UNIT 12: Important Poetic Terms and Other Elements of Poetry
In this Unit, the following aspects will be covered:
- Introduction 
- Important Poetic Terms 
- Conclusion 

The study of poetry involves the use of a variety of technical terms. Understanding them is important for the appreciation of poetry. 

Important Poetic Terms 
The following is a list of some poetic terms used in literature in general and in poetry in particular:
Poem. Is a metrical composition characterized by strong imagination, emotion, and appropriate language. A poem is an arrangement of words containing meaning and musicality. Most poems take the form of a series of lines separated into groups called stanzas. 
Line. Also a verse. Is a line in a stanza. A verse is formally a single metrical line in a poetic composition; one line of poetry or poem. A verse is a single line in a poem.
Stanza. A stanza is normally a sum of verses that combine to form a block-like paragraph or group of lines which is called a stanza. A poem has at least one stanza. Stanzas in poetry are the equivalent of paragraphs in prose.
Refrain. A refrain is a word, phrase, line, lines or group of lines that are repeated at the end of each stanza. It adds music and it emphasizes a point.
Persona. A persona is a person who speaks in or narrates in a poem. In other words, a persona refers to the character of the poem. Sometimes a poet may use ‘I’ but he/she does not refer to himself or herself. The poet puts himself in the shoes of another person. For example, a poet may be live in a settled country, but he can decide to write a poem about one troubled refugee.
Speaker. This is the voice that is talking to us in a poem. Sometimes the speaker is the same as the poet, but the poet may also create a different voice, speaking as a child, or even as an object.
Poetic license. This is the privilege which poets are given to break the grammatical rules of language. The pronunciation rules may also be violated in order to meet the metrical rules or needs. For example, the poet may write ‘out they go’, instead of ‘they go out’ without sounding ungrammatical. However, if the poet does not have grammatical competence of a language he/she cannot be said to be using poetic license. 
Inversion. Is the reversal of normal word order in a sentence, especially in a prose sentence or in a line of poetry. The normal word order in an English sentence is SVC (if there is ‘C’). When writers use inversion, the sentence elements are put in a different order. Poets use inversion to give emphasis and variety and to create rhymes or accommodate a meter. 
Meter. Meter in poetry is what brings the poem to life and is the internal beat or rhythm with which it is read. Meter in poetry is a rhythm of accented and unaccented syllables arranged into feet. The most common is one soft foot and one hard foot and is called an iamb. There are several kinds of meter, but most poetry uses s five-beat meter, with iambic feet, called iambic pentameter. The most common metrical patterns are two: iambic pentameter: A dog| is not| allowed| to run| away|. Trochaic pentameter: Try to| see the| morning| sunlight| shining.
Foot. A foot is a unit consisting of at least one stressed syllable and usually one or more unstressed syllables. The more will be discussed about the meter on HOW TO COMPOSE A POEM.
Ellipsis. Is the act of leaving out some words which writer or an artist thinks they are less important. The ellipted words may be filled by the reader in mind as he/she reads the work. In poetry, ellipsis is mainly used to save space (for word economy). The words which are more likely to be ellipted are functional words like prepositions, auxiliary verbs, conjunctions, as well as determiners. It is an effective visual device to add interest to a poem.
Tone. Is the attitude of the poet. It refers to the poet’s state of mind. This state of mind is expressed through the use of language. Thus, the tone of the poet may be angry, sad, ironic, or satirical tone. Tone helps the reader to know what the persona wants to advocate for.
Mood. In poetry, mood is the overall emotional tone pervades a section of or the whole poem, directing the reader’s expectations toward the nature of the course of events in the poem. The mood of a poem creates an atmosphere of fear, happiness, or other emotions that the reader deciphers and factors into the meaning found in the poetry. 
Atmosphere. Is a mood or feeling inn a work of literature (also called a mood). Atmosphere is usually created through descriptive details, and evocative language. For example, when a work of art is set in the abandoned old houses, it may create an atmosphere of horror.
Attitude. The attitude of a piece of writing or a speech is closely related to the tone of the piece. The attitude of a piece can be thought of as a broader concept than tone but one that is comprised of the various tones within a piece. For example, an attitude of criticism of a particular topic might be composed of a mixture of negative, persuasive, and objective tones that all combine to help convey the overall attitude.
Poet. A poet is a person who composes poems. Or is a person who uses most of his time to communicate with the society through poems. The female poet may be called a poetess.
Poetic diction. A poetic diction refers to the choice and arrangement of words in poetry. Poets are very keen in the choice of words to make them suit what they want to convey. The careful choice of words is what makes word economy possible. In its broadest sense, diction is defined as the choice of words used while syntax is the way those words are structured within a writing or a speech. For example, short, choppy sentences can contribute to a feeling of anticipation and tenseness, while long, flowing sentences can make the reader or listener feel relaxed and calm.
Addressee. This refers to the audience of a poem. Is a person to whom the poet aims to speak to. An addressee can be the colonized people, peasants, and refugees, the oppressed or humiliated people.
