etymology: from poiein, to make, do, create, compose
definition: "A term applied to the many forms in which human beings have given rhythmic expression to their most imaginative and intense perceptions of the world, themselves, and the relation of the two" (Holman and Harmon).
Authors of these pages are (left to right) Haskell Murray, Katie Christnacht, Jennifer McCurry, Jesse St.Charles, and Susan Heinemann.
Enjambment. The running over of a sentence or thought from one line to another (with no punctuation at the end of the line).
Refrain. Repetition of a line or phrase at regular intervals (often at the end of each stanza).
Rhyme. "Close similarity or identity of terminal sound between accented syllables occupying corresponding positions in two or more lines of verse. The correspondence of sound is based on the vowels and succeeding consonants of the accented syllables, which must, for a true rhyme, be preceded by different consonants" (Holman and Harmon). There are several kinds of rhyme:
Masculine rhyme. Single syllable rhyme: may, hey.
Feminine rhyme. Rhyme of more than one syllable: river, giver.
Near rhyme. Words that almost rhyme (also called half rhyme). The vowels may be the same: Enough, love; face, ways. Or the final consonants may be the same: storm, room; world, told.
End rhyme. Rhyming of words that appear at the end of lines of poetry.
- "Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaf's a flower
But only so an hour . . ."
--Robert Frost, "Nothing Gold Can Stay"
Internal rhyme. Rhyming words that appear in the same line of poetry.
- From my home I shall not roam
- "Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell,
Though he'd often say in his homely way that 'he'd sooner live in hell.'"
--Robert W. Service, "The Cremation of Sam McGee"
Setting. Time (temporal) and place (spatial) of poem's actions.
Situation. Context of the poem's actions, what is happening when the poem begins.
Speaker. A person, not necessarily the author, who is the voice of the poem.
Stanza. A uniform number of lines of poetry.
couplet: two-line stanza
triplet: three-line stanza
quatrain: four-line stanza
quintet: five-line stanza
sestet: six-line stanza
septet: seven-line stanza
octave: eight-line stanza
VERSE is metrical poetry.
Meter. The patterned repetition of stressed and unstressed sullables in a line of poetry. We have names for various of these patterns. Any of the first four listed below--anapestic, dactylic, iambic, and trochaic--may predominate in a given poem: in a poem written in anapestic verse, for example, the majority of the feet will be anapestic. The poet may also choose to vary the meter (to create emphasis and variety). In doing so, the poet may make use of the remaining two kinds of meter--pyrrhic and spondaic--which, by their very nature, rarely predominate in a poem. Generally, pyrrhic feet speed a poem up, while spondaic feet slow a poem down.
Anapestic. A meter composed of feet that are short-short-long (or unaccented-unaccented-accented): afternoon, in a tree. Often, anapestic meter occurs in light verse (such as limericks).
- "A tutor who tooted the flute / Tried to teach two young tooters to toot."
Dactylic. A meter composed of feet that are long-short-short: emphasis, juniper.
- "Long long ago when the world was a wild place / Planted with bushes and peopled by apes, our / Mission Brigade was at work in the jungle. . . " --George MacBeth, "Bedtime Story"
Iambic. A meter composed of feet that are short-long: propose, delete. Iambic is the predominant meter of verse written in English.
- "That time of the year thou mayst in me behold / When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang / Upon those boughs which shake against the cold . . . " --William Shakespeare, Sonnet 73
Trochaic. A meter composed of feet that are long-short: single, enter.
- "Come with rain, O loud Southwester! / Bring the singer, bring the nester . . ." --Robert Frost, "To the Thawing Wind "
Pyrrhic: Two unstressed syllables: in a, of the.
Spondaic. A foot in which both syllables are stressed: taut skin.
- "It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?" --Gerard Manley Hopkins, "God's Grandeur"
(Here the first line is mostly iambic, while the second line is mostly or entirely spondaic.)
Foot. A foot is the smallest repeated pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a poetic line. A line of meter is described by the kind of meter and the number of feet.
Monometer. A line of one metrical foot.
Dimeter. A line of two metrical feet.
Trimeter. A line of three metrical feet.
Tetrameter. A line of four metrical feet.
Pentameter. A line of five metrical feet.
Hexameter. A line of six metrical feet.
Heptameter. A line of seven metrical feet.
Octometer. A line of eight metrical feet.
Blank verse. Unrhymed iambic pentameter.
Free verse. Poetry that does not have meter (and generally does not rhyme either).
Heroic couplet. A pair of rhymed lines of iambic pentameter. William Shakespeare provides us with examples throughout his plays and in the last two lines of every sonnet:
Syllabic verse. The poet establishes a set number of syllables to a line and repeats the pattern.
Ballad. This is a narrative poem describing a past happening that is sometimes romantic but always ends catastrophically. The saga described is usually in an impersonal voice with the speaker some distance from the action. Ordinarily a ballad is written in quatrains with four accented syllables in the first and third lines and three accented syllables in the second and fourth lines; the shorter lines usually rhyme.
Concrete poetry or shaped verse. An attempt to supplement (or replace) verbal
meaning with visual devices from painting and sculpture. An example
is a poem in the shape of an apple or bottle.
Elegy. A poem, usually personal, of grief or mourning.
Epic. A long narrative poem about a hero, usually starting with an invocation to the muse and beginning in medias res (in the middle of the story).
Haiku. This form consists of seventeen separate syllables arranged in three lines according to a 5-7-5 count. It usually has a plain style and everyday language.
Limerick. A type of poem that consists of two lines of rhymed anapestic trimeter, two lines of rhymed anapestic dimeter, and an additional line of anapestic trimeter, the last word of which is the same as, or rhymes with, the last word of the first line.
"A relatively short poem concerning itself mainly with the
speaker's emotional state, or else with the process of the speaker's
thought and feelings" (Ellman
and O'Clair). Poems that are not narrative,
didactic, dramatic, or satiric are lyric.
Occasional poetry. This is poetry written for a particular event or happening, the event being usually ceremonial or honorific.
Ode. This is a longer lyric poem, usually meditative or philosophical. It is oftentimes of considerable length and has recognizable stanza patterns.
Sonnet--Italian. A fixed form consisting of fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. An Italian sonnet has an octave with a rhyme scheme of abbaabba and a sestet rhyming variously, but usually cdecde or cdccdc. The octave typically introduces the theme or problem, with the sestet providing the resolution.
Sonnet--Shakespearean. A fixed form consisting of fourteen lines of iambic pentameter. The lines are grouped in three quatrains with alternating rhymes (ababcdcdefef) followed by an heroic couplet (gg) that is usually epigrammatic.
Villanelle. A poem with five triplets and a final quatrain; only two rhyme sounds are permitted in the entire poem, and the first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated, alternately, as the third line of subsequent stanzas until the last, when they appear as the last two lines of the poem. Here is a villanelle entitled "Choices" by Baylor's poet laureate, Charlotte Barr.
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