The repetition of the same or similar sounds at the beginning of words. Some famous examples of alliteration are tongue twisters such as Betty Botta bought some butter and Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Words that are spoken to a person who is absent or imaginary, or to an object or abstract idea. The poem God's World by Edna St. Vincent Millay begins with an apostrophe:
"O World, I cannot hold thee close enough!/Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!/Thy mists that roll and rise!"
A type of poem, usually with three stanzas of seven, eight, or ten lines and a shorter final stanza (or envoy) of four or five lines. All stanzas end with the same one-line refrain. "Ballade of my Lady's Beauty," by Joyce Kilmer, is one example of a ballade.
A Latin expression that means "seize the day." Carpe diem poems urge the reader (or the person to whom they are addressed) to live for today and enjoy the pleasures of the moment. A famous carpe diem poem by Robert Herrick begins "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may . . ."
The principles and ideals of beauty that are characteristic of Greek and Roman art, architecture, and literature. Examples of classicism in poetry can be found in the works of John Dryden and Alexander Pope, which are characterized by their formality, simplicity, and emotional restraint.
The continuation of a complete idea (a sentence or clause) from one line or couplet of a poem to the next line or couplet without a pause. An example of enjambment can be found in the first line of Joyce Kilmer's poem Trees: "I think that I shall never see/A poem as lovely as a tree." Enjambment comes from the French word for "to straddle."
A long, serious poem that tells the story of a heroic figure. Two of the most famous epic poems are the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer, which tell about the Trojan War and the adventures of Odysseus on his voyage home after the war.
A six-line poem in which the number of syllables per line follow the Fibonacci sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8. The form was invented by Gregory K. Pincus, and popularized on his blog in April 2006 (both National Poetry Month and Mathematics Awareness Month).
Two or more syllables that together make up the smallest unit of rhythm in a poem. For example, an iamb is a foot that has two syllables, one unstressed followed by one stressed. An anapest has three syllables, two unstressed followed by one stressed.
A figure of speech in which deliberate exaggeration is used for emphasis. Many everyday expressions are examples of hyperbole: tons of money, waiting for ages, a flood of tears, etc. Hyperbole is the opposite of litotes.
A metrical foot of two syllables, one short (or unstressed) and one long (or stressed). There are four iambs in the line "Come live/ with me/ and be/ my love," from a poem by Christopher Marlowe. (The stressed syllables are in bold.) The iamb is the reverse of the trochee.
A type of meter in poetry, in which there are five iambs to a line. (The prefix penta- means "five," as in pentagon, a geometrical figure with five sides. Meter refers to rhythmic units. In a line of iambic pentameter, there are five rhythmic units that are iambs.) Shakespeare's plays were written mostly in iambic pentameter, which is the most common type of meter in English poetry. An example of an iambic pentameter line from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is "But soft!/ What light/ through yon/der win/dow breaks?" Another, from Richard III, is "A horse!/ A horse!/ My king/dom for/ a horse!" (The stressed syllables are in bold.)
Either a short poem depicting a peaceful, idealized country scene, or a long poem that tells a story about heroic deeds or extraordinary events set in the distant past. Idylls of the King, by Alfred Lord Tennyson, is about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
In Memoriam stanza
A stanza of four lines of iambic tetrameter, rhyming abba. This form was used by Tennyson in his long poem In Memoriam.
A long narrative poem, especially one that was sung by medieval minstrels called trouvères. The Lais of Marie de France are lays.
A figure of speech in which a positive is stated by negating its opposite. Some examples of litotes: no small victory, not a bad idea, not unhappy. Litotes, which is a form of understatement, is the opposite of hyperbole.
A figure of speech in which two things are compared, usually by saying one thing is another, or by substituting a more descriptive word for the more common or usual word that would be expected. Some examples of metaphors: the world's a stage, he was a lion in battle, drowning in debt, and a sea of troubles.
A figure of speech in which one word is substituted for another with which it is closely associated. For example, in the expression The pen is mightier than the sword, the word pen is used for "the written word," and sword is used for "military power."
A figure of speech in which words are used to imitate sounds. Examples of onomatopoeic words are buzz, hiss, zing, clippety-clop, cock-a-doodle-do, pop, splat, thump, and tick-tock. Another example of onomatopoeia is found in this line from Tennyson's Come Down, O Maid: "The moan of doves in immemorial elms,/And murmuring of innumerable bees." The repeated "m/n" sounds reinforce the idea of "murmuring" by imitating the hum of insects on a warm summer day.
The occurrence of the same or similar sounds at the end of two or more words. When the rhyme occurs in a final stressed syllable, it is said to be masculine: cat/hat, behave/shave, observe/deserve. When the rhyme ends with one or more unstressed syllables, it is said to be feminine: vacation/sensation, reliable/viable. The pattern of rhyme in a stanza or poem is shown usually by using a different letter for each final sound. In a poem with an aabba rhyme scheme, the first, second, and fifth lines end in one sound, and the third and fourth lines end in another.
The principles and ideals of the Romantic movement in literature and the arts during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Romanticism, which was a reaction to the classicism of the early 18th century, favored feeling over reason and placed great emphasis on the subjective, or personal, experience of the individual. Nature was also a major theme. The great English Romantic poets include Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, and Keats.
A figure of speech in which two things are compared using the word "like" or "as." An example of a simile using like occurs in Langston Hughes's poem Harlem: "What happens to a dream deferred?/ Does it dry up/ like a raisin in the sun?"
A lyric poem that is 14 lines long. Italian (or Petrarchan) sonnets are divided into two quatrains and a six-line "sestet," with the rhyme scheme abba abba cdecde (or cdcdcd). English (or Shakespearean) sonnets are composed of three quatrains and a final couplet, with a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg. English sonnets are written generally in iambic pentameter.
The prominence or emphasis given to particular syllables. Stressed syllables usually stand out because they have long, rather than short, vowels, or because they have a different pitch or are louder than other syllables.
A figure of speech in which a part is used to designate the whole or the whole is used to designate a part. For example, the phrase "all hands on deck" means "all men on deck," not just their hands. The reverse situation, in which the whole is used for a part, occurs in the sentence "The U.S. beat Russia in the final game," where the U.S. and Russia stand for "the U.S. team" and "the Russian team," respectively.
A type of poetry consisting of 10- or 11-syllable lines arranged in three-line "tercets" with the rhyme scheme aba bcb cdc, etc. The poet Dante is credited with inventing terza rima, which he used in his Divine Comedy. Terza rima was borrowed into English by Chaucer, and it has been used by many English poets, including Milton, Shelley, and Auden.
A metrical foot of two syllables, one long (or stressed) and one short (or unstressed). An easy way to remember the trochee is to memorize the first line of a lighthearted poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which demonstrates the use of various kinds of metrical feet: "Trochee/ trips from/ long to/ short." (The stressed syllables are in bold.) The trochee is the reverse of the iamb.