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Term Definition

alphabetically arranged (as for beginning readers)
Read more about the abecedarian form at Poets.org .


The prominence or emphasis given to a syllable or word. In the word poetry, the accent (or stress) falls on the first syllable.For example - it refers to the stressed portion of a word:

"Let Us make man in Our image,
according to Our likeness;
let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
over the birds of the air, and over the cattle,
over all the earth and over every creeping thing
that creeps on the earth"
Genesis 26-27

Place the stress or accent on 'Our' and suddenly we have more than one God. Place it on 'them' then, there would appear to be a lot of men already there ready to receive planetary rights. Place it strategically on 'fish', 'birds', 'cattle' then you've got a really nice wrap up with accenting the last 'earth' for emphasis.

Acrostic Poem

An acrostic poem is a verse in which sets of letters (like the beginning letters) form a word.
Example by Edgar Allan Poe:
Eerie stories and poems
Decorate our imagination. Both
Good and evil
Are challanged along with


A verse line with a dactyl followed by a spondee or trochee.
The following stanza is composed of four lines.
The first three lines, 11 syllables long, are called hendecasyllabics; the last line, only five syllables, designed to represent, an 'adonic.'

Marvellous Sapphics by Rachel Wetzsteon.

I would like to tell you about a lovely
stanza form I've long been an ardent fan of:
it was conjured up in a simpler time by
Classical Sappho.


A line of poetry that has 12 syllables. The name probably comes from a medieval romance about Alexander the Great that was written in 12-syllable lines.


An allegory (from Greek) is a figurative representation conveying a meaning other than and in addition to the literal.
An allegory is distinguished from a metaphor by being longer sustained and more fully carried out in its details, and from an analogy by the fact that the one appeals to the imagination and the other to the reason.
For example: a fable or parable is a short allegory with one definite moral. Some elaborate and successful specimens of allegory are to be found in the works of authors:
Jonathan Swift's "A Tale of a Tub," or William Golding's
" Lord of the Flies."


The repetition of the same or similar sounds at the beginning of words. Example: "What a tale of terror now their turbulence tells."

Anapestic Meter

An end-stressed meter consisting of three syllables per foot.


(Greek, 'a carrying up or back')
Successive phrases, clauses, or lines start with the same word or words. Emily Brontë's "Remembrance," for example, repeats its opening phrase, "Cold in the earth."


A figure of speech where the poet characterizes an abstract thing or object as if it were a person.


Classical Greek and Latin foot consisting of long, long, and short syllables / ' '
~ / . An English example is the word "Goddamit."


A sacred poem with responses or alternative parts.


(Greek, counter-turn')
(1) a reply to the strophe, and the second stanza in a Pindaric ode; or (2) the repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive lines or clauses.


Contrasting or combining two terms, phrases, or clauses with opposed or antithetical meanings.


A concise statement of a truth or principle, often pointed like an epigram - similar in nature to a proverb, but with a known author.


A direct address to someone (usually absent) or something, or a god or goddess of some abstract quality.


A Classical metrical line made up of a spondee, two or three choriambs, and one iamb or spondee, i.e., / '' / ' ~~ ' / ' ~ ~ ' / ~ ' / (named after the Greek poet Asclepiades, ca. 290 B.C.). Examples of accentual asclepiads in English include Sir Philip Sidney's "O sweet woods, the delight of solitariness" from Arcadia, and W. H. Auden's "In Due Season."


It is the repetition or a pattern of similar sounds, especially vowel sounds, as in a tongue twister.

Aubade Poem

An Aubade may be a poem about lovers separating at 'dawn' or a celebration of the 'dawn.'

Augustan Poets

From the influence of the era of Roman emperor Augustus (27 B.C. to A.D. 14), in the golden age with poets like Vergil and Horace and Ovid - however, the Augustan Age was the period after the Restoration era to the death of Alexander Pope.
The major writers were Alexander Pope and John Dryden.

Aureate language

Latinate poetic diction employed especially by the Scottish Chaucerians.


Usually of love or adventure it is a long singing poem that tells a story, written in quatrains - four lines alternatively of four and three feet - the third line may have internal rhyme.
Examples of the form are found in Keats's “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” Coleridge's “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and Oscar Wilde's “The Ballad of Reading Gaol.”


