Glossary of Poetic Terms
No.1 on Google UK
| B |
||Italian verse form which evolved from the
||The natural rhythm of speech - as opposed to the rhythm
||A break in the flow of sound in a line
of poetry e.g. in Hamlet's famous soliloquy:
To be or not to be || that is the question
A caesura can be classified as either feminine (following an unaccented
syllable) or male (following an accented syllable).
||Group of poets including Lawrence Durrell and
Keith Douglas who were based in North Africa during World War II.
||Body of work considered to represent the highest literary
||A form of hymn with biblical words.
||The subdivision of a long narrative poem
e.g. in The Divine Comedy by Dante. Spenser
was the first English poet to use cantos. The Cantos is a long
(some would say too long) poem by Ezra Pound.
||Italian lyric poem.
||Latin for 'seize the day'. Originally a phrase taken from
an ode by Horace, but more recently synonymous with the film Dead
Poets Society starring Robin Williams.
||Where one or more unstressed syllables are
missing from the end of a regular metrical line. Usually employed in
trochaic or dactylic verse to avoid monotony. The terms derive from the Greek for 'stopping short'.
Sometimes referred to as a truncated line. See
||Verse which lists people, places, things or ideas e.g.
Contemporary Poets of the English Language by Anthony
||Much disputed term used by Aristotle in his Poetics
where he suggests that tragedy should purge the emotions of pity and
fear and, hence, lead to a catharsis.
||Group of poets including
Robert Herrick, Thomas Carew, Sir John Suckling and Richard Lovelace who were
all supporters of Charles I. Although not a formal group they were all influenced by
and wrote highly crafted, witty lyrics in praise of wine, women and
See also Tribe of Ben.
||Originally an anthology of stories by
W.B.Yeats, but then adopted as a generic term for literature
concerning Irish folk-lore and mysticism.
||A patchwork poem composed of quotations from other
authors. A famous example is Cento Nuptialus by Decimus
||See terza rima.
||Type of love-song associated with the Provençal
||One of a group of medieval French epic poems.
||A complicated elaboration of the French
||Russian folksong usually consisting of two,
four or six lines - although the quatrain is the most common. They can
be sung solo or accompanied by balalaika.
||Stopgap word used by a poet to furnish the
required number of syllables in a metrical line.
||Figure of speech where the second half of a phrase
reverses the order of the first half e.g. Samuel Johnson's "For we that
live to please, must please to live."
||Classical meter consisting of four syllables per foot:
one long, two short and one long. Choriambic meter has its origins
in Greek poetry and is very rarely used in English.
||A five line poem, invented by Adelaide
Crapsey, and based on Japanese forms such as
cinquain has a total of twenty-two syllables arranged in lines as follows:
2, 4, 6, 8 and 2 e.g.
On windless nights
The moon-cast shadows are,
So still will be my heart when I
||Part of a poem or song that is repeated after
each verse. See refrain.
||Pre-Christian Roman and Greek poets such as Homer,
Horace, Virgil, Ovid etc. Classicism is characterised by a sense of
formality and restraint. See also neo-classicism. The
romantic movement was a reaction against the constraints of
||A form of
light verse devised by Edmund Clerihew Bentley.
It consists of a quatrain composed of two couplets (rhymed: a-a-b-b) and takes as its subject a well known person(s)
The meaning of the poet Gay
Was always as clear as day,
While that of the poet Blake
Was often practically opaque.
||Hackneyed or timeworn expression e.g. 'shifting sands' or
'busy as bees'.
||Welsh syllabic verse form. See
||The careful and vigorous examination of literary texts; a
technique advocated by the
||Term coined by Blackwood's Magazine in 1817 to
describe poets of humble London origin such as Leigh
Hunt and John Keats. Keats was described as
a man 'who had left a decent calling (pharmacy) for the melancholy trade
||The tail, tag, outro,
envoi or concluding
passage of a piece of writing.
||Quatrain featuring alternating lines of iambic tetrameter
and iambic trimeter and an a-b-a-b rhyming scheme. Many hymns are
written in common measure. See
Shining Out of Darkness by Cowper. See also
long measure and
||Poetic form derived from the Latin in which poets bewail
social evils or the vicissitudes of life e.g. Complaint to his Purse
by Geoffrey Chaucer.
||An elaborate and complicated
metaphor. An early
exponent of conceits was the 14th Century Italian poet Petrarch. The
Petrarchan conceit was imitated by many Elizabethan poets including
Shakespeare. Conceits were also used
extensively by the metaphysical poets. John Donne famously compared two
lovers to a pair of compasses in his poem A Valediction: forbidding
||Experimental poetry which emerged during
the 1950-1960s and concentrated on the visual appearance of the words on the page.
It featured new typographical arrangements, shape poems and the use of collage
etc. It owed much to early figure poems such as The Altar and
by George Herbert. The effect of Concrete Poetry is lost
when the poem is read aloud. See also
||Where the poet writes intimately about his/her personal
experiences. Confessional poetry is normally written using the 'I' form. The American poet
pioneered confessional verse with his 1959 collection Life Studies.
||The effect created when words share the
same stressed consonant sounds but where the vowels differ. Single
consonance occurs when two words share one set of consonants e.g.
'brick' and 'clock' which share a 'ck'. Double consonance occurs when
two words share all the same consonants e.g. in 'black' and 'block'.
Double consonance is sometimes known as
consonance has the effect of being a
near rhyme. Seamus Heaney often uses consonance rather than full rhyme
- see such poems as Follower or The Diviner.
||All the letters of the alphabet except the vowels a, e, i,
o and u.
||The subject matter of a poem - as opposed to the
stanza comprising of two lines.
||Where a word at the end of a line rhymes with a word in
the middle of the next/previous line.
Crown of Sonnets
||Seven interlinked sonnets, where the last line of each
sonnet provides the first line of the next. The final line of the
seventh sonnet is also the opening line of the first e.g. La Corona
by John Donne. See
||Poetry that seeks to emulate Picasso's 'sum of
destructions' e.g. the work of the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire.
||Technique where a poet/writer cuts up a text
with a pair of scissors and reassembles it randomly - hoping to create
something fresh or unusual. David Bowie used this technique when writing
the lyrics for Aladdin Sane.
||Welsh syllabic verse form. There are various
versions including: the cyhydedd hir and the cyhydedd naw ban.
||(pronounced kun-ghah-nedh) Intricate Welsh system of
alliteration and rhyme. It is impossible to replicate in English but the
following line from Hopkins's The Wreck of the Deutschland gives
an approximation: 'The down-dugged ground-hugged grey'.
See Welsh forms.
|Cyrch a Chwta
||Welsh syllabic verse form.
||Metrical form developed by the Welsh poet Dafydd ap
Gwilym which consists of rhyming couplets with seven syllables per line.
There are four separate cywydd forms: awdl gywydd, cywydd deuair hirion,
cywydd deuair fyrion and cywydd llosgyrnog. See