What is poetry?

Unit 5: Poetry
Sound Devices
Poetry lifts the veil from the
hidden beauty of the world,
and makes familiar objects
be as if they were not
—Percy Bysshe Shelley
<skip intro>
What is poetry?
• The language of poetry is musical and the
word choices are exact.
• Poetry is often best experienced when read
How are poetry and prose
• Both use imagery and figurative language to
paint a picture for readers.
• Both use precise language to communicate a
tone, viewpoint, or perception of an object or
How are poetry and prose
• Poetry reduces meaning into fewer words.
• Poetry often uses meter, rhyme, lines, and
• Poetry allows more freedom in the ordering of
words and use of punctuation.
Who are your favorite poets?
Maya Angelou
Lewis Carroll
Langston Hughes
Emily Dickinson
Robert Frost
Walt Whitman
Shel Silverstein
Naomi Shihab Nye
What are your favorite types
of poems?
Lyric poems
Narrative poems
Concrete poems
Blank verse
Free verse
Lyric Poetry
• The two main kinds of poetry are lyric and
• A lyric poem expresses the emotions of the
poem’s speaker.
• The speaker is the poem’s narrator.
• Lyric poetry often focuses on a single moment,
image, or idea.
Narrative Poetry
• A narrative poem tells a story.
• Narrative poems include many of the same
literary elements as fiction.
• Long narrative poems that describe the deeds
of heroes, gods, or goddesses are called epics.
• Many epic poems offer
insights into the culture
from which they originate.
Other Poetic Forms
• A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem that explores
the theme of romantic love.
– Sonnets use rhyme and a regular rhythm.
• A haiku is a short, three-line poem that
describes a single image or scene, usually from
– The first and third lines of a
haiku have five syllables,
while the second line has
Other Poetic Forms
• A concrete poem is a poem that is shaped like
the object it describes.
• A blank verse poem does not
rhyme, but each line has five
stressed syllables, or beats.
• A free verse poem does not use
consistent rhythm or rhyme.
– Free verse poems can take any
shape and address any subject.
Elements of Poetry
• Two major elements of poetry that can be seen
in most poems are the line and the stanza.
• A line of poetry is a single row of words.
• A stanza is made up of lines of poetry.
– Each stanza is separated from the next by a space.
– The number of lines in a stanza helps to determine
the kind of stanza it is.
• For example, a two-line stanza is a couplet, and a threeline stanza is a tercet.
What are the purposes
of poetry?
• To entertain readers
• To help readers learn about the human
• To help readers gain insight into themselves
and others
• To help readers experience joy, inspiration,
comfort, gratitude, redemption, or strength
• To unite readers in a common understanding
The Art of Poetry
• Poetry is one of the world’s oldest art forms.
• Poetry has survived the centuries because of its
ability to communicate emotions and images.
The Rising Popularity
of Poetry
• Poetry
– is a powerful and expressive art form that is
popular among young people
– can be viewed on social
networking sites, blogs, and
other websites
– can be heard in classrooms,
transit stations, bookstores,
coffeehouses, clubs, films, TV
shows, and other public areas
Meaning in Poetry
• Poems frequently challenge readers to imagine
something in a unique or unexpected way.
• Poets use the following elements to help
readers understand the meaning in their works:
figurative language
sound devices
• The speaker of a poem is the voice that
narrates the poem.
• In other words, the speaker is the voice
assumed by the writer.
• The speaker and the writer of the poem are not
necessarily the same person.
• To identify the speaker of a poem, ask yourself
the following questions:
Who is speaking?
How do I know?
How would I describe the speaker?
To whom is he or she speaking?
What is the speaker’s perspective in the poem?
What bias, or prejudice, might the speaker have?
What attitude does the speaker express?
Speaker and Theme
• Most of the time, the reader has to figure out
the theme, or central idea, of a poem.
• However, sometimes
The moral
of my ode is this:
a poem’s speaker will
beauty is twice
explicitly state its theme, beauty
what is good is doubly
like in the poem “Ode to and
when it is a matter of two socks
My Socks.”
made of wool
in winter.