It is French in origin and made up of 28 lines, usually three stanzas of 8 lines and a concluding stanza, called envoi, of 4 lines. The last line of each stanza is the same and the scheme is ababbcbc and the envoy's is bcbc.


This term originally was used to refer to the order of minstrel-poets who composed and recited the poems that celebrated the feats of Celtic chieftains and warriors. The term 'bard' has become synonymous with poet, particularly with a revered poet such as Shakespeare who is often referred to as 'the bard of Avon'


(Greek, 'depth')
Alexander Pope's "Peri-Bathous" or the "Art of Sinking in Poetry" (1728) describes bathos as a poet's fall, in a work of sober tones, into an unintentionally comic pathos.

Blank verse

Poetry that is written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. Shakespeare wrote most of his plays in blank verse.


A one-foot line in certain stanzaic forms of medieval alliterative poetry, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Bretan Lay

Brief narrative poems about Arthurian subjects. E.g., Chaucer's Franklin's Tale.

Broadside ballards

Poems printed on one side of a single sheet during the Renaissance period.

Burns stanza or meter

Six-line stanza with the rhyme scheme aaabab (where a is a tetrameter line, and b is a dimeter line).


A kind of rhythm, though less regular than that of a metre, eg. the rhythm of speech or free verse.


A pause in a line of verse, often but not always coinciding with a punctuation mark. A caesura most often appears near the middle of a line, but a poet may choose to position it earlier or later. See scansion.

A break in the flow of sound in a line of poetry or can be used for rhetorical effect, as in Alexander Pope's line:
To err is human; || to forgive, divine.


A section of a long poem, such as an epic (or a mock epic); e.g. the first section from Pound's "Cantos."


Literature of the reign of Charles I (1625-42), especially the by the Calvalier poets, who numbered Robert Herrick, Richard Lovelace, and John Suckling, among others.


A type of verse termed by George Puttenham in 1589 "maimed" because it is missing a syllable in the last foot. An acatalectic verse is complete. A hypercatalectic line has an extra syllable.


Japanese form with alternating lines of five and seven syllables, ending with a couplet of seven-syllable lines.


Greek and Latin metrical foot consisting of long, short, short, and long syllables / ' ~ ~ ' /; also an iambic alexandrine line with a spondee or trochee instead of an iambus in the sixth foot. For example, Swinburne's "Choriambics."


It is a five line stanza, varied in rhyme and line, usually of the with the rhyme scheme ababb. An example of cinquain is the following stanza from Percy Bysshe Shelley's "To a Skylark":

Teach me half the gladness -A-
That thy brain must know, -B-
Such harmonious madness -B-
From my lips would flow -A-
The world should listen then, as I am listening now. -B-
(B lines rhyme with other B lines, and A lines rhyme with other B lines. This poems last line may not precisely fit this pattern.)


Speaking around a point rather than getting to it, such as S. T. Coleridge's "twice five miles of fertile ground" in "Kubla Khan." Also known as periphrasis.

Classical Poets

Poetry Pre-Christian Roman and Greek poets such as Homer, Horace, Virgil, Ovid etc.


A form of light verse, usually consisting of two couplets, with lines of uneven length and irregular meter, the first line usually containing the name of a well-known person. Example:

It was a weakness of Voltaire's
To forget to say his prayers,
And one which to his shame
He never overcame.

E. Bentley

Common MeasureA quatrain that rhymes abab and alternates four-stress and three-stress iambic lines (each pair equivalent to a single line of 14 syllables), the metre of the hymn and the ballad.
An example is "Sir Patrick Spence." Short or half measure consists of a six-stress, 12-syllable line split into two three-stress, trimeter lines.
Long measure has eight-stress lines of 16 syllables that are divided into two four-stress lines. An example is T. S. Eliot's "Whispers of Immortality."
Concrete Poetry

Experimental poetry which emerged during the 1950-1960s and concentrated on the visual appearance of the words on the page.

Confessional Poetry

Where the poet writes intimately about his/her personal experiences. Confessional poetry is normally written using the 'I' form.


A common way of doing something, such as a poetic form, or a common topic like the "carpe diem" or "ubi sunt" themes, or making lists, or a regularly-used figure of speech.


