Some Helpful Poetry Terms – 24 Words


use of the same consonant at the beginning of each word

Your poetry is alive with alliteration; bursting with evocative images; and brimming with thoughtful rhythms, unexpected wordplay and heartfelt emotion.
—Seattle Times May 6, 2011

passing reference or indirect mention

She was dancing below a noose, an allusion to the hanging of dissidents under her father’s regime.
—New York Times Aug 30, 2014

an address to an absent or imaginary person

Her unfortunate position, and the singular apostrophe she had addressed to me, pierced me to the heart.
—Jacques Casanova de Seingalt

the repetition of similar vowels in successive words

His work exhibits ease and elasticity of rhythm, liquid smoothness of assonance, sympathetic beauty of thought, with subtle skill in wedding sense to sound.
—William Henry Oliphant Smeaton

a break or pause in the middle of a verse line

But the third line, with its caesura before the last foot, complicates the grandfather’s absence, extends his influence, and begins to restore his existence.
—The Guardian Jul 15, 2013

the repetition of sounds especially at the ends of words

Occasionally the author breaks into verse, or stretches of consonance or alliteration.
—New York Times Jan 9, 2012

a stanza consisting of two successive lines of verse

In “Keeping Hope Alive,” he triggers a world of emotions in a brief couplet: “Pride and pain/Cloud my brain.”
—Los Angeles Times May 28, 2014

continuation from one line of verse into the next line

But poetry critics have a more precise term for the kind of enjambment Obama employs: “bad line breaks.”
—Salon Jul 17, 2012

extravagant exaggeration

That’s not hyperbole; statistics prove this to be true.
—Time Aug 17, 2014
internal rhyme

a rhyme between words in the same line

That songlike quality would fit well in a poem, especially the internal rhyme and near-rhyme of “night and light” with “alike.”
—Washington Post July 17, 2014

understatement for rhetorical effect

Litotes describes the object to which it refers not directly, but through the negation of the opposite.
—J.R. Bergmann, Veiled Morality

a figure of speech that suggests a non-literal similarity

Her extreme cosmetic aesthetic has been an apt metaphor for the excesses and vanities of Hollywood.
—Salon Sep 4, 2014

a rhythmic group of eight lines of verse

One of these [two interpretations] must be in the octave and the other in the sestet.
—Joyce Kilmer

using words that imitate the sound they denote

What a succession of groans, hurrahs, cheers, and all the onomatopoeia of which the American language is so full.
—Jules Verne

a statement that contradicts itself

The brilliant paradox of Flanagan’s introspective novel is that a work of such powerful remembrance should so movingly capture our inmost longing to forget.
—Seattle Times Aug 27, 2014

attributing human characteristics to abstract ideas

Gordon-Levitt may also direct and star in the film, which is to tell the story of the brooding hero Morpheus, the immortal personification of dreams.
—Los Angeles Times Aug 22, 2014

a metrical unit with unstressed-unstressed-stressed syllables

An Anapest is a three-syllable foot accented on the last syllable.
—William Franklin Webster

a metrical unit with stressed-unstressed-unstressed syllables

There’s a lovely contrast between the skippety dactyl of “Merry mites” and the surprising, ceremonious spondee, “Welcome”.
—The Guardian Mar 29, 2010

a metrical unit with stressed-stressed syllables

“Hot sun” and “cool fire” are both spondees.
—The Guardian Oct 11, 2010

a metrical unit with stressed-unstressed syllables

“Beauty” by this usage, is a trochee, “beautiful” a dactyl, “relate” an iamb, “intercede” an anapest.
—Paull Franklin Baum

a metrical unit with unstressed-stressed syllables

“ ‘Feminine’ brand names, like Chanel, are often iambs; ‘masculine’ ones, like Black & Decker, tend to be trochees,” he writes.
—New York Times Jul 26, 2011

a group of six lines of verse

In the sestet usually the first line rhymes with the fourth, the second with the fifth and the third with the sixth.
—Charles Herbert Sylvester

a figure of speech expressing a resemblance between things

He repeatedly underlines the inhumanity of the situation prisoners face by using similes comparing them to animals.
—New York Times Jul 2, 2013

a sensation that normally occurs in one sense modality occurs when another modality is stimulated

Synaesthesia is where the senses are mixed together – for example seeing colour when listening to music – or tasting food and hearing chords.
—BBC Apr 19, 2014

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