Poetic Terms
• Allusion = an indirect reference to a person, event, statement, or theme found in
literature, the other arts, history, myths, religion, or popular culture
• Allegory = presentation of an abstract idea through more concrete means;
narrative or description that has a second meaning beneath the surface
• Epithet = an adjective or phrase applied to a noun to accentuate a certain
characteristic EX. Magic Johnson
• Extended metaphor = is a sustained comparison in which part or all of the poem
consists of a series of related metaphors
• Implied metaphor = mentions only the vehicle of comparison. EX. She sliced
through traffic.
• Metaphor = A figure of speech that associates two distinct things; the
representation of one thing by another. (There is no connective word.)
• Conceit = an elaborate and often surprising comparison between two apparently
highly dissimilar things. (Extended metaphor)
• Personification = a figure of speech that bestows human characteristics upon
anything nonhuman.
• Simile = A figure of speech that compares two distinct things by using a
connective word such as like, as, than, and resembles.
• Caesura = a pause in a line of poetry dictated by the natural
speaking rhythm (and not the meter.)
• End-stopped line = a line of poetry in which a grammatical
pause (in the form of punctuation) and the physical end of the
line coincide. (Opposite of enjambment)
• Enjambment / run-on line = poetic expression that spans more
than one line; does not end with grammatical breaks, and is
not complete without the following lines.
• Stanza = a group of set lines in a poem, usually physically set
off from others such clusters by a blank line.
Reading Enjambment
“The computer is incredibly fast, accurate, and stupid. Man is
unbelievably slow, inaccurate, and brilliant. The marriage of the
two is a force beyond calculation.” – Leo Cherne
Link: Poet versus Computer
• Approximate rhyme/Slant rhyme (near rhyme) = similar sounding
words, but do not rhyme exactly EX. Care and Core
• Couplet = two successive lines of rhyming verse, often of the same
• End rhyme = rhyme that occurs at the end of lines in verse
• Exact rhyme = (Perfect rhyme) sound preceding the first accented
vowel in the rhyming sounds differ EX. Lard, shard, marred, and
thinking, drinking, shrinking
• Feminine rhyme = (a perfect rhyme) rhyming stressed syllables are
followed by identical unstressed syllables. EX. Slaughter and
• Masculine rhyme = rhyme with one stressed syllable EX. Care/Ware
• Internal rhyme = rhyme that occurs within a line of verse
• Rhyme scheme = pattern of end rhymes
• Apostrophe = a figure of speech in which the speaker directly and often emotionally addresses a
person who is dead or otherwise not physically present, an imaginary person or entity, something
• Connotation = the emotional association(s) evoked by a word
• Denotation = a word’s literal and primary meaning
• Diction = word choice (formal vs. informal)
• Dramatic monologue = a lyric poem where the speaker addresses a silent listener, revealing
himself in the context of a dramatic situation
• Dramatic situation = the time, setting, key events, and other characters involved in the situation
at hand
• Imagery = refers to the actual language that a writer uses to convey a visual picture/represent the
sensory experience AND figures of speech used to express abstract ideas in a vivid and innovative
• Metonymy = a figure of speech where one thing is represented by another that is commonly and
often physically associated with it. EX. calling a monarch “the crown.”
• Speaker = persona presenting the poem (POV)
• Synaesthesia/synesthesia = the association of two or more different senses in the same image.
EX. The coal was red hot. Sight – color and Touch – hot
• Synecdoche = a figure of speech in which a part of something is used to represent the whole, or
when the whole is used to represent a part. EX. Saying a car is your “wheels.”
• Syntax = arrangement of words within a phrase, clause, or sentence. (Complexity vs. simplicity)
• Theme = the statement the text makes about the subject of the poem
• Tone = the attitude of the author toward the reader or the subject matter of a literary work
• Alliteration = the repetition of initial consonant sounds.
• Assonance = repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds, followed
by different consonant sounds. EX. Fate and Cave (note—not
perfect rhyme!)