(Latin, 'crown')
A sonnet sequence where the last line in one sonnet becomes the first line of the next sonnet, and the final line in the sequence repeats the first line of the first sonnet. An example is the seven sonnets that open John Donne's holy sonnets.


Two successive rhyming lines of verse, such as the pair of lines that end a Shakespearean sonnet.


Greek and Latin metrical foot consisting of long, short, and long syllables.

Dactylic Meter

A foot having one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables.

Dadaist Poem

To make a Dadaist poem:

Take a newspaper.
Take a pair of scissors.
Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
Shake it gently.
Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
Copy conscientiously.
The poem will be like you.
And here you are a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar.
-Tristan Tzara

In short - "Dada is a state of mind. Dada is without pretension, as life should be. That is why it transforms itself according to races and events. Dada applies itself to everything, and yet it is nothing, it is the point where the yes and the no and all the opposites meet, not solemnly in the castles of human philosophies, but very simply at street corners, like dogs and grasshoppers."


A medieval poem in dialogue that takes the form of a debate on a topic. An example is "The Owl and the Nightingale."

Didactic Verse

Verse which attempts to instruct or educate; said of works whose primary purpose is to teach some moral or other lesson, such as parable or a fable.


A line of poetry consisting of two metrical feet.


A stanza or poem of ten lines.


Poor quality poetry - poorly constructed verse, usually of a burlesque or comic sort jingle.

Dramatic Monologue Poem

A poem representing itself as a speech made by one person to a silent listener, usually not the reader. Examples include Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess," Alfred lord Tennyson's "Ulysses," and T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." A lyric may also be addressed to someone, but it is short and song-like and may appear to address either the reader or the poet.

Dream vision

A (traditionally medieval) poet's relation of how he fell asleep and had an often allegorical dream. Examples include "Pearl," Langland's "Piers Plowman," and Chaucer's "The Book of the Duchess."


A brief pastoral poem, set in an idyllic rural place but discussing urban, court, political, or social issues.
Bucolics and idylls, like eclogues, are pastoral poems in non-dramatic form.
Examples are Alexander Barclay's "Eclogues,"
Edmund Spenser's "Shepherds Calendar,"
Jonathan Swift's "A Town Eclogue," and Andrew Marvell's "Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Fawn."

Elegy Poem

Such poem employ a mournful or elegiac tone to lament the dead: "In Memoriam" by Tennyson and "In Memory of W. B. Yeats" by Auden.


The omission of a final vowel in order to run two words together (e.g. th' only for the only), or vowel, consonnant or syllable within a word - ne'r for never. These omissions were used in order to achieve a desired meter or for smoothness of sound.


Enjambment comes from the French word for "to straddle." The continuation of a complete idea (a sentence or clause) from one line or couplet of a poem to the next line or couplet without a pause. An example of enjambment can be found in the first line of Joyce Kilmer's poem Trees:
"I think that I shall never see/A poem as lovely as a tree."


It is either a poem of farewell, or a conventional final short stanza - often bidding farewell, and perhaps including a dedication of sort.


A long, serious poem that tells the story of a heroic figure. Two of the most famous epic poems are the "Iliad and the Odyssey" by Homer, which tell about the Trojan War and the adventures of Odysseus on his voyage home after the war.


A very short, witty poem:
"Sir, I admit your general rule,/That every poet is a fool,/But you yourself may serve to show it,/That every fool is not a poet." -Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The most common forms are written as a couplet —
a pair of rhymed lines in the same meter such as:

"The heart is the only workman
we cannot excuse."
- Emily Dickinson


A quotation of motto at the beginning of a literary work or of a section.


A verse which imitates the form of a personal letter, addressed to someone in particular, often very personal and occasional, and sometimes dated, with a location affixed —Alexander Pope's "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot" and Robert Burns'
" Epistle to J. Lapraik"


A short poem written to be carved on a gravestone.


Lyric poem in praise of Hymen (the Greek god of marriage) or of a particular wedding, such as Edmund Spenser's "Epithalamion."

Figurative Language

Figure of speech where words or phrases are used other than their literate sense in order to show an imaginative relationship between diverse things. Figurative language makes poetry more vivid. Such figures of speech include: allegory, apostrophe, hyperbole, irony, litotes, metaphor, metonymy, personification, simile and synecdoche.

