These terms were chosen, researched, and defined by students in a 100-level college poetry class at the beginning of the term. The definitions reflect the students’ initial curiosity, before they became more familiar with reading poetry–and before they had learned the best ways to give credit to sources. Some are excellent. What the others lack in precision, they make up for in sincerity.
The list is intended for browsing and to stimulate interest. It is not a reference tool and thus is not alphabetized. Many basics weren’t covered. But I was very pleased to see some of the arcane and fascinating terms that were covered, such as tritina, zeugma, triolet, etc.
Take this list as a starting place: these are terms that students found interesting and that you might want to explore further. The authors have all given permission for their work to be used, and their names are listed at the end of each definition. Entries have been formatted somewhat but not edited.
The definition (as explained on the AP Poetry Terms website) of this is when the author takes a metaphor at the beginning of the poem and uses it throughout either the entire poem or just for one stanza of the poem. For example, in one poem, Shakespeare compares earth to a stage and carries this metaphor on throughout the poem, writing that the people on earth are just the actors on the stage.
Haiku (or hokku) is a traditional Japanese form composed of three lines with 17 syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count. Often focusing on images from nature, haiku emphasizes simplicity, intensity, and directness of expression. It creates a single, memorable image to the person reading the poem. Basho Matsuo, a well known poet who wrote haikus in the early 1600’s wrote the following haiku poems:
An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.
Another example of a haiku written by Matsuo is:
a worm digs silently
into the chestnut.
Haikus are simple, yet very complex. These poems can hold a lot more of a deeper meaning if you really try to look for it.
After doing some research I found a Definition that can be helpful for us to understand it. The website Poets.org states, “The elegy began as an ancient Greek metrical form and is traditionally written in response to the death of a person or group. Though similar in function, the elegy is distinct from the epitaph, ode, and eulogy: the epitaph is very brief; the ode solely exalts; and the eulogy is most often written in formal prose.” There are also three stages to writing the poem. First, there is a lament, where the speaker expresses grief and sorrow. Second, praise and admiration of the idealized dead. Finally, consolation and solace.
A couplet is a successive pair of rhyming lines. These lines tend to be of the same length, but are not always. There are various subtypes of couplets with each type taking a particular form. For example, the closed couplet is a couplet that forms a grammatical unit such as a sentence.
This information comes from the article “Couplet,” The Poetry Foundation.
Examples of couplets can be found in A.E. Housman’s “Loveliest of trees, the cherry now”, in which each stanza contains two couplets. One couplet in particular is “About the woodlands I will go/ To see the cherry hung with snow.”
The Triolet (“triplet”), a French verse form, is a poem or a stanza of eight lines that include two rhymes and two refrains. One refrain is the repetition of the first line at the fourth line and the seventh line; this triple appearance of one line gives the Triolet its name.
The features of the Triolet are:
8 lines, two rhymes,5 of the 8 lines are repeated or refrain lines, first line repeats at the 4th and 7th lines, second line repeats at the 8th line. It will look like this : ABaAabAB. This information can be found at baymoon.com
Here is an example of a Triolet, which you can find at famous poets and poems.com, by novelist and poet Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) entitled “How Great My Grief”
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee!
– Have the slow years not brought to view
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Nor memory shaped old times anew,
Nor loving-kindness helped to show thee
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee?
By definition, a sonnet is “from the Italian sonetto, which means “a little sound or song,”” which “traditionally, is a fourteen-line poem written in iambic pentameter.” Apparently, there are two sonnet forms which other sonnets are derived from: The Petrarchan and The Shakespearean. Sonnet is somewhat of a complex word because the definition for it is just FILLED with other poetry terms. It’s almost impossible to understand what a sonnet is without first understanding what several other things are, like couplets and stanzas. To better understand the concept of a sonnet being written in iambic pentameter, the definition of iambic pentameter is as follows:
“a line of verse with five metrical feet, each consisting of one short (or unstressed) syllable followed by one long (or stressed) syllable, for example Two households, both alike in dignity.”
Below you will find an example of a perfectly written sonnet and a link to cited information which also contains a 13 minute clip on the history of the sonnet and describes a sonnet more in-depth.
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
According an Academy of American Poets article, epic is a “long, often book-length, narrative in verse form that retells the heroic journey of a single person, or group of persons. Elements that typically distinguish epics include superhuman deeds, fabulous adventures, highly stylized language, and a blending of lyrical and dramatic traditions.”