—from “Ode to My Socks,”
by Pablo Neruda
•What do you think makes a poem’s speaker
distinctive and memorable?
How can a poem’s speaker affect the way readers
understand the poem’s content?
• A symbol is something that stands for, or
represents, both itself and something else.
• In this excerpt from “Southern Mansion,” the
chains represent both themselves and the
institution of slavery.
There is a sound of music echoing
Through the open door
And in the field there is
Another sound tinkling in the cotton
Chains of bondmen dragging on the ground.
—from “Southern Mansion,”
by Arna Bontemps
Types of Symbols
• Writers use two types of symbols: traditional
and unique.
• A traditional symbol has widely recognized
– For example, red roses symbolize love.
• A unique symbol is created especially for a
particular piece of literature.
– What might the toads in the poem “Birdfoot’s
Grampa” (on the next slide) symbolize?
Types of Symbols
The old man
must have stopped our car
two dozen times to climb out
and gather into his hands
the small toads blinded
by our lights and leaping,
live drops of rain.
The rain was falling,
a mist about his white hair
and I kept saying
you can’t save them all,
accept it, go back in
we’ve got places to go.
But, leathery hands full
of wet brown life,
knee deep in the summer
roadside grass,
he just smiled and said
they have places to go to
—“Birdfoot’s Grampa,”
by Joseph Bruchac
Symbolism and Theme
• It is not always clear how an author wants you
to interpret his or her use of a symbol.
• As you read a poem, try to identify its theme.
• Consider how the poet’s use of the following
elements might relate to or develop this theme:
figures of speech
Symbolism and Theme
• What symbols can you find in the excerpt from
“Southern Mansion” below? What is the
poem’s theme?
The years go back with an iron clank,
A hand is on the gate,
A dry leaf trembles on the wall.
Ghosts are walking.
They have broken roses down
And poplars stand there still as death.
—from “Southern Mansion,”
by Arna Bontemps
Meaning in Poetry
• To understand meaning in poetry,
– pay close attention to the figurative language,
sound devices, and imagery in a poem
– determine who the poem’s speaker is and examine
his or her perspective
– try to figure out the poem’s theme
– think about how the poet’s use of description,
detail, figures of speech, and symbols might relate
to or develop this theme
Sound Devices
• Sound is one of elements that distinguishes
poetry from prose.
• Poetry is often musical, consisting of rhythms,
rhymes, and other sound devices.
• Sound devices are elements that writers use to
appeal to the ears of listeners
or readers.
• One common sound technique that readers
immediately associate with poetry is rhyme.
• Rhyme is the repetition of sounds at the ends
of words.
• End rhyme is when the rhyming words in a
poem appear at the ends of the lines.
• When a poem has a consistent pattern of end
rhymes, it is said to have a rhyme scheme.
Rhyme Scheme
• You can identify the rhyme scheme of a poem
by assigning a new letter to each rhyme.
• For example:
The Naming of cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES. b
—from “The Naming of Cats,”
by T. S. Eliot
• Other types of rhyme that poets use include
– internal rhyme, where rhyming words appear
within the lines,
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscutable singular Name.
—from “The Naming of Cats,”
by T. S. Eliot
– slant rhyme, or half rhyme, where rhyming sounds
are similar but not identical.
• The pattern of stressed and unstressed
syllables in a line of poetry is its rhythm.
• Stressed syllables are referred to as beats.
• A regular and predictable pattern of stressed
and unstressed syllables is called meter.
• Can you hear the rhythm in this excerpt?
• Scanning can help you hear the rhythm.
• Scanning is the process of marking / over
stressed syllables and ˘ over unstressed
˘ / ˘
/ ˘ / ˘ / ˘
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
• The pattern in this
—from “The New Colossus,”
excerpt is regular—
by Emma Lazarus
these lines are
• Every meter is made up of feet.
• A foot is a group of two or more stressed or
unstressed syllables.
• An iamb is a type of foot that contains a single
unstressed syllable followed by a single
stressed syllable.
Other Sound Devices
• Aside from rhyme, poets often use the sounds
of letters in other parts of words to achieve a
musical effect.
• These sound techniques include
– alliteration
– consonance
– assonance
• Alliteration occurs when a consonant sound is
repeated at the beginnings of words that are
found near each other.