Fleshly School of Poetry

The phrase that Robert Williams Buchanan coined for Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his imitators in a scathing review in The Contemporary Review in 1871.


A foot is a basic unit of a meter - a metrical foot normally contains either two or three syllables with varying patterns of stress. See meter.

Free verse

This form is based on the natural rhythms of phrases and normal pauses, rather than the constraints of metrical feet. Commonly called Vers libre in French, the poetry often involved the counterpoint of stressed and unstressed syllables in unpredictable but clever ways.
American poet Walt Whitman first made extended, successful use of the free verse, and he in turn influenced Baudelaire, who developed the technique in French poetry. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we find several poets using some variant of free verse—including Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, William Carlos Williams, and E.E. Cummings.


An Eastern verse form consisting of successive couplets whose lines all end with the same refrain phrase (the qafia), just before which is placed the couplet's rhyming word (radif). The last couplet includes the name of the poet.

Gnomic verse

Poems laced with proverbs, aphorisms, or maxims.

Graveyard School

A group of 18th-century poets such as Thomas Gray, Robert Blair, and Edward Young who penned gloomy poems on death.


Japanese poem consisting of 17 syllables - five syllables in first line, seven in second and five in the last. No rhyme or meter scheme is employed when writing haiku. This form usually focuses on one image of nature in a certain season and evoking a single emotion and insight.
One by Bashõ: "Clouds now and then give / people a welcome respite / from moon watching," and another by Moritake: "Cherry blosoms / fall upwards to the branch — / and I see butterflies!"

*For a more comprehensive reading — click here*

Head Rhyme

See Alliteration.


Half a line.


A Classical Greek and Latin metrical line consisting of eleven syllables, a spondee or trochee, a choriamb, and two iambs, the second of which has an additional syllable at the end / ' ' / ' ~ ~ ' / ~ ' / ~ ' /.


A line of poetry that has seven metrical feet.

Heroic line

A stanza composed of two rhymed lines in iambic pentameter.
See Iambic pentameter.


A line containing six metrical 'feet'.

Horatian Ode

An ode in which a fixed stanzaic pattern is followed. Ex: Andrew Marvell's.

"An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell's Return from Ireland."


Hudibrastic Verse, a poem written in rhyming octosyllabic couplets.
The satire is written in the form of Hudibrastic verse, named for Samuel Butler’s hilarious satire of Puritans, Hudibras (1653–1680).


Overstatement; intentional exaggeration for a rhetorical or humorous effect.


A term applied to a line of verse with one or more extra syllables in the first or last foot, or both.

Iambic meter

An end stressed two syllable foot consisting of a short syllable followed by a long one, or of an unaccented syllable followed by an accented; as, an iambic foot.

Iambic tetrameter

Verse written in tetrameter has four measures, which are also called feet.
An example of four lines of tetrameter is the first stanza of the introduction to Milton,by William Blake:

"And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?"

Idyll or Idyl

Either a short poem depicting a peaceful, idealized country scene, or a long poem that tells a story about heroic deeds or extraordinary events set in the distant past.
" Idylls of the King" by Alfred Lord Tennyson, is about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
See also pastoral.


A group of poets, working in the years immediately before World War 1, who promoted poems with, among other features, clear concrete images and everyday language. Pound's "In a Station of the Metro."

Internal rhyme

Rhyme in which at least one of the rhyming words is somewhere within a line of poetry; both rhyming words are often in the same line.
Examples: Every other line in "The Cloud" by Percy Bysshe Shelley has internal rhyme:

"I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noon-day dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,
As she dances about the Sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder. "


Broadly, a means of indirection, that is, a language that states the opposite of what is intended.

Japanese FormsSee Haiku and links.
KyrielleA Middle French verse form composed of quatrains which each share the same second and fourth lines. An English example is Thomas Campion's "With broken heart and contrite sigh."
Lake Poets

The Lake Poets were a group of English poets: Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, and William Wordsworth. They lived in the "Lake District" in northwestern England. This group was part of the Romantic Movement of the late 1700's and early 1800's.

