Elements and Forms of Poetry

    • Theme: the main point or the insight to ‘be derived from the poem.
    • Speaker/persona: the fictitious character whose voice we hear in the poem. In the same way that a narrator is not necessarily the author, the speaker is not necessarily the poet and not necessarily human (though usually possessing human traits). The speaker may either be an observer or a direct participant in the dramatic situation that he/she/it is speaking about.
    • Dramatic situation: the moment (in lyric poetry) or series of events (in narrative poetry) that the speaker speaks about in the poem.
    • Diction: the poem’s choice of words, with each word suggestive in terms of its meaning, sound, and placement together with other words. Words may be abstract/concrete, general/specific, formal/informal, denotative/connotative. An allusion is a word chosen for its direct reference to a well-known historical or fictitious person, place, thing, or event. Typically used as shortcuts, allusions convey compressed ideas in a single reference.
    • Figurative language/figures of speech: comparisons or substitutions that, for the sake of freshness, emphasis, or surprise, depart from the usual denotation of words. In other words, nonliteral use of language.
      • Simile and metaphor: express similarity between dissimilar things (whereas literal language would express similarity between obviously similar things). Simile focuses on a single aspect of the likeness and uses connectives (like, as, than, such as, resembles, etc.). Metaphor does not use connectives but states that one thing is something else, imply-ing a likeness in nature. Metaphors suggest several aspects of likeness. A conceit is an elaborate and complicated metaphor.
      • Metonymy: a word is substituted by another closely associated with it, e.g., “between the cradle and the grave” (between birth and death), “the pen is mightier than the sword” (pen is a metonym for writing, sword for fighting). In synechdoche, a part stands in for the whole (or vice versa), e.g., “sail” standing in for ship; asking for one’s “hand” in marriage.
      • Paranomasia/pun: a form of wordplay involving two similar sounding words but with different meanings. In “Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man” (a line in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet), two meanings of the word “grave” are used: “grave” which means serious, and grave as a metonym for death.
      • Personification/anthropomorphism: human qualities are given to inanimate objects, animals, or abstract terms (like love, nature, truth, death, etc.).
      • Apostrophe: the speaker addresses someone or something who is absent, dead, does not/cannot respond, or is not ordinarily spoken to.
      • Hyperbole: an overstatement or an exaggeration for the sake of emphasis. An understatement, on the other hand, implies more than what is said.
      • Oxymoron: a combination of contradictory words or ideas, e.g., “wise foolishness,” “bittersweet.”
      • Paradox: a strange or self-contradictory statement that is
        apparently (or surprisingly) true.
    • Image: word or words that appeal to any of the five senses (nor just visual as the term “image” may suggest) to convey a Hash of understanding. Imagery refers to a cluster of sensory perceptions, all the images in a poem taken to mean something together rather than separately; in most cases, the sequencing of the images is significant as well. In sensory crossovers called synesthesia, one sensory perception is expressed in terms of another, e.g., “loud shirt.” A symbol is an object with literal presence in the poem but whose meaning or significance is greater and beyond the literal.
    • Tone: the manner of the poem, could be the speaker’s attitude toward a subject (himself/herself/itself, an object, another character, an event, or an idea). Tone is usually an effect of diction and may be affectionate, hostile, earnest, playful, sarcastic, respectful, serious, humorous, surprised, angry, nostalgic, tender, expectant, etc.
    • Irony: saying one thing but meaning another; a manner of speaking that implies a discrepancy between words and their meanings, actions, and their results, between appearances and reality.
      • ironic point of view: the speaker’s tone differs from the poet’s (i.e., the intended meaning contradicts the tone).
      • Verbal irony: a word is used to actually mean the opposite. Sarcasm is a type of verbal irony with a bitter or mocking tone.
      • Dramatic irony: a character says, does, or encounters some-thing whose significance is greater than what he/she understands—and the reader is aware of this. In tragic irony, the reader is aware of the impending downfall of a tragic hero who does not foresee it.
      • Situational irony: discrepancy between what is expected to happen and what actually happens. Cosmic irony or irony of fate is a type of situational irony wherein there is a discrepancy between a character or speaker’s aspiration and what is actually received at the hands of fate.
    • Sound: patterns of consonants and vowels, in tandem with meaning, that contribute greatly to the poem’s effect. For example, the sibilant “s” in “calm is the sea, the waves work less and less” suggests the sound of swishing water.
      • Euphony: the sound of the words are harmonious together. Cacophony: the sounds are harsh or discordant, e.g., the grating sound in “Grate on their scrannel pipes of wretched straw.”
      • Onomatopoeia: a word that imitates the sound it denotes, e.g. “zoom,” “crash,” “bang,” “buzz.”
      • Alliteration: the repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of or inside successive words (e.g., “so smooth, so sweet, so silvery is thy voice”). Assonance: the repetition of the same vowel sound at the beginning or inside successive words (e.g., “eager beaver”).
      • Rhyme: two or more words contain the same combination of vowel and consonant sounds.
    • Rhythm: the recurrence of stresses and pauses in a poem. A stress or accent is a greater amount of force (breath, loudness, pitch) given to one syllable. Meter refers to stresses that occur at fixed intervals. Poems that follow a rhyme scheme, stanza pattern, or a particular meter are said to have fixed forms (blank verse, sonnet, limerick, villanelle, rondeau, triolet, sestina, haiku, tanka, ghazal, pantoum, sapphics). Poems that don’t follow the conventions of fixed forms are called free verse or open form. However, open forms still follow internal organizing principles in terms of spacing, lineation, repetitions, indentations, pauses and stresses, visual effect, etc.
      • Iambs, anapaests, trochees, dactyls: terms referring to rhythm and meter,
      • Couplet, tercet, quatrain, sestet, octave: terms referring to numbers of lines.
      • Enjambment/run-on: one line carries over into the next line without any punctuation. The opposite called end-stopping is when a line ends with punctuation (full stops, semi-colons, or colons).
      • Scansion: marking the stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem to determine its meter. 
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