Elements of Poetry

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Elements of Poetry
Key Concepts and Examples
What is poetry?
O No single definition
O Most concentrated and condensed form of
literature
O Intense focus on each word and line and how
they operate together to communicate
experiences
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
association
O Example:
O “Greasy” has a negative connotation,
independent of dictionary definition
Literal meaning vs. figurative
meaning
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
Wheelbarrow”
O Ezra Pound, “In a Station of the Metro”
What is figurative language?
O Language that cannot be taken literally or only
literally
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
truth
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
O
O
O
O
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
meanings
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,
touch)
O Collins, “Introduction to Poetry” and nearly all
poems
What poetic elements exist?
O Allusion
O A reference to something in history or previous
literature
O Hopkins, “Spring”
O Yeats, “No Second Coming”
What sound devices exist?
O Alliteration – repetition of initial consonant
sounds
O Assonance – repetition of vowel sounds
O Consonance – repetition of final consonant
sounds
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
Work”)
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
syllables
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
pentameter
O Sonnet
O 14 lines, iambic pentameter, prescribed rhyme
O English (Shakespearean) sonnet: abab cdcd efef gg
O Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet: abbaabba cdecde OR
cdcdcd
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 TP-CASTT
O Title – Paraphrase – Connotations – Attitude –
Shifts– Title – Theme
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