Leonine Verse

Named for a 12th century poet, Leonius, who first composed such verse, it consists of hexameters or of hexameters and pentameters in which the final syllable rhymes with one preceding the caesura, in the middle of the line.

Limerick Form

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.
A light or humorous verse form of five chiefly anapestic verses of which lines one, two and five are of three feet and lines three and four are of two feet, with a rhyme scheme of aabba. The limerick, named for a town in Ireland of that name, was popularized by Edward Lear in his Book of Nonsense published in 1846 — the form was popularised by Victorian poet Edward Lear.

Ogden Nash is renowned for humorous short poetry, and often used the limerick form:
"There once was a miser named Clarence
Who Simonized both of his parents;
"The initial expense,"
he remarked, "is immense,
But it saves on the wearance and tearance."


Litotes is a figure of speech. This form is generally used in a humorous context. It creates an impact by denying the opposite of what is true and an understatement is employed for the purpose of enhancing the effect of the ideas expressed:
"I never said I didn’t hit him
The burglar didn’t mind the diamonds he found"

Lyric Poetry

The term is used to refer to the songlike quality in poetry, it is more generally used to refer to any short poem that expresses a personal emotion, be it a sonnet, ode, song, or elegy.
In ancient Greece, a poem was accompanied by a musical instrument, usually a lyre, hence the word 'lyric.'

Macaronic Verse

Poems that consist of expressions in more than one language and verses in which foreign words are ludicrously distorted and jumbled together, as in Porson's lines on the threatened invasion of England by Napoleon. (Lingo drawn for the Militia.)


A short love poem which can easily be set to music.

William. Shakespeare :

XXXVI. Madrigal

Take, O take those lips away
That so sweetly were forsworn,
And those eyes, the break of day,
Lights that do mislead the morn:
But my kisses bring again,
Bring again—
Seals of love, but seal'd in vain,
Seal'd in vain!

Melopoeia Poundian

A term to describe the kind of poem which induces 'emotional correlations by the sound and rhythm of the speech'. The maximum amount of melopoeia is to be found in poems that are written to be sung, chanted or read aloud.


A comparison that is made literally, either by a verb
(for example, John Keats' "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" from his "Ode on a Grecian Urn") or by a combination of adjective and noun, noun and verb, etc.

For example, Shakespeare's sonnet on the "the marriage of true minds" without pointing out a similarity by using words such as "as," "like," or "than."

Metaphysical Poets

Metaphysical poetry was originally a style of poetry to describe the poet John Donne's work, but then later extended to a school of 17th century poets. The verse deals with the use of philosophy to explain the human drama in the universe. Their poetic style and method is what linked the poets together.

Poets such as Andrew Marvell, who wrote 'To His Coy Mistress', George Herbert who wrote 'Love' and John Donne who wrote 'The Sun Rising' all fit into the metaphysical grouping.


A figure of speech in which the poet substitutes a word normally associated with something for the term usually naming that thing (for example, "big-sky country" for western Canada). The association can be cause-and-effect, attribute-of, instrument-for, etc.


(Greek, "measure")
The rhythm of verse, reduceable to one of four kinds, accentual, syllabic, accentual-syllabic, and quantitative. It is also sometimes called `number(s).'
Falling metre: trochees and dactyls, i.e., a stressed syllable followed by one or two unstressed syllables.
Rising metre: iambs and anapests, i.e., one or two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one.


A satirical verse treating something trivial with a sober tone, as in John Philip's "The Splendid Shilling."


Modernist work is often seen with poets, such as Yeats, Frost, Pound, Eliot, Stevens, Williams, etc.
Eliot's poetry is modern in this sense:

"The winter evening settles down
With smell of steaks in passageways,
Six o'clock.
The burnt out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of whithered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots.
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps."


Any elegy or dirge represented as the utterance of a single speaker.


A metrical line containing one foot.


A poem or section of a poem in which all the lines have the same end rhyme.
Example: From a well-known anonymous poem about fleas —

Had 'em"

Movement Poets

'The Movement' poets addresses everyday life in
plain, straightforward language and often in traditional forms.


