Glossary of Poetic Terms

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Paeon A poem or hymn of joy or exaltation e.g. All Things Bright and Beautiful.

Paeon A metrical foot (of Greek origin) containing one long syllable and three short syllables. The position of the long syllable can be varied hence the so-called first, second, third or fourth paeon.
 
Palindrome Word, phrase or line of verse which reads the same forwards or backwards e.g. 'Able was I ere I saw Elba.'
 
Palinode Poem which retracts a statement made in a previous poem.
 
Panegyric Poem which praises or eulogizes something or someone.
 
Pantoum Verse form of Malayan origin featuring interlinked quatrains rhyming a-b-a-b. The structure of the pantoum is similar to that of the villanelle. It was used by French poets including Charles Baudelaire and introduced into English by Henry Austin Dobson.
 
Paradox Seemingly absurd statement which, on closer examination, reveals an important truth e.g. Wordsworth's ' The child is father of the man'.
 
Parallelism Phrases or sentences placed side by side which exhibit repetition of structure or meaning. Parallelism is particularly a feature of religious verse (especially Hebrew) or of incantations. A more modern example is the beginning of T.S. Eliot's Ash-Wednesday

'Because I do not hope to turn again
 Because I do not hope
 Because I do not hope to turn'
 

Pararhyme Term coined by Edmund Blunden to describe a form of 'near rhyme' where the consonants in two different words are exactly the same but the vowels vary. Pararhyme is particularly a  feature of the poetry of Wilfred Owen.  For example, in Owen's unfinished poem Strange Meeting we find lines ending with words such as 'groaned' and 'groined' and 'hall' and 'Hell'. Pararhyme is more commonly known as double consonance.
 
Parataxis The use of clauses (one after the other) but without conjunctions e.g. Caesar's 'I came, I saw, I conquered'.
 
Parnassian Term coined by G.M.Hopkins to describe competent but uninspired poetry.
 
Parnassian Poets Group of 19th century French poets (including Leconte de Lisle) who reacted against the excesses of romanticism - favouring instead restraint and objectivity. See also the symbolist poets who, in turn, reacted against the objectivity of the Parnassians.
 
Parody Imitation of a poem or another poet's style for comic/satiric effect. In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Lewis Carroll's poem Old Father William is a parody of  The Old Man's Comforts by Robert Southey.

See also my poem Cock-Eyed Beauty which is a parody of Pied Beauty by G.M. Hopkins.
 

Pastiche Literary work composed of material taken from various sources or written in the style of other poets/authors.
 
Pastoral A poem about idyllic rural life - often featuring the life of shepherds. Early examples of the form include the idylls of Theocritus and the eclogues of Virgil. Milton's poem Lycidas is also an example of a pastoral poem. Pastorals tended to die out with the rise of romanticism.
 
Pathetic Fallacy Term coined by Ruskin to describe a tendency of poets (particularly Wordsworth) and painters to attribute human feelings to nature.

See also anthropomorphism and personification.
 

Pathos Poetry (or other literature) which evokes pity or sadness in the reader e.g. Send No Money by Philip Larkin. Carried too far, pathos can become bathos.
 
Peasant Poetry Written by poets from poor backgrounds e.g. the work of John Clare and Robert Bloomfield. Often concerned with rural issues or nature. Bloomfield's The Farmer's Boy would be a classic example.
 
Pen-Name Literary pseudonym.
 
Pentameter A line of poetry comprising of five metrical 'feet'. Shakespeare's plays were largely written in iambic pentameter. See meter and Shakespeare's line.
 
Performance Poetry Poetry that is performed 'live' in pubs and clubs  - usually from memory. In the UK, performance poetry is often humorous in nature e.g. John Hegley, John Cooper Clarke, Ivor Cutler  and Atilla the Stockbroker etc. Performance poetry was pioneered in the UK by Adrian Mitchell and the Liverpool Poets (Roger McGough, Adrian Henri and Brian Patten.)

Black poets such as Benjamin Zephaniah and Linton Kwesi Johnson have also reached a wide audience through performing their own poetry.

