Glossary of Poetic Terms

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Lai See virelai and/or lay.
Lake Poets Collective term for Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey who all lived in the Lake District in the early years of the 19th century. The landscape of the Lake District provided them with inspiration for their poetry - especially so for Wordsworth. See also Romanticism.
Lakers/Lake School See 'Lake Poets' above.
Lallans Scottish literary language - as used by Hugh MacDiarmid and Robert Burns.
Lament See elegy.
Lampoon Scurrilous, satirical poem e.g. John Wilmot's famous epitaph for Charles II:

Her lies a great and mighty king
  Whose promise none relies on;
He never said a foolish thing,
  Nor ever did a wise one.

Laureate See Poet Laureate.
Lay Short lyric or narrative poem meant to be sung; originating from the French 'lai' or 'lais'.
Leitmotif Theme running through a piece of work.
Leonine Verse/Rhyme Type of verse possibly attributed to a 13th century French poet called Leo. In English it refers to verse employing an internal rhyme scheme where a word in the middle of the line rhymes with the word at the end of the line e.g 'The splendour falls on castle walls' from Blow, Bugle, Blow by Tennyson.
Lexicographer The maker of dictionaries. According to Samuel Johnson: 'a harmless drudge'.
Lexicon The particular type of vocabulary used by a person or poet. The words 'wind', 'rain' and 'storm' are an instantly recognisable part of Bob Dylan's lexicon.
Libretto The text of an opera. W. H. Auden was a skilled librettist.
Light Verse Verse which is comical or light-hearted in tone. Light verse forms include the limerick, the clerihew and the Little Willie. Famous exponents of light verse include: John Skelton, Edward Lear, Hilaire Beloc, Ogden Nash, John Betjeman and Gavin Ewart.
Ligne Donnée Term coined by Paul Valéry to describe a line which is 'given' or 'gifted' to a poet from the Muses/God etc.
Limerick Form of light verse consisting of five lines and rhymed: a-a-b-b-a. The first, second and fifth lines contain three feet while the third and fourth lines contain two feet. The form was popularised by the Victorian poet Edward Lear. Lear often used the same word at the end of the first and fifth lines e.g.

There was an old person of Dean
Who dined on one pea, and one bean;
   For he said, "More than that
   Would make me too fat,"
That cautious old person of Dean.

Modern limerick writers tend to introduce a new rhyme in the last line - as in this example by Gavin Ewart:

The Highbrow Hangover

Today I am feeling subfusc
and as brittle and brusque as a rusk,
most frighteningly friable -
no action is viable -
not a man nor a mouse but a husk!

Line A basic structural component of a poem. Lines can be written in free form, in syllabic form (e.g. haiku) or in metrical form. In the official classification, metrical lines can vary in length from the monometer (one foot) to the octameter (eight feet).
Linguistics The scientific study of language and its structure.
List Poem See catalogue verse.
Literary Concerning the writing or study of literature, especially that of high quality.
Literary Agent Person who acts on behalf of an author in negotiations with publishers/film makers etc in return for a percentage of final fee. Agents seldom represent poets, however, as there is (regrettably) very little money to be made out of poetry.
Literary Terms Glossary of literary related terminology; usually broader in scope than a 'Glossary of Poetic Terms'.
Literature General term denoting high quality written work including: poetry, novels, plays, short stories etc. Ezra Pound famously declared that: ' Literature is news that STAYS news.'

See also canon.

Litotes Figure of speech employing ironic understatement which affirms something by denying its opposite e.g. 'Earth has not anything to show more fair' from Composed Upon Westminster Bridge by William Wordsworth.
Little Willie Form of light verse written in quatrains rhyming a-a-b-b. They concern the exploits of the eponymous disaster-prone hero e.g.
Billy, in one of his nice new sashes,
Fell in the fire and was burnt to ashes;
Now, although the room grows chilly,
I haven't the heart to poke poor Willie.
Liverpool Poets Name given to Roger McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri who came together in Liverpool in the 1960s. They published and performed their own poetry - which was humorous, popular and anti-intellectual. See also performance poetry and underground poets.
Logaoedic Poetry featuring a mixed meter and composed of iambs, trochees, dactyls and anapests.
Logopoeia Term coined by Ezra Pound to describe a poem which induces both melopoeia and phanopoeia by 'stimulating the associations (intellectual or emotional) that have remained in the receiver's consciousness in relation to the actual words or word groups employed'.
Log-Rolling Where cliques of authors/poets favourably review each other's work in order to boost sales. See puff.
Long Measure Variant of common measure consisting of a tetrameter which is iambic or dactylic. Often employed in hymns.

Love Poetry Poetry which deals with the agony and ecstasy of love e.g. Shakespeare's Sonnets. See also erotic poetry.
Lyre U-shaped, stringed instrument (similar to a harp)used in ancient Greece to accompany recited/sung poetry. See 'lyric poetry' below.
Lyric Poetry Term originally derived from the Greek word meaning 'for the lyre' and indicating verses that were written to be sung. However, more recently the term 'lyric' has been used to refer to short poems, often written in the 'I' form, where the poet expresses his or her feelings e.g. The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B.Yeats or London by William Blake.
Lyrical Ballads Ground breaking poetry collaboration by Coleridge and Wordsworth, which first appeared in 1798. Subsequent extended versions appeared in 1800, 1801 and 1802. Most of the poems in the collection were written when the two poets lived in Somerset: Coleridge at Nether Stowey and Wordsworth at Alfoxden.

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