Some Poetry Vocabulary to make you sound smart; language Lee uses often
- acrostic: a poem that spells out a word.
- alliteration: the repetition of initial identical consonants sounds or
vowel sounds (usually at the beginning of a word).
- anaphora: repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of the line.
- assonance: matched vowels are the same, but the consonants are not the
- beat poetry: may be confessional; often a "howl of protest"
against conformity and conservatism of the 1950's (Allen
Snyder; Diane Diprima)
- blank verse: metrically traditional, but without rhyme (Robert Frost often
does blank verse)
- chopped prose (Hollander; Metro p. 179):
- closure: how does the poem bring things together at the end? Closure
can come in the form of an answer to a question (though the answer is seldom
easy or absolute), and/or open the reader onto a sudden, larger view of
- confessional poetry: a school of poetry where the poet may expose
personal, taboo, difficult things about themselves (Sylvia Plath; Anne
Sexton; Sharon Olds); dramatic monologue poetry often does this, but
the poet is confessing from within another persona's mind (Ai).
- concrete/conceptual poetry (also called language poetry): a school of
poetry that often focuses on the visual aspect of writing (concrete); the visual shape
of letters and their placement on the page rather than the content or
meaning of language is often foregrounded; some concrete poets do collages
of language and drawings, colors, photos etc. Some play with the sound
of words rather than their meaning (conceptual).
- consonance: the repetition of ending consonant sounds, but the vowel
sounds are different.
- couplet: a two line stanza, or the same rhyme pattern in two conjoined
- dramatic monologue: a poem that dramatizes someone's
thoughts and actions; the persona of the poem talks directly to
"us" or an unseen other.
- end rhyme: rhymed sound at the end of the line.
- endstop: the line ends with a period or the feeling of a period
- enjamb: a run-on at the end of the line; can lead to added meaning and
interestingly interrupted rhythms
- exposition: often more abstract explanations or philosophical
ruminations (usually in narration).
- foot: a group of 2 or 3 stressed and unstressed syllables.
- formalism: following traditional, given poetic forms like
- found poem: some odd and interesting language/visual artifact the poet
lifts from a sidewalk, bus seat, horoscope, graffiti, cliché etc. The
poet may merely pick it up off the street, or they may construct a piece
from found items. Also called a "readymade" during the dada
visual art period (Duchamp's
"Fountain"). A purposeful slap in the face of
traditional definitions of what art should be.
- free verse: less structured, more organically
- ghazal: a Persian poetic form spanning 12-24 lines and sometimes ending
with the poet's name.
- haiku: a 3 line, one stanza poem; traditionally Japanese and about nature;
usually has a syllable count of 5, 7, 5 and lacks rhyme and metaphor.
- iamb: a foot with an unaccented syllable and an accented syllable.
- imagery: any kind of concrete (sensory) image whether literal or
- internal rhyme: rhymed sound before the end of the line.
- leap (Robert Bly; Metro p. 181): you create an image or connection that
has little logic; may create a surreality
- metaphor: same as simile, but without "like" or
"as"; creates a more surreal effect (makes the figurative almost
literal); comparison of things that are not necessarily alike (unlike
metonymy). Made of two parts, the tenor, or the literal
thing/abstraction, and the vehicle, the non-literal, usually very concrete,
- meter or metrics: the use of patterns of stressed and unstressed rhythms
(or beats) in a poetic line sometimes following
strict, traditional forms (or violating those forms in free verse).
- metonymy: part of imagery; as opposed to metaphor, a comparison of similar
things; naming something by it's attribute--where one thing stands for
something larger; i.e. we often say Washington when referring to the US
Government. The movie Suits
on the Loose uses metonymy in it's title. "The pen is
mightier than the sword," but the sword is more likely to stain the
carpet. This would be my way of making the metonymy literal and Woody
- minimalist poetry: a focus on simple, concrete images using less metaphor,
less adjectives and adverbs, and less exposition (William Carlos
- modernist poetry: a school of poetry that moved away from the emotions,
the focus on coherent notions of the self of the romantics; often
experiments with form (or focuses on form) to examine the fragmentation of
subjectivity or selfhood; begins in 1914 with WWI (TS Elliot).
- movement (W. Bishop; Metro p. 76): the way lines flow together, speak to
or against each other, and pull us foreword in a poem.
- narration: descriptions of what is happening, of setting, of scenes of
action (or lack of action).