See also Poetry Slam.
 

Periphrasis Circumlocution (or roundabout speaking) employed for poetic effect. See kenning.
 
Persona Poem See dramatic monologue.
 
Personification Figure of speech whereby inanimate objects or abstractions are given human characteristics. In his poem Low Water Ted Hughes uses personification to describe a river e.g.
'She lolls on her deep couch. And a long thigh
Lifts from the flash of her silks.'

Personification is a form of metaphor. See also anthropomorphism.
 

Petrachan As pertaining to the Italian poet Petrarch.

Petrarchan Sonnet Type of sonnet used by Petrarch which consisted of an octave and a sestet and featured the following rhyme scheme: a-b-b-a-a-b-b-a, c-d-e-c-d-e. Sometimes known as the Italian sonnet (as opposed to the English sonnet). See sonnet.
 
Phanopoeia Poundian term to describe a poem which relies upon 'throwing a visual image on the mind'. He went on to say that this is particularly exemplified by Chinese poetry because the Chinese language is composed of pictograms. See also logopoeia and  melopoeia which, according to Pound, make up the tripartite division of poetry.
 
Pindaric Ode See ode.
 
Pleonasm The use of unnecessary or superfluous words. Poets often fall into this trap when trying to pad out a metrical line e.g. the clown's song from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
     With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
     For the rain it raineth every day.
 

Poem Originally a metrical composition. However, many modern poets no longer use meter so a more accurate definition might be: a concentrated or charged piece of writing; often featuring stanzas and line breaks.
 
Poëme Term coined by Alfred de Vigny to define epic or dramatic poems presenting philosophic thoughts.
 
Poesis The making of poetry. It derives from the Greek word 'to make' and eventually became the English word  'poetry' via 'poesie' and 'poesy'.
 
Poesy Archaic word for poetry. Shelley uses it in the first stanza of his long poem The Mask of Anarchy.
 
Poet A writer of poems.
 
Poetaster An inferior poet. See doggerel.
 
Počte Maudit An under appreciated poet. In French, it literally means the 'cursed poet'.
 
Poetess A female poet.
 
Poetic Exhibiting the good qualities of poetry.
 
Poetic Diction The particular language (words and phrases) employed by poets. Poetic diction has changed much over the centuries. Traditionally poetry was associated with a certain 'floweriness', but since the advent of modernism this has been replaced by a more sparse lexicon. Modern poets have also tended to avoid elision such as ne'er or 'tis and also the use of archaic terminology such as thee, thy and thou.
 
Poeticise/Poeticize To make poetical.
 
Poetic Justice The justice meted out by poets (in an ideal world) - where virtue is rewarded and vice punished.
 
Poetic Licence The freedom of poets to depart from the normal rules of written language and/or literal fact in order to create an effect. This often occurs when poets use inventive figurative language.
 
Poetics Essays describing the art and theory of poetry e.g. Poetics by Aristotle.
 
Poetise/Poetize To write or compose poetry.
 
Poet Laureate Originally the poet appointed by the king or queen of England to write occasional verse to celebrate royal or national events. In return the poet laureate received a stipend. Ben Jonson was the first unofficial poet laureate although Edmund Spenser did receive a pension from Elizabeth I after flattering her in The Faerie Queene. Jonson was succeeded by Sir William D'Avenant but John Dryden became the first official poet laureate in 1668. Traditionally English poets laureate were appointed for life but w.e.f. Andrew Motion's appointment in 1999 the system was changed to ten years only. The requirement to write occasional verse is no longer enforced. See complete list of UK Poets Laureate.

In the USA, the title of poet laureate was officially established in 1985 by the Senate. The post is salaried but is only held, on average, for 1-2 years. However, a number of unofficial poets laureate held the post prior to this date - starting with Joseph Auslander in 1937. See complete list of US Poets Laureate.
 

Poetry The work of a poet. The exalted, expressive, elevated use of words. Coleridge defined it as: 'the best words in the best order.' Poetry is, however, a highly subjective term. One man's poetry is another man's schmaltz! Compare with verse. See also Poets on Poetry.
 