The Odyssey, Book 1, Lines 1-20 by Homer
Of the cunning hero,
The wanderer, blown off course time and again
After he plundered Troy’s sacred heights.
Of all the cities he saw, the minds he grasped,
The suffering deep in his heart at sea
As he struggled to survive and bring his men home
But could not save them, hard as he tried—
The fools—destroyed by their own recklessness
When they ate the oxen of Hyperion the Sun,
And that god snuffed out their day of return.
Of these things,
Speak, Immortal One,
And tell the tale once more in our time.
By now, all the others who had fought at Troy—
At least those who had survived the war and the sea—
Were safely back home. Only Odysseus
Still longed to return to his home and his wife.
The nymph Calypso, a powerful goddess—
And beautiful—was clinging to him
In her caverns and yearned to possess him.
“Zeugma: A figure of speech in which one verb or preposition joins two objects within the same phrase, often with different meanings. For example, “I left my heart—and my suitcase—in San Francisco.” Zeugma occurs in William Shakespeare’s “Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun”: “Golden Lads, and Girles all must / As chimney-sweepers come to dust.” Here, “coming to dust” refers to the chimney-sweeper’s trade as well as the body’s decay.” (Glossary Terms, Poetry Foundation, Zeugma )
Zeugmas are a figure of speech where a word applies to multiple parts, it is a device used to add confusion and flavor into a sentence, they are used to add a shock factor or to create drama. Although they do seem confusing there is a purpose to using them as long as they are used in the clearest way possible and there must be a purpose for using one.
— Marissa Galati
Onomatopoeia is defined as “the use of imitative and naturally suggestive words for rhetorical, dramatic, or poetic effect”, according to dictionary.com. The use of onomatopoeia in poetry helps make words and stanzas more expressive and interesting. Many Onomatopoeia words have developed meanings of their own in addition to the sounds they are representing. One Poet that uses Onomatopoeia in her poems is Lee Emmett in a poem titled Running Water. In this poem she gives names to the sounds she uses to identify different noises associated with water. Another author’s example of the use of Onomatopoeia is Edgar Allen Poe, in an article called The Bells and The Raven “The onomatopoetic “rapping” repeated so often in the poem “The Raven” is remembered by many for seemingly leading to an inexorable conclusion.” According to Examples Onomatopoeia Poems. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19th, 2017, from Examples Onomatopoeia Poems
Parallelism is tool applied to poetry that constructs a line or lines to have similar grammatical structure, construction, sound, meaning or meter. This tool is prevalent in many origins of poetry. To give a few examples, parallelism is seen within Asian Poetry as well as the book of Psalms. This tool allows the speaker to convey comparisons through rhythm. This definition and more information may be found at literary devices.
A common parallel that everyone has heard but may not realize is, “like father, like son.” You can clearly see the similar construct between the two comparisons. Listed below, is the poem “Community” by John Donne. Here one can see a more complex series of parallelism.
By John Donne
Good we must love, and must hate ill,
For ill is ill, and good good still;
But there are things indifferent,
Which we may neither hate, nor love,
But one, and then another prove,
As we shall find our fancy bent
The definition of consonance is, “repetitive sounds produced by consonants within a sentence or phrase.” Consonants are speech sounds that are not vowels. An example of consonance that I hear a lot is pitter, patter. In this example, the repetitive consonant is the letter “t.” I found this website that provided a clear definition of consonance and gave good examples: https://literarydevices.net/consonance/
One poem that uses consonance is The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe. It is a long poem, so I decided to add in a small excerpt in my post. Here is a link to the rest of the poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/48860
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”
An image or symbol that is so common or significant to a culture that it seems to have a universal importance. This theory originates from Carl Jung who posited such things as a “tree,” for instance may represent “growth, life, unfolding of form in a physical and spiritual sense”
This definition was provided by Dr. Kristi Siegel.
A type of form or structure in poetry characterized by regularity and consistency in such elements as rhyme, line length, and metrical pattern.
Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” provides one of many examples. A single stanza illustrates some of the features of closed form:
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though.
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
When I think of Poetry one of the terms that comes to my mind is Imagery. Imagery is bringing words to life, “Paints a word Picture”. Poets will use Imagery when they want the viewer to visually see what it is they are trying to described. Some may say that Imagery brings pages of a book or a poem to life, it is really a great tool when it comes to putting a poem together.
A poet that I found that works very well with this basic is T.S. Eliot.