• Cacophony = a mixture of harsh, unpleasant, or discordant sounds.
• Consonance = the repetition of final consonant sounds or sounds
following different vowel sounds in proximate words. EX. Made and
• Euphony = pleasing, harmonious sounds. (Opposite of cacophony)
• Onomatopoeia = words that signify meaning through their sound
• EX. Hiss and Sizzle
• Phonetic intensives = a word whose sound, by an obscure process,
to some degree suggests its meaning EX. Initial “fl” sound = light
(flame, flicker, and flash) Short “i” sound = small (inch, imp, thin,
slim, little, bit, chip, sliver, etc.)
Similarities and Differences
• Antithesis = a rhetorical figure in which two ideas are directly
EX. “I long and dread to close.”
• Hyperbole/overstatement = a figure of speech that uses deliberate
exaggeration to achieve an effect, whether serious, comic, or ironic
• Understatement = opposite of hyperbole where one says less than
one means
• Irony = a contradiction or incongruity between appearance or
expectation and reality.
• Oxymoron = a figure of speech that has two opposite or
contradictory words to present an emphatic and dramatic paradox.
EX. Bittersweet, Eloquent Silence
• Paradox = a statement that seems self-contradictory or nonsensical
on the surface, but upon closer examination, contains an underlying
• Parallelism = rhetorical device used to accentuate or emphasize
ideas or images by using grammatically similar constructions
• Free verse = vers libre—poetry that lacks regular meter, does
not rhyme, and uses irregular line lengths.
• Meter = regular pattern of accented and unaccented syllables
in poetry (related to rhythm)
• Foot = a rhythmic unit into which a line of metrical verse is
divided. (See meter handout)
• Scansion = the analysis of poetic meter (uses symbols to mark
stressed and unstressed syllables)
Breughel's Paintings
“The Dance”
“The Kermess”
Visuals for “Pretty”
Phonetic Intensives
• Edgar Allan Poe chose "nevermore" as the word that his raven
would say in "The Raven," because he thought that the -ore
sound was the most despairing in the English language (as in
mourn, forlorn, tore, and deplore).
Phonetic Intensives
flame, flare, flash, flicker
glare, gleam, glint, glow, glisten
slippery, slick, slide, slime, slop, slobber, slushy
staunch, stalwart, stout, sturdy, stable, steady, stocky, stern,
strong, stubborn, steel
inch, imp, thin, slim, little, bit, chip, sliver, snip, wink, kid,
glimmer, flicker, miniature
moan, groan, woe, toll
doom, gloom, moody
flare, glare, stare, blare
spatter, scatter, shatter, chatter, rattle, clatter, batter
ripple, bubble, twinkle, sparkle, rumble, jingle
Common Metrical Patterns
• Iambic (iamb) (
) A two syllable pattern in which the first syllable
is unstressed and the second syllable is stressed.
• Trochaic (trochee) (
) A two syllable pattern in which the first
syllable is stressed and the second syllable is unstressed.
• Anapestic (anapest) (
) A three syllable pattern in which the first
two syllables are unstressed and the third syllable is stressed.
• Dactylic (dactyl) (
) A three syllable pattern in which the first
syllable is stressed and the last two syllables are unstressed.
• Spondaic (spondee) (
) A two syllable pattern in which both
syllables are stressed. A spondee is used as a substitute foot. It is
never used as the metrical pattern.
• Pyrrhic (pyrrhic) (
) A two syllable pattern in which both syllables
are unstressed. A pyrrhic is used as a substitute foot. It is never used
as the metrical pattern.
Most Common English Meter
But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
We Real Cool
• http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15433
• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jyKF2e2CiMk
“When I Was One-and-Twenty” by A.E. Housman
When I was one-and twenty
I heard a wise man say,
“Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.”
But I was one-and twenty,
No use to talk to me.
When I was one-and twenty
I heard him say again,
“The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
‘Tis paid with sighs a plenty
And sold for endless rue.”
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, ‘tis true, ‘tis true.