Poetry Review The journal of the Poetry Society, founded in 1912.
 
Poetry Slam Form of performance poetry pioneered by Marc Smith in Chicago U.S.A.. Poetry Slam takes the form of a competitive poetry reading where participants read their own poems from memory and are marked on their performance by judges. See Poetryslam.com.
 
Poetry Society, the UK society founded in 1909 to promote poetry and the art of verse speaking. Visit the Poetry Society website.
 
Poets' Corner Part of the south transept of Westminster Abbey where many famous English poets are buried or commemorated - including Chaucer, Spenser, Dryden, Tennyson, Gay, Drayton and Browning etc. Technically it is not a corner, nor is it occupied exclusively by poets.
 
Polemic A poem presenting a controversial discussion e.g. Milton's Areopagitica (1664).
 
Polysyndeton The repetition of conjunctions (in close proximity)  e.g. 'and' in The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll by Bob Dylan.
 
Portmanteau Word Factitious word created by blending the sounds and meanings of two other words e.g. 'slithy' from Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky which is a combination of 'lithe' and 'slimy'. See also neologism.
 
Poulter's Measure Alternating lines of iambic hexameter and iambic heptameter.
 
Poundian In the style of Ezra Pound i.e. highly eclectic.
 
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood A group of poets and artists including D.G. Rossetti, Walter Pater and William Morris. Their work is characterised by the use of medieval settings and subject matter and was a reaction against the ugliness of Victorian life. They were particularly inspired by La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats.

The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson is pre-raphaelite in style although he wasn't a member of the brotherhood.
 

Proceleus Maticus Classical foot consisting of four short or unstressed syllables. Also known as proceleusmatic.
 
Prologue The introductory section of a poem or literary work. In The Canterbury Tales Chaucer employed a general prologue but also individual prologues e.g. The Franklin's Prologue and The Reeve's Prologue. See also epilogue.
 
Prose Poem Piece of writing which features the charged language normally associated with poetry but which does not feature stanzas or line breaks. An example of a prose poem is Season in Hell by Rimbaud.
 
Prosody The formal study of the structure of verse including rhyme, meter, rhythm, stanzaic pattern, alliteration, consonance, assonance, language use etc.
 
Prosopopeia From the Greek meaning to 'make' a 'person' - hence the personification of inanimate objects or abstractions. See also personification.
 
Prothalamion Similar to epithalamion but written prior to the wedding in question. In 1596 Spenser published Prothalamion to celebrate the double marriage of Lady Elizabeth and Lady Katherine - daughters of the Earl of Worcester.
 
Pseudonym Pen-name or nom de plume adopted by a poet/author.
 
Puff/Puffery Reviews which overpraise or laud unworthy work; usually produced by literary cliques. Probably originated from the character Mr Puff in Sheridan's play The Critic. See log-rolling.
 
Pun Playful device where similar sounding words with different meanings, or single words with multiple meanings are employed. Shakespeare frequently used puns for both comic and serious effect e.g. in Romeo and Juliet the dying Mercutio says: "Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man." 

William Empson identified puns as a form of ambiguity.
 

Pure Poetry Poetry that does not try to educate, instruct or convert the reader - as opposed to didactic verse. An example of pure poetry would be Ariel's Songs by William Shakespeare.
 
Puritan Poets 17th Century US colonial poets - such as Edward Taylor, Anne Bradstreet and Michael Wigglesworth - who wrote pietistic poetry.
 
Purple Patch Pejorative term for an excessively ornate or florid passage of writing.
 
Pylon Poets Group of 1930s left-wing poets including W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Cecil Day-Lewis and Louis MacNeice. They were known for their use of industrial imagery - which included references to trains, skyscrapers, factories, roads etc. The actual term 'pylon' was derived from Spender's 1933 poem The Pylons. See also MacSpaunday
 
Pyrrhic Meter A metrical foot comprising two unstressed syllables.
   

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