Survey—Literary terms for poetry and drama
Blank verse
Concrete Poem
Name __________________ Per.:
Repetition of letter sounds at the
beginning of words in a line of poetry
Repetition of vowel sounds in a string
of words/line of poetry (like
alliteration but with a e i o u)
Unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter
A poem shaped in the form of its topic
(adj) the meaning/feeling behind a
word that has been built into it over
time by the way it is used in written
and spoken language
Alliteration with consonants or
consonant blends (dipthongs)
End rhyme
End stop
Figurative language
An even-metered line of poetry that
usually rhymes and contains the same
number of feet (another way to say
The literal meaning of a word – the
dictionary definition. What the word
means originally and outside of the
feeling or connotation it has come to
have in people’s minds when they use
A pattern of similar word sounds at
the end of lines in a rhyming poem.
The use of a punctuation mark to
conclude a thought, idea, or phrase in
a line of poetry. Opposite of
enjambment. End stops may be soft
(commas) or hard (periods, question
marks, exclamations)
The decisive (on purpose) use of a
fragment in a single line of poetry. In
other words, an idea that starts on one
line is left incomplete and the writer
uses a dash or simply an incomplete
phrase, carrying the rest of the words
or phrase to the next line. Done to put
emphasis on either the enjambed line’s
end word or the carried over line’s
word or phrase.
The use of nonliteral language to
communicate ideas in prose or poetry.
Idioms are figurative language, many
of our poetic terms are figurative
language. It is the opposite of
literally language. Consider: is sensory
Free verse
Half rhyme
Iambic Pentameter
detail figurative language? If it is
literal, then no.
Poetry that moves freely without rules,
completely laid out on the page and
lined up or not lined up at the sole
discretion, imagination, and pleasure
of the creative writer.
A word that almost rhymes. A word
that is close but not perfect in its
rhyme with the preceding end-line
word. Also called imperfect rhyme.
An extreme exaggeration that is used
by a writer to create a specific effect
in the mind of readers. Sometimes,
this effect is a tonal one: irony or
A line of poetry that is ten syllables,
consisting of 5 (pent) iambic feet. An
Iamb is a 2-syllable chunk of syllables
or a word that has this patter: ˘ ΄
The use of one or more language
techniques that, taken together, create
a vivid mental image for the reader.
Often relies on a lot of visual sensory
The art and science of deriving
(pulling out) meaning from a work of
literature, or any text for that matter,
by looking at the parts of the text and
discussing their effect on the whole of
the text as well as the implied meaning
of the author/poet. Synonym:
A single string of words in a poem,
chosen by the poet to stand together in
one line. Not the same as a sentence.
A comparison of two things that are
very different in almost every way
except for the one point of similarity
that the writer sees as being important.
This similarity is the author’s way of
using something common to the
audience to communicate a quality of
his or her topic when that topic is
unfamiliar to the reader. Works well
in poetry to “translate” emotions or
combinations of feelings for the
readers when a concrete object is used
to express an intangible (unseeable
unfeelable) state of being. Stronger
than a simile, a metaphor is implied
and uses no signal words like as, than,
or like. Some of the best poetry
exemplars are those that use extended
metaphors. In these examples, the
metaphor’s meaning is implied
throughout the poem but the real topic
is always discussed in the language of
the metaphor, so the reader must
follow the poet’s line of thought and
hints to interpret the writer’s view of
the topic (even though the topic itself
is never stated).
A pattern of stressed and unstressed
syllables in a poem. A method of
measuring the syllabification in
The feeling in a moment in prose or an
emotion in as poem – what the poet or
writer aims and plans for his or her
readers to feel about the scene or
topic. Mood is the feeling in a scene
or poem, not the feeling of the author.
The feeling an author has toward his
or her topic is called tone. Often, tone
has an effect on mood, but it is
important to remember they are not
they same.
A poet-created word that, when said,
mimics the sound of something, a
sound for which there is no given
word with a denotative definition.
Infusing, breathing into non-human
objects elements, behaviors, or traits
of human beings.
Used in rhyme, meter, alliteration, and
other poems with form and structure,
repetition can be, at the smallest, a
repeated word sound, and the largest,
it can be a reappearing motif
(character, place, color, object) in a
lengthy novel where this repeated
appearance of the object begins to
have a symbolic and important
The cooperative effect of meter and
repeated word sounds to create a
lilting, sing-songish poem in the way
it is read and heard. Rhyming words
have the same number of syllables and
same types of word sounds.
By paying attention to syllabification
– the number of syllables and whether
they are stressed or unstressed – a
Sensory detail
Thematic message
poet, rapper, song writer, even a
speech-writer or playwright can use
rhythm both to choose his/her words
or to say the theme/ideas in a way that
is more memorable for the minds of
his/her audience.
Well-described details that alert the
human senses of touch, taste, sight,
smell, and hearing. Often, beginning
writers will say “I touch the cold
snow” or “I smell something baking”
but these are not sensory detail. When
working to create sensory detail in
your writing, challenge yourself to
avoid using the sense words above
when writing. (see examples)
A comparison using the signal words
like or as, or a contrast using the word
than, in which the writer’s subject is
compared to something that is vastly
different in almost every way, but for
the one similarity the writer seeks to
emphasize. Unlike a metaphor, which
can be extended, a simile, by its use of
signal words, cannot be extended and
therefore implied throughout a work
of poetry or prose.
Form. When a poet writes and pays
attention to structure, he or she is
focusing not only on what is being
said but HOW IT IS SAID. – a
Structured poem may use one or more
of the rules of language for poetry
including line length, rhyme scheme,
or any other poetry tool that applies
rules to which and how many words
are plugged into a poet’s creation.
An object that is viewed dynamically
and is very important in a text – the
attention the writer pays to the
presence, description, and effect on
this object purposefully invites readers
to consider and interpret the object as
being extremely important and
meaningful beyond what it actually
shows itself to be. A symbol is an
object that represents an idea.
When a reader interprets a text, the
reader uses critical reading tools to
recognize a theme, which is usually
phrased as a noun or noun phrase (see
thematic topic). The message about
Thematic topic
Dramatic irony
this noun phrase, which is interpreted
from the author’s use of literary
techniques and the reader’s analysis of
tone, is called the thematic message.
A noun or noun phrase that the reader
is able to determine as the main focus
or topic of the poem or the text. The
importance of identifying the thematic
topic during a first reading is crucial
because knowing the thematic topic
allows readers to reread and find
further details that allow them to
accurately and specifically interpret
the thematic message (see above)
The author’s attitude toward his or her
subject, toward the thematic topic.
Using literary tools including mood,
diction choice, sensory detail,
connotative language, the poet implies
but rarely if ever states his or her
feelings about the thematic topic in a
direct and denotative way.

terms for poetry and drama