Glossary of Poetic Terms

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Caccia Italian verse form which evolved from the madrigal.

Cadence The natural rhythm of speech - as opposed to the rhythm of meter.
Caesura 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).

Cairo Poets Group of poets including Lawrence Durrell and Keith Douglas who were based in North Africa during World War II.
Canon Body of work considered to represent the highest literary standards.
Canticle A form of hymn with biblical words.

Canto 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.
Canzone Italian lyric poem.
Carmen figuratum See altar poem.

Carpe Diem 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.
Catalectic/Catalexis 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 acatalectic.
Catalogue Verse Verse which lists people, places, things or ideas e.g. Contemporary Poets of the English Language by Anthony Thwaite.
Catharsis 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.
Cavalier Poets 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 Ben Jonson and wrote highly crafted, witty lyrics in praise of wine, women and song. See also Tribe of Ben.
Celtic Twilight Originally an anthology of stories by W.B.Yeats, but then adopted as a generic term for literature concerning Irish folk-lore and mysticism.
Cento A patchwork poem composed of quotations from other authors. A famous example is Cento Nuptialus by Decimus  Magnus Ausonius.
Chain Rhyme See terza rima.
Chanson Type of love-song associated with the Provençal troubadour poets.

Chanson de Geste One of a group of medieval French epic poems.
Chansonnier Collection of troubadour poems.
Chant Royal A complicated elaboration of the French ballade form.
Chastushka 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.
Chaucerian Stanza See rhyme royal.
Cheville Stopgap word used by a poet to furnish the required number of syllables in a metrical line.
Chiasmus 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."
Choka See naga-uta.
Choree See trochee.
Choriambic Meter 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.
Cinquain A five line poem, invented by Adelaide Crapsey, and based on Japanese forms such as haiku and tanka. The cinquain has a total of twenty-two syllables arranged in lines as follows:  2, 4, 6, 8 and 2 e.g.

Moon Shadows
Still as
On windless nights
The moon-cast shadows are,
So still will be my heart when I
Am dead.

Chorus Part of a poem or song that is repeated after each verse. See refrain.
Classical Poets/Poetry 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 neo-classicism.
Clerihew 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) e.g.

The meaning of the poet Gay
Was always as clear as day,
While that of the poet Blake
Was often practically opaque.

Cliché Hackneyed or timeworn expression e.g. 'shifting sands' or 'busy as bees'.
Clogyrnach Welsh syllabic verse form. See awdl.
Close Reading The careful and vigorous examination of literary texts; a technique advocated by the New Critics.
Cockney School 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 of Cockney-poetry'.
Coda The tail, tag, outro, envoi or concluding passage of a piece of writing.
Common Measure 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 Light Shining Out of Darkness by Cowper. See also short measure, long measure and hymnal stanza.
Complaint 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.
Conceit 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 Mourning.
Concrete Poetry 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 Easter-Wings by George Herbert. The effect of Concrete Poetry is lost when the poem is read aloud. See also altar poem.
Confessional Poetry Where the poet writes intimately about his/her personal experiences. Confessional poetry is normally written using the 'I' form. The American poet Robert Lowell pioneered confessional verse with his 1959 collection Life Studies.
Consonance 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 pararhyme. Double 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.
Consonants All the letters of the alphabet except the vowels a, e, i, o and u.
Content The subject matter of a poem - as opposed to the form.
Couplet A stanza comprising of two lines. 
Cowleyan Ode See ode.
Cross Rhyme 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 sonnet.
Cubist Poetry Poetry that seeks to emulate Picasso's 'sum of destructions' e.g. the work of the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire.
Curtal Sonnet See sonnet.
Cut-Up 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
Cyhydedd Welsh syllabic verse form. There are various versions including: the cyhydedd hir and the cyhydedd naw ban.
Cynghanedd (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.
Cywydd 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 Welsh forms.

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