- neo-formalism: following traditional forms but with a new,
21st century, twist (often
violating form more, or violating the subject-matter of traditional forms;
see Maxine Kumin or Marylin Hacker)
- new criticism: a literary reading theory that looks at the
parts of a piece of writing (usually a poem) to see how they all fit
marvelously together to create a beautiful, organic whole with cohesive
symbolic moves. Obviously this is not a good way to read
postmodern/concrete/conceptual pieces, but we do use some of the vocabulary
of this theory to look at craft.
- ode: a poem that commemorates or celebrates; written for an
occasion; contemporary odes (neo-formal) are likely to be about contemporary
more cynical or popular culture subjects ("Ode
to Velcro" would be a form of parody-- mix with Haiku and chill).
Classic Odes have three parts.
- pentameter: a line with 5 feet; iambic pentameter therefore has 10
syllables (often used by Shakespeare).
- persona: the eyes or voice or speaker or attitude or vision of the poem;
like a narrator in prose.
- personification: when an object/animal is given figurative
human attributes (also anthropomorphism)
- postmodernist poetry: a more extreme, more avant-garde extension of
modernist poetry (often comprised of anything after 1945 when the BOMB was
dropped); may focus on collage, pastiche, sexuality, humor, or form
dominating or erasing content; the meaningless or difficulty or imposibility
of being a subject (of constructing a self) in a world that could end at any
- prose poem: a poem that has more grammatical or longer sentences and/or
more of a narrative.
- refrain: a repeating line/verse in a song or a poem
- rhyme scheme: a repeated pattern of end rhymes; usually marked with
letters of the alphabet (ABBA would mark a rhyme scheme in the first stanza
of, say, dog/man/plan/fog; CDDC would mark a rhyme scheme in the second
stanza of, say, map/press/dress/slap).
- romantic poetry (romantic poet): a specific "school" of poetry (or a grouping of poets
doing similar things; a movement) that focused on celebrating the energy and
beauty of nature; nature as spirituality, as more "real".
- scansion: scanning the rhythm of a line by locating patterns of feet with
stressed and unstressed syllables.
- scene: when place and time are specifically described; may involve
dialogue or narrative (chronological action/plot)
- sestet: a six line stanza (not usually the same rhyme pattern in each
- sestina: a 7 stanza poem with 6 six-lined stanzas and an ending
three-lined stanza; rhyme scheme is a difficult rotating repetition of the
same end words rather than true rhyme.
- similes: imagistic comparison of a literal idea or image (referent)
with a figurative concrete image (vehicle) using "like" or
- slant rhyme (off rhyme): substitution of assonance or consonance for true
- sonnet: 14 line poem; Shakespearian sonnet has one stanza (usually in
iambic pentameter, 10 syllables in each line), other English Sonnets may
have 4 stanzas (rhyme scheme--ABABCDCDEFEFGG); Italian sonnet has an octave
(8 lines; ABBABBA) and a sestet (6 lines; CDECDE)
- stanza: a grouping of lines in a poem (much like a paragraph); the number
of lines can follow a strict form, or be organically chosen as in free
- stressed syllables: use ¯ or / to mark
it when you're trying to find the pattern of a line's rhythm (as opposed to
merely reading the poem for meaning or enjoyment).
- symbol: something that is itself and also stands for something else; a
certain pregnancy of meaning beyond the concrete referent (though all
language is symbolic, and since post-structuralist theory says everything is
language, therefore everything is symbolic, and all symbols are negotiated
constructs, therefore everything is a negotiated construct, but must I
confuse you?); rain may be literal in Hemingway's A Fairwell to Arms,
but it also begins to symbolize death. The Romantic poets used nature
as a symbol of spirituality.
- symbolist poetic movement: from France, sort of
existentialist; unique, immediate personal emotion with a private, ineffable
feeling; a "medley of metaphor" (E. Wilson) focused on emotion,
musical effect, rather than logic or precision. Used Synaesthesia.
- synaesthesia: describing, say, sounds in terms of colors (the blue
noise coming out of her mouth); part of the symbolist poetic movement (which
often used medley's of metaphor--E. Wilson); also a disease!
- tension: a poem (or any piece of writing) needs sense of conflict--I
would, but I don't--I want, but I can't--the need for nature vs. a hectic
city life--I should, but I'm not.
- true rhyme: the last syllable rhyme sounds (and is usually spelled)
exactly the same.
- typographical rhythms: the way white space in front of, in the middle of,
or after lines creates rhythmic pauses and variations in meaning and
- unstressed syllables: use U
to mark it.
- villanelle: a 19 line form using only two rhymes and repeating two of the
lines according to a set pattern.