He has many good poems but one of his works that uses the basic of Imagery very well is his poem “Rhapsody on a Windy Night.” . This poem is very interesting when talking about images, I personally wish there was more to this poem. Some quotes from this poem, not all of the great examples that there was but some. “Dissolve the floors of Memory.” ,”A crowd of twisted things; A twisted branch upon the beach.” ,”Rust that clings to the form that the strength has left.” (RHAPSODY ON A WINDY NIGHT by:T.S Eliot Copyright 2002 Poetry-Archive.com) . There were many more quotes that put pictures in your head, but these stood out to me.
The street lamp sputtered,
The street lamp muttered,
The street lamp said, “Regard that woman
Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the border of her dress
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin.”
“Rhapsody On A Windy Night”
Originally Printed in the “Blast” Magazine in 1915
T.S Eliot (1888-1965)
Alliteration is the use of “the repetition of identical or similar consonant sounds, normally at the beginnings of words.” Dennis Carroll (2017). AP English Poetry Terms. It is “the commencement of two or more stressed syllables of a word group either with the same consonant sound or sound group (consonantal alliteration) as in from stem to stern, or with a vowel sound that may differ from syllable to syllable (vocalic alliteration) as in each to all.” (2017). Alliteration. dictionary.com.
“The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe uses this literary technique. “Example: Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary (1); rare and radiant maiden (11); And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain (notice the deft use of consonance as well) (13); Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, / Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before (19-20).” Trent Lorcher (2017). Examples of Alliteration in Poems, Including Analysis.
Chiasmus is a rhetorical device (a use of language that is intended to have an effect on its audience) where two concepts are listed but in reverse order. According to Literarydevices.net, it is related so closely to antimetabole that the two terms are used interchangeably today. Though chiasmus was first used by the ancient Greeks, examples have been seen in many Hebrew writings. There are many examples of this. Sometimes it is as direct as two identical terms just reversing, but sometimes it’s more complicated. Though the words don’t have to be identical, it must be two similar ideas in reverse order.
A simple example:
“He that findeth his life shall lose it: And he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 10:39)”
Another example in Alexander Pope’s Essay on Man:
“Then say not man’s imperfect, Heaven in fault;
Say rather man’s as perfect as he ought:
His knowledge measured to his state and place;
His time a moment, and a point his space.”
Allusion is a brief and indirect reference to a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance, according to Literary Devices. Even though many people know of this word and the meaning of this word,It adds a lot of depth and recognition into writing. It helps the reader connect and understand what one talking about without directly giving away what they really mean. It paints a picture of the character or thing they are comparing something to in a poem.
A couple examples online that helped describe how this works in writing is:
1. “When she lost her job, she acted like a Scrooge, and refused to buy anything that wasn’t necessary.” Scrooge was an extremely stingy character from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. (source)
2. “I was surprised his nose was not growing like Pinocchio’s.” This refers to the story of Pinocchio, where his nose grew whenever he told a lie. It is from The Adventures of Pinocchio, written by Carlo Collodi. (source)
3. When your parents learn about your new plan to raise money, it’s going to sink like the Titanic. (allusion to a historical event) (source)
This term helps to paint a picture of a story or person someone reads about when they were young, or maybe even a movie they just saw. It helps paint a bigger picture so they have less to explain to someone. Or so they don’t have to directly call something out, this adds a little more color to a person’s words and phrases.
Stress is the emphasis that falls on certain syllables and not others; the arrangement of stresses within a poem is the foundation of poetic rhythm. The process of working out which syllables in a poem are stressed is known as scansion; once a metrical poem has been scanned, it should be possible to see the metre.
By way of example, the word “produce” can be pronounced with the stress on either syllable – a farmer may proDUCE carrots, which a greengrocer will sell as PRODuce. Similarly, the differently placed stress is what separates the English and American pronunciations of “defence”.
Longer words may have more than one stress – “photography”, for example, is stressed on both ‘-tog-‘ and ‘-phy’. In some places, including the Oxford English Dictionary, a difference is drawn between the primary stress – the heavier emphasis on ‘-tog-‘, in this case – and secondary stress, as in the more lightly stressed ‘-phy’. For the purposes of scansion, however, it is usually enough to consider stress as either present or absent.
An example of stressed words in a poem (line 1):
The Lake Isle of Innisfree
W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
These little poems are often times funny and light hearted, as opposed to other poems that can be dark and twisty. Not that dark and twisty poetry isn’t amazing because it is. Limericks simply take a more childlike approach to the poetry world.
Limericks are ” a five-line witty poem with a distinctive rhythm. The first, second and fifth lines, the longer lines, rhyme. The third and fourth shorter lines rhyme. (A-A-B-B-A).” (Source:All About Limericks )
Here are a couple examples of Limericks…
“There was an Old Person whose habits,
Induced him to feed upon rabbits;
When he’d eaten eighteen,
He turned perfectly green,
Upon which he relinquished those habits.”
This is where the Edward Lear Limerick was found, as well as some really good information about where Limericks came from, they appeared around the 14th Century and they were predominantly used for poems like nursery rhymes.
Here are two more links where more creative, entertaining limericks can be found! Or you could always easily write your own!
Another fun fact is that there is actually a National Limerick Day on May 12!
A SIMILE is a mindful comparison of two seemingly different things. Drawing connections where you otherwise would have missed them. Using the words like or as is the easiest way to create or remember how to identify a simile.
“MTV is to music, as KFC is to chicken.” – By Lewis Black
“Books are like imprisoned souls
Till someone takes them down from a shelf and frees them.” – By Samuel Butler
At other times it can give a powerful descriptive of what something is not.
“The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.” – By Michlerish on TRIBE discussion
Regardless of which you prefer, similes are used commonly in all writing platforms to help the speaker create an more impactful picture. Typically metaphors and similes are frequently mistaken for each other. The best way to spot the difference between the two; is that a metaphor can be a single statement where the similarities are implied. A Simile is downright telling you there is a connection to be made.
The website that I picked as a good source to finding Poetry Forms can be found here. The ONE term that i used to focus on is Tritina. While searching the many different websites i found this term and it caught me off guard because I had never heard of it before. Tritina is a ten line poem that poets used to express a short story in very few lines. The lines are grouped into three tercets and a concluding line. What’s important to learn about a tritina poem is that the three words that end each of the lines of the first stanza are repeated in a different order at the end of lines in each of the subsequent two stanzas. The particular pattern is given below. This kind of recurrent pattern is “lexical repetition, which i learn off this website. (many more awesome facts, check it out!)A great example of a Tritina poem would be a poem called “Standing On A Rock” by Lorainne Dafney.
Standing on a Rock:
I’m standing on a rock
If I jump right off the front
I’ll land in deep water
I try not to slip into the water
I maintain my balance on the rock
Keeping my eye on what is in front
I must remember what lies in front
Dark, swirling, angry water
As I stand like a statue on this rock
This rock in front of troubled water
Isnt it great? I loved this poem just as much as i loved learning what a tritina poem was.
Doing some reading about the basic poems term I decided to pick Enjambment. According to the Dictionary it is defined as “The running on of the thought from one line, couplet, or stanza to the next without a syntactical break.”
Here is an example of a Enjambment of a popular children’s clapping game called “Miss Susie.” Each stanza of the rhyme looks like in end in a bad word word but through enjambment it is converted into an innocent one. There are a lot variations of “Miss Susie.” Went with Michigan (1990s) Miss Susie
“Miss Susie.” Michigan (1990s)
“Miss Susie had a steamboat
The steamboat had a bell
The steamboat went to heaven
Miss Susie went to hell
Please give me number 9
And if you disconnect me
I’ll kick you right be
‘hind the ‘frigerator,
There lay a piece of glass
Miss Susie fell upon it
And broke her little”
After doing research I decided to go with the term Ballad. Ballad is a type of poem that tells a story. Sometimes they are used in songs because of their rhyme. A ballad poem is a poetic story, which is often used as a love story. A typical ballad poem consists of stanzas that contain a four-line poem, or four poetic lines. The meter or rhythm of each line is usually iambic, which means it has one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable In ballad poems there are usually eight or six syllables in a line. In Ballad poems like any poem, some follow this form and some don’t, but almost all are a story, which means they all tell a story.
The information is found on this article: http://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-a-ballad-definition-examples-quiz.html
A Ballad example is: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner Ballad Poem. Here’s an excerpt:
The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared,
Merrily did we drop
Below the kirk, below the hill,
Below the lighthouse top.
The Sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea.
After looking up a list of poetic terms, the one that really caught my attention was a Lyric Poem. According to, Literary Devices, the definition of a Lyric Poem is “A type of poem characterized by brevity, compression, and the expression of feeling. A lyric is a collection of verses and choruses that make up a song or a short poem. Lyrical poems, which are often popular for their musical quality and rhythm, are pleasing to the ear, and are easily put to music.”
An example of a lyric poem that I found is the Italian Sonnet By James DeFord:
“Turn back the heart you’ve turned away
Give back your kissing breath
Leave not my love as you have left
The broken hearts of yesterday
But wait, be still, don’t lose this way
Affection now, for what you guess
May be something more, could be less
Accept my love, live for today.”
This poem uses fourteen lines with a metrical pattern of iambic pentameter. This poem is about the feelings someone has for a loved one and how it is worth staying with each other instead of apart.
–by Lidia Gutierrez
For the poetry basics I chose to talk about the common verse form ballads. A ballad is a centuries- old practice that began in European folk tradition and is usually used in love, tragedy and religious themes.
It shows the reader what is going on in a poem and is used to express a sense of emotional presence. It also alternates beats to create rhythm in the poem and tell a story in a unique fashion!
This information and poem below was found on https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/ballad-poetic-form
“He holds him with his skinny hand,
“There was a ship,” quoth he.
“Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!”
Eftsoons his hand dropped he.
He holds him with his glittering eye—
The wedding-guest stood still,
And listens like a three-years’ child:
The mariner hath his will.”
A villanelle is defined as a poetic device that requires a poem to have a total of 19 lines and a fixed form. It includes five tercets, a quatrain, and a couplet at the end of the quatrain. The rhyme scheme of a villanelle can be somewhat complex, but makes the form unique. The rhyming words are almost like a puzzle. The rhyme scheme is aba, with the same end-rhyme for every first and last line of each tercet and the final two lines of the quatrain.
A great example of a villanelle is “One Art,” by Elizabeth Bishop; Her word repetition, although not on each line in the beginning tercets, gives the poem a sense of unity and flows the poem from one idea to the next. This type of writing style adds a deeper layer to the poem, as the rhyming words have to follow a specific pattern, yet all make sense together.
Poetry structure can be a love-hate relationship—there are some restriction as to certain “rules” certain poems have to follow. However, villanelles offer the best of both worlds–a structure within the stanzas, but after that the rest is up to you, the poet.
A rondeau is a rhymed, closed form lyric poem of a set syllable number (typically eight) and set length (10-15 lines). The poem only has two rhymes, resulting in a rhyme scheme that typically looks like ABBAABr ABBAr (for 10 lines) or AABBA AABc AABAc (for 15 lines). The ‘r’ stands for a repeated refrain consisting of the opening line (or first words) of the poem: it is repeated at the end of the second and third stanzas.
The key to a rondeau is repetition: because there are only two rhymes, each rhyme is repeated over and over throughout the poem, while each stanza of the poem connects back to the beginning by a repetition of the opening. The poem scans easily, concealing how notoriously difficult they are to compose.
Historically the rondeau was popular in medieval French courts. Over time its purpose has evolved: although in thirteenth-century France it was used for uplifting (seldom melancholy) poems about romance, nature, religion, in present day its subject and tone can vary wildly. Although in the 1300s Geoffrey Chaucer used “The Parlement of Fowls” to revel in the coming of summer, the modern-day poet John McCrae wrote his poem “In Flanders Field” as a heart-wrenching capture of WWI while Dorothy Parker mourns the distance from her lover in “Rondeau Redouble (and Scarcely Worth the Trouble, at That)”. In present day the tone of the rondeau has clearly been expanded, but the classic structure of the form has been maintained for its easy-flowing repetition.
Source: Wikipedia, “French Poetry”
The term, “Paradox” is from the Greek word “paradoxon” that means contrary to expectations, existing belief or perceived opinion”. It is a statement that appears to be self-contradictory or silly but may include a latent truth. It is also used to illustrate an opinion or statement contrary to accepted traditional ideas. A paradox is often used to make a reader think over an idea in innovative way.
According to literarydevices.org, In literature, paradox is not just a clever or comical statement or use of words. Paradox has serious implication because it makes statements that often summarize the major themes of the work they are used in.
In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, one part of the cardinal rule is the statement,
“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”.
“This statement seems to not make any sense. However, on closer examination, it gets clear that Orwell points out a political truth. The government in the novel claims that everyone is equal but it has never treated everyone equally. It is the concept of equality stated in this paradox that is opposite to the common belief of equality”.