Repetition. Is the recurrence of sounds, words, phrases, lines, or stanzas in a speech, piece of writing or a poem. Writers use repetition to emphasize an important point, to expand upon an idea, to help create rhymes and rhythm, and to increase the feeling of unity inn a work of art.
Dramatic monologue. Is a form of dramatic poetry in which the speaker (persona, poet) describes a crucial moment in his pr her life to a silent listener and in the process reveals much about his or her own character. The speaker may be a fictional or historical figure and is clearly distinct from the poet. Often the speaker will reveal the listener’s identity, and the dramatic situation in which the monologue is spoken.
Parallelism. It involves the use of a series of words, phrases, or sentences that have similar grammatical structures or that state a similar idea. Parallelism shows the relationship between ideas and helps emphasize thoughts. Also parallelism or parallel structure helps make line rhythmic and memorable and heightens their emotional effect.
Enjambment. Is the continuation of a sentence from one line of a poem to another. Poets often use enjambments to emphasize rhyming words. Enjambment also enables poets to create a conversational tone, breaking lines at points, where people would normally pause in conversation, yet still maintaining the unity of thoughts.
Melody. This involves the poet’s use of devices that appeal to sounds in poetry.
Rhyme. Is the repetition of accented vowel sounds and all sounds following them in words that are close together in a poem. Is the repetition of identical sounds at the end of consecutive lines at similar intervals in stanza. For example
Today is May,
We are on the way,
Trees will sway,
This way and that way.
The stanza above has each line ends with ‘-ay’ to give the sound /ei/.
Rhyme scheme. Is the pattern of rhymed lines/verses. The rhyme scheme is designated by the assignment of different letter of the alphabet to each new rhyme. See the example below;
behold dear friend. a
salvation is coming. b
the earth has come to end. a
jesus is coming. b. 
In the above stanza, the rhyme scheme is ‘ab ab’, but the previous stanza has a rhyme scheme of ‘aa aa’. 
Imagery. Is the use of language in such a way that it stimulates certain feelings that appeal to any of the five human senses; that is, senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Poetry is rich in imagery than any other literary genres. Imagery (images) towards the reader is evoked by the poet’s use of several devices like; Simile-conveys a direct tone and meaning (His house was like a prison); Metaphor-conveys an evocative tone (His house was a prison); personification-creates a vivid tone, giving human qualities to inanimate objects conveys a warm tone ( His house kissed his body everyday); Hyperbole-creates a humorous tone (His house was a continent of hell); and irony-creates a caustic tone, and this often produces sarcasm or lighthearted humor (His leaking house was a good inhabitant of the loose VIPs).
Alliteration. Is the repetition of the same or similar consonant sounds in words that are close together. Although alliteration most often consists of sounds that begin with words, it may also consists of sounds that occur within words. This use of the same consonant sounds at the beginning of each consecutive words in a line happens as follows: feel free friend Fredy. Like rhymes, alliteration adds music to a poem hence, good to listen to.
Consonance. Is the repetition of consonant sounds, typically within or at the end of non-rhyming words, as in this succession of echoing ‘d’ sounds in William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming”: ‘The blood-dimmed tide is loosed…’ Or The boy blocked the ball by his boot.
Assonance. Is the repetition of similar vowel sounds followed by different consonant sounds in words that are close together. Is also the repetition of the same or similar vowel sounds in stressed syllbles that end with different consonant sounds. For example, “And so all the night-tide, I lie down by the side”. Like alliteration and consonance, assonance adds musicality and rhythmical effects in the poem.
Onomatopoeia. Is the use of a word whose sound imitates or suggests its meaning. There are so many words of this kind, ones of them are; buzz, splash, hiss, bark, bang, and so forth. In poetry, onomatopoeic words reinforce the meaning and create evocative and musical sound effects in the poem.
Rhythm. Is the musical quality in language produced by repetition. Rhythm occurs naturally in all forms of spoken and written language. Poems written in meter create rhythm by a strict pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. Writers also can create rhythm by repeating the grammatical structures, by using pauses, by varying line length, and by balancing long and short words or phrases.
Scansion. Is the analysis of the meter of a line of verse. To scan a line of poetry means to note the stressed and unstressed syllables and to divide the line into its feet, or rhythmical units.

Everyone has encountered a poem in a number of ways. However, most common instance is when we were children. At home and school we sang various short songs. Even by definition, poetry is a song-like composition. That's why we are inclined to say that poetry should be treated as a simple genre where everyone should feel comfortable and ready to learn willingly. 

Abrahams, M.H (1971) A Glossary of Literary Terms, Holt, Rinehart and Winston Inc. New York.

Daniel, K et al (ed.) (2003) Elements of Literature: Fourth Course with Readings in World Literature; Florida Edition, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Austin.

Daniel, K et al (ed.) (2003) Elements of Literature: Sixth Course; Literature of Britain with World Classics; Florida Edition, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Austin.

Kinsella, K et al (2003) Prentice Hall Literature: Timeless Voices, Timeless Themes; Copper Level, Pearson, Upper Saddle River.


Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

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