• What consonant sounds are repeated in the
following excerpt?
Words shy and dappled, deep-eyed deer in herds,
Come to my hand, and playful if I wish,
Or purring softly at a silver dish,
Blue Persian kittens, fed on cream and curds.
—from “Pretty Words,”
by Elinor Wylie
• Consonance occurs when a consonant sound is
repeated at the ends or the middles of words.
• What consonant sounds are repeated in the
following excerpt?
But I love to hear it sung;
how the waterlilies fill with rain until
they overturn, spilling water into water,
then rock back, and fill with more.
—from “I Ask My Mother to Sing”
by Li-Young Lee
• Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds.
• What vowel sounds are repeated in the
following excerpt?
If my father were alive, he would play
his accordion and sway like a boat.
—from “I Ask My Mother to Sing,”
by Li-Young Lee
• Another common sound device used in poetry
is onomatopoeia.
• Onomatopoeia is the use of words or phrases
that sound like the things to which they refer.
Sound Devices
• To analyze the sound techniques that poets
use, consider the following strategies:
– Read a poem aloud, or listen as someone else reads
• Hearing a poem captures the musicality of the poet’s
– Take notes or use a graphic organizer to record the
literary elements of a poem.
• An image is language that creates a concrete
representation of an object or experience.
• It is the vivid mental picture created in the
reader’s mind.
• The term imagery refers
to all of the images in a
literary work.
• What picture does the imagery in the excerpt
below create in your mind?
The white mares of the moon rush along the sky
Beating their golden hooves upon the glass Heavens
The white mares of the moon are all standing on their hind legs
Pawing at the green porcelain doors of the remote Heavens.
—from “Night Clouds,”
by Amy Lowell
Figurative Language
• Figurative language is anything written or
spoken that is not mean to be taken literally.
• This type of language is commonly
used in poetry.
• Figurative language often requires
readers to see or experience
something in a new way.
Purpose of Imagery and
Figurative Language
• A poet uses imagery and figurative language to
paint a picture in readers’ minds
set an emotional tone for a poem
reinforce the theme or central message of a poem
create connections with readers’ own experiences
and observations
Types of Figurative
• Poets frequently use the following four types
of figurative language:
• A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one
thing is spoken or written about as if it were
• Metaphors invite readers to make a
comparison between two things.
• A metaphor works because the things being
compared have one or more qualities in
• Look at the following excerpt from the poem
“Dreams.” What is being compared?
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow
—from “Dreams,”
by Langston Hughes
• A simile is a comparison of two seemingly
unlike things, using the word like or as.
• What two things are being compared in the
following excerpt from “Pretty Words”?
Poets make pets of pretty, docile words:
I love smooth words, like gold-enameled fish
Which circle slowly with a silken swish,
—from “Pretty Words,”
by Elinor Wylie
• Personification is a figure of speech in which
something that is not human is described as if
it were.
• What is being personified in this excerpt from
“Pretty Words”?
I love bright words, words up and singing early;
Words that are luminous in the dark and sing;
—from “Pretty Words,”
by Elinor Wylie
• Another type of figurative language is
• Hyperbole is an
exaggeration used for
effect or to make a point.
• Many poets use hyperbole
to strengthen the imagery
in their poems.
• In the poem “Legacies,” a grandmother wants
to teach her granddaughter how to make rolls.
• Where does the poet use hyperbole in this
excerpt? she said
“i don’t want to learn how to make no rolls”
with her lip poked out
and the old woman wiped her hands on
her apron saying “lord
these children”
and neither of them ever
said what they meant
and I guess nobody ever does
—from “Legacies,”
by Nikki Giovanni
Figurative Language Chart
• Use a Figurative Language Chart to better
understand the use of figurative language
in poetry.
• See the next slide for an example of a
partially completed chart for the poem
“The New Colossus.”
Figurative Language
• To understand imagery and figurative
language in poetry, ask yourself the following
– What is the main thing or idea being described?
– What images are used to describe it?
– What feelings or ideas do I associate with those
– How might the concepts in the poem relate to a
familiar aspect of life?
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