Poetry Terms

Today I’ll put together some poetry terms for those of you looking for them or their meanings. There are lots more but it’s not possible to put them all together in one post, so I’ll just give the most important. I hope this will prove to be useful to those of you interested in poetry… but even you’re not interested in poetry, it’s always good to improve your vocabulary, isn’t it?

First off, what are poetry terms? These are the terms used to describe content or structure of a poem.  The terms:

Alliteration: Repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of words. Seven scientists saw some stars – all the words begin with the same sound, s.

Assonance:  Repetition of the same vowel sound. Suppose Rose goes to Moe’s – all the words have to o sound.

Caesura: A pause or break within a line of poetry.  To err is human,|| to forgive divine (Alexander Pope) – the break is between human and to.

Enjambment: Continuation of a sentence from one line to the next in a verse.

Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now….
(Robert Browning)

Foot: Two or more stressed and/or unstressed syllables that together make up the smallest unit of rhythm in a poem.

Meter: An arrangement in which the stresses occur at equal intervals.

Metrical foot: Two or more syllables with stresses occurring at equal intervals. There are four basic types of metrical feet.

(i) iambic (noun = iamb): an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one – to SWELL the GOURD, and PLUMP the HAzel shells (John Keats)

(ii) trochaic (noun = trochee): a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one – SHOULD you ASK me, WHENCE these STORies (Henry W. Longfellow)

(iii) anapestic (noun = anapest): two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one – Unless SOMEone like YOU cares a WHOLE awful LOT (Dr. Seuss)

(iv) dactylic (noun = dactyl): a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones – THIS is the FORest primEVal, the MURmering PINES and the HEMlocks (Henry W. Longfellow)

Rhyme: Same or similar sounds in two or more words. Town and crown have the same sounds.

Rhythm: Repetition of stressed and unstressed syllables in lines of poetry. I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused, or following…
(Walt Whitman)

Scansion: The process of describing the meter of a poem by marking the stresses in a poem (with a u on an unstressed syllable and a / on a stressed syllable).

Stanza: A division or a unit of a poem formed of two or more lines.

Versification: The system of rhyme and meter in poetry.

Not found the term you’re looking for? Do write in and ask.

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