Nine Muses known as the the nine Greek daughters of Zeus. They are referred to as goddesses of inspiration, learning, the arts, and culture. Specific attributes of each goddess are:

Kalliope, epic poetry (she holds the highest rank of the Muses)
Erato, love poems
Kleio, history
Euterpe, flute playing
Thaleia, comedy
Melpomene, tragedy
Terpsichore, dance
Polymnia, sacred music
Ourania, astrology


This is one of Indian's most popular Telugu poems. Naani means an expression of one and all.
It consists of 4 lines, the total lines consists of 20 to 25 syllables. The poem is not bounded to a particular subject. Generally it depends upon human relations and current statements. This form of poetry was introduced by one of the renowned Telugu poets Dr. N.Gopi, presently working as vice-chancellor to Telugu University, Andhra Pradesh.


This form is from Japan and was developed in the Edo Period (1603-1867). The Naga Uta originally was created as dance to music — and currently is used to tell a story, accompanied by shamisen music. (the shamisen is a traditional Japanese instrument, you can compare it with a lute.) It is a syllabic poem with no rhyme required. A variation of five and seven syllables per line is used to write it.

Narrative Verse

Most interesting stories which are written in verse. Universal in its appeal and representative of a literary tradition from Chaucer to Auden. Its tales are of various kinds - romantic, humorous, ghostly, and gory, written over the last 600 years.

Neo-Classical Poets

Known as the writings of early 18th-century writers like Addison and Pope who imitated classical Greek and Latin authors.


A word, expression, or usage — to make up a new word or give a new meaning to an old word.


A nonet has nine lines. The first line has nine syllables, the second line eight syllables, the third line seven syllables, etc... until line nine that finishes withone syllable. It can be on any subject and rhyming is optional.


A figure of speech where the poet treats an abstract thing or object as if it were a place. Edmund Spenser's "House of Holiness" is an example.

Oblique Rhyme

Also known as approximate, imperfect, near, or slant rhyme. A term used for words in a rhyming pattern that have some kind of sound correspondence but are not perfect rhymes. Approximate rhymes occur occasionally in patterns where most of the rhymes are perfect, and sometimes are used systematically in place of perfect rhyme.

Occasional Verse

A translation of the French vers d’occasion (literally, verse of the moment or occasion).This a poem written to commemorate a specific occasion, such as Yeats’ “Easter 1916” or, possibly, Donne’s “Nocturnal upon St Lucy’s Day”.


A metrical line containing eight feet. Robert Browning's - A Toccata of Galuppi's is one example.


A stanza comprising of eight lines:

-ababbcbc: Chaucer's stanzaic form in The Monk's Tale
-abbacddc, or abbaabba: the brace octave.
For example, W. B. Yeats' "Two Songs from a Play"

-abababcc: see Ottava rima
-abaaabab: see Triolet

Octosyllabic Line

Having eight syllables.


An ode is a poem of celebration.


The use of words that supposedly mimic their meaning in their sound. Such devices bring out the full flavor of words.
Tennyson makes us feel the heaviness of a drowsy summer day by using a series of "in" sounds in the wonderfully weighted lines:
"The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees."
Edgar A. Poe lets us hear the different kinds of sounds made by different types of bells in his famous poem "The Bells."


Having the magical properties of music made by Orpheus whose songs charmed inanimate things and wild beasts.

Ottava Rima

Italian stanza form composed of eight 11-syllable lines, rhyming abababcc. It originated in the late 13th and early 14th centuries and was developed by Tuscan poets for religious verse and drama and in troubadour songs.
In 1820, Shelley also became attracted by it, and translated the "Hymns of Homer" into Ottava Rima.


Greek and Latin metrical foot consisting of long, short, short, and short syllables. Used as a song or hymn of praise, joy, or triumph, originally sung by Greeks in gratitude to Apollo.


An ode or song that retracts what the poet wrote in a previous poem; a recantation.


A poem in great praise of someone or something.


A French verse form of four quatrains that repeats entire lines in a strict pattern, 1234, 2546, 5768, 7183. E.g.,
1 My iambs walk the line
2 Trochees cannot salute,
3 As anapests decline
4 And dactyls follow suit.
2 Trochees cannot salute,
5 Delaying this pantoum,
4 And dactyls follow suit,
6 Eschew a pyrrhic tune

5 Delaying this pantoum.
7 Never mind sestinas,
6 Eschew a pyrrhic tune,
8 Amazing terza rimas!

7 Never mind sestinas!
1 My iambs walk the line,
8 Amazing terza rimas
3 As anapests decline.


Mayan antecedent of the pantoum, with a single quatrain, rhyming aabb, couplets that at first reading seem to have nothing to do with one another.
For example —
Professors talk and talk and talk, a lot;
Their students mumble, stare, and doze, somewhat.
Leno and Letterman go head-to-head
On TV just before we go to bed.


