopkins, “Spring”
O Yeats, “No Second Coming”
What sound devices exist?
O Alliteration – repetition of initial consonant
O Assonance – repetition of vowel sounds
O Consonance – repetition of final consonant
O Onomatopoeia – use of words to imitate the
sounds they describe
What sound devices exist
O Rhyme – repetition of accented vowel sounds
and any succeeding consonant sounds
O Internal rhyme – one or more rhyming words
within single line
O End rhyme – rhyming words at end of line
O Approximate rhyme – slant rhyme, words with
any kind of sound similarity (alliteration,
assonance, and consonance at end of lines)
What sound devices exist?
O Elision – omission of unstressed vowel or
syllable to preserve meter
O Anaphora – repetition of opening word of
phrase in a series of lines (Angelou, “Woman
O Refrain – repetition of whole words, phrases,
lines, or groups of lines according to fixed
pattern (Shakespeare, “Winter”)
What is meter?
O Meter – measured pattern of rhythmic accents
in a line of verse
O Foot – basic unit of meter, consisting of one
accented syllable plus one or two unaccented
O Iambic (iamb) – metrical foot containing two
syllables, first unstressed, second stressed
O Iambic pentameter – five iambic feet
What is rhythm?
O Rhythm – natural rise and fall of language
O Corresponds to alternation between accented
(stressed) and unaccented (unstressed) syllables
O End-stopped line – end of the line corresponds
with natural speech pause
O Run-on line – no natural pause at end of the
line; enjambment
O Caesura – a pause for a beat in the rhythm of
the verse (within a line)
What poetic forms exist?
O Open vs. Closed
O Open – free from regularity and consistency
O Closed – follows fixed structure and pattern
(rhyme, length, meter)
O Blank verse vs. Free verse
O Blank verse – unrhymed iambic pentameter
(Shakespeare’s plays)
O Free verse – no prescribed pattern or structure
What poetic forms exist?
O Stanza – unit of poetic lines, verse paragraph
O Couplet – a pair of lines, usually rhymed
O Heroic couplet – pair of rhymed lines in iambic
O Sonnet
O 14 lines, iambic pentameter, prescribed rhyme
O English (Shakespearean) sonnet: abab cdcd efef gg
O Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet: abbaabba cdecde OR
Tone and Subject
O Tone
O The writer’s or speaker’s attitude toward the
subject, the reader, or herself of himself
O Subject
O What is the poem about?
Meaning vs. Theme
O Poem’s meaning – the experience it expresses
O What experience does the poem communicate,
and how well does it do so?
O Poem’s theme
O The central idea or unifying generalizations
implied or stated by a literary work
O Ascertain from the poem itself
O Not simply the subject of the poem, but what
does the poem suggest about a subject
How do we approach poems?
O Six Steps
O Read aloud twice – define unknown words –
initial impressions, responses, observations – TPCASTT analysis – return to initial impressions,
responses, observations – evaluate the poem
O Title – Paraphrase – Connotations – Attitude –
Shifts– Title – Theme
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