8th Grade English: Ms. Rauschenberg

Poetry Terms and Definitions


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Poetry: the most compact form of literature

Poetry captures all kinds of ideas, feelings, and sounds in a few carefully chosen words.  The words, the sounds, even the form of a poem, all work together to create the total effect.
(1) Form: the way a poem looks--or its arrangement on the page--is its form.  
Poetry is written in lines, which may or may not be sentences.  Sometimes the lines are combined into groups called stanzas or verses.  Poets choose the arrangements of words and lines.  Some poets even plan the spacing between words and letters to create a particular form. Some types of poem carefully create certain shapes on the page (ex. diamante poems make diamond shapes, acrostic poems use the first letters of the lines to spell something, cinquaine poems have five lines and often look roughly tree-shaped, etc.)


(2) Sound 
Poems are meant to be read aloud.  Poets choose and arrange words to create the sounds they want the listener to hear.  Some techniques used to achieve certain sounds are
- Rhyme: Rhyme is a repetition of sounds at the end of words.  Words rhyme when their accented vowels and all letters that follow have identical sounds.  Cat and bat rhyme, as do whether and feather.
End rhyme occurs when words at the end of lines in a poem rhyme.
Internal rhyme is when words within a single line of a poem rhyme.

Rhyme Scheme refers to the pattern of rhymes in a poem.  Rhyme schemes are described by using letters to represent different rhyming sounds. The lines below (from "Sea Lullaby" page 133) illustrate an ABAB rhyme scheme:

The old moon is tarnished
With smoke of the flood,
The dead leaves are varnished
With color like blood,


-Rhythm: the beat of a poem is called its rhythm.  It comes from the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry. When stressed syllables--the syllables that are emphasized--are arranged in a consistent pattern in a poem, the poem is said to have a regular beat.  

When marking the rhythm of a poem, stressed syllables are marked with a ', and unstressed syllables are marked with *.

 '  *   *   '   *   *   '    *     '
Listen my children and you shall hear

*    *   '  *     '   *   '   * '
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

Poems that do not have a regular rhythm and that sound more like conversation are called free verse.


-Repetition: Poets often choose to repeat sounds, words, phrases, lines or even stanzas in a poem.  With rhyme, particular sounds are repeated.  
Repeating the beginning consonant(s) of words is called alliteration.

When whole stanzas are repeated, the repeated stanza can sometimes be referred to as a chorus.


-Onomatopoeia: using words that imitate natural sounds

some common examples are crack, splash, moo, meow, etc.


(3) Imagery: when writers use words or phrases that appeal to the senses and cause readers to create vivid pictures in their minds or feel sensations it is called imagery.

Notice how these lines from "Simile: Willow and Ginkgo" page 132 give you a visual picture as well as appealling to your sense of touch:

The willow is sleek as a velvet-nosed calf;
the ginkgo is leathery as an old bull,

(4) Figurative Language: Writers (including poets) use figurative language--expressions that are not literally true--to create fresh and original description.  Figures of speach (as figurative language is sometimes called) may include the following special uses of language:
-Simile: a comparison that uses the word like or as
The willow is like a nymph with streaming hair
-Metaphor: a comparison that does not use like or as.  In the following example, the poet compares a person to a mountain.
I am the mountain, to stand with pride, strength, and faith.
-Personification: When a writer describes an animal or an object as if it were human or had human qualities, we call that personification. In the following lines, the poet describes the sea as if it were human (from Sea Lullaby page 133)
The sea creeps to pillage,
She leaps on her prey;

(5) Theme: In all literary genres, the theme is the message about life and living it that the writer wants to convey.


Questions? Comments?  Email me at jrauschenberg@loganhocking.k12.oh.us

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