Imitation of a poem or another poet's style for comic/satiric effect, that is, a form imitating another person's work, with the objective of mocking it in either formal or thematic elements.


A poem that describes the simple life of country folk, usually shepherds who live a timeless life in a world that is full of beauty, music, and love.
For instance - Shakespeare's "As You Like It" includes pastoral elements. Other terms often used as synonyms for pastoral are idyll, eclogue, and bucolic poetry.

Pattern poetry

Verse that creates the shape of its subject typographically on the page (and thus also called 'shape poetry'). George Herbert's Wings and Lewis Carroll's story of a cat and a mouse in Alice in Wonderland, chapter III, are examples.


A line of poetry comprising of five metrical 'feet'.


A figure of speech in which human attributes are given to an animal, an object, or a concept. An example is found when Keats describes 'autumn' as a harvester "sitting careless on a granary floor".

Phanopoeia Poundian

A term to describe a poem which relies upon 'throwing a visual image on the mind'.
In “Exile’s Letter,” Pound found a language purged of the Decadent poeticality of chinoiserie, a modernist bareness:
"And if you ask how I regret that parting:
It is like the flowers falling at Spring’s end
Confused, whirled in a tangle.
What is the use of talking, and there is no end of talking,
There is no end to things in the heart."

Pindaric Ode

This ode consists of a series of triads in which the strophe and antistrophe have the same stanza form and the epode has a different form.

'Pindaric ode is derived from the Greek poet born in 518. Pindar was of aristocratic birth; educated in neighbouring Athens and lived much of his life in Thebes. Almost all his early poems have been lost, but his reputation was probably established by his later hymns in honour of the gods. He developed into the greatest lyric poet of ancient Greece, respected throughout the Greek world. Of his 17 volumes, comprising almost every genre of choral lyric, only four have survived complete, and those lack his musical settings. The extant poems, probably representing his masterpieces, are odes commissioned to celebrate triumphs in various Hellenic athletic games. Lofty and religious in tone, they are noted for their complexity, rich metaphors, and intensely emotive language.'

Poet Laureate

Apollo degreed that poets should receive laurels as a prize. The British crown created the post of Poet Laureate in 1688 and awarded it to poets for life.
Traditionally English poets laureate are appointed for life but Andrew Motion, the current laureate, is the first to be appointed for ten years. The requirement to write occasional verse is no longer enforced.
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.

Canada's Poet Laureate: George Bowering, (two-year appointment.)

U.S.A. Poet Laureate: Louise Glück

British Poet Laureate: Andrew Motion

List of Poets Laureate

Click on the links below ~

Poetic Justice

A term invented by the critic Thomas Rymer in the late seventeenth century to describe the proper moral resolution that he believed drama or narrative should have. That is, unlike the often random justice in real life, literary plots should end with the reward of the good and the punishment of the evil.

Poetic Licence

The freedom to depart from correctness and grammaticality sometimes extended to poets by generous readers who believed that the poets knew better but needed such effects to be true to their subject.

Poulter's Measure

Couplets in which a twelve-syllable line rhymes with a fourteen-syllable line.
Chapman uses this form in his translation of Homer. Hymn writers split the couplet into a quatrain (6 6 8 6), as did ballad writers (8 6 8 6).

Prose Poem

Usually a short composition having the intentions of poetry but written in prose rather than verse.


Prosody is the study and classification of different poetic metres, rhyme schemes, and stanzas.


A figure of speech in which human attributes are given to an animal, an object, or a concept.

Pure Poetry

Verse that aims to delight rather than to instruct the reader.

Purple Passage

Lines that stand out from a longer poem because of their vivid diction or figures of speech, and perhaps because of the agitated flush that rises in the face of someone trying to recite it.

Quantitative Metre

Lines whose rhythm depends on the duration or length of time a line takes to utter. That duration depends on whether a syllable is long or short. Edmund Spenser's "Iambicum Trimetrum" is an example of trying to adapt, in English, a metre natural to Greek and Latin.


These are four line verse poems. The lines can rhyme in two patterns. Lines one and two and three and four or lines one and three.
Example by British poet laureate, Andrew Motion, "Causa Belli" —

"They read good books, and quote, but never learn
a language other than the scream of rocket-burn.
Our straighter talk is drowned but ironclad:
elections, money, empire, oil and Dad."


A five-line stanza, such as a limerick or Edmund Waller's "Go, lovely Rose." Also called a cinquain.


One or more lines repeated before or after the stanzas of a poem.

Renaissance Poetry

The term Renaissance (French for rebirth) traditionally designates the centuries following the Middle Ages in Europe. In England, the Renaissance is often considered to run from 1500 to 1650's.
The traditional canon of important literary figures includes Shakespeare, Donne, Herbert, Ben Jonson, and Milton.


Rhymed words conventionally share all sounds following the word's last stressed syllable. Thus "tenacity" and "mendacity" rhyme, but not "jaundice" and "John does," or "tomboy" and "calm bay." The rhyme scheme is usually the pattern of end-rhymes in a stanza, each rhyme being encoded by a letter of the alphabet from a onwards.
Apocopated: an imperfect rhyme between the final syllable of a word and the penultimate syllable of another word. For example, 'Cardinals, red and dun, Chatter when it's sunny.'

Amphisbaenic rhyme: a reversed rhyme, such as "trot" and "tort."

Antisthecon or wrenched rhyme: a rhyme created by distorting a word, such as "Samoa" for "some more of" in the limerick "An old maid in the land of Aloha."

Broken rhyme: rhyming with an initial or medial syllable of a word that is split between two lines with a hyphen.

Eye rhyme: words rhyming only as spelled, not as pronounced, and hence not a perfect or true rhyme. An example is "through" and "slough."

Feminine rhyme: gendered expression for rhymes ending in one or more unstressed syllables, such as "fruity" and "booty." The expressions light, weak or multi-syllable rhyme avoid the sexist bias.

Half-rhyme: rhyming only with the consonants in the terminal syllable(s) of a multi-syllable word. An example is "concrete" and "litcrit". Also termed `off-rhyme,' `slant rhyme,' or apophany, in which two single-syllable words (such as `tell' and `toll') share the opening and closing consonants but not the intervening vowel. See consonance.

Identical rhymes: using the same word, identically in sound and in sense, twice in rhyming position.

Initial rhyme: see Alliteration.

Internal rhyme: see Internal Rhyme

Masculine rhyme: gendered expression for rhymes ending in a stressed syllable, such as "hells" and "bells." The expressions strong or one-syllable rhyme avoid the sexist bias.

Monorhyme: the use of only one rhyme in a stanza. An example is William Blake's "Silent, Silent Night."

Pararhyme: Edmund Blunden's term for double consonance, where different vowels appear within identical consonant pairs (a feature of Wilfrid Owens' verse).

Tail rhyme: a stanza with a tail, tag, or extra short line that may rhyme with another such line later on. Chaucer's tale of Sir Thopas is one example.

Rich rhyme: rhymes identical in sound (or spelling) but semantically different, e.g., "Felicity was present | To pick up her present."

Rhyme Royal: A form of verse which consists of stanzas of seven ten-syllable lines, rhyming ababbcc. It was first used by Chaucer, and was also the form chosen by Shakespeare for the tragic gravity of his narrative poem "Lucrece."

Synthetic rhyme: a forced rhyme in which the spelling and sound of a word are distorted.

Vowel rhyme: see Assonance.
See also Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance, Onomatopoeia, and Rime couée.

Rhyme - Slant

Slant Rhyme is a term used for words in a rhyming pattern that have some kind of sound correspondence but are not perfect rhymes. Approximate rhymes occur occasionally in patterns where most of the rhymes are perfect, and sometimes are used systematically in place of perfect rhyme.

Rhyme - Spelling

Spelling Rhyme occurs where the end words of a line are spelled similarly e.g. 'love' and 'move' but that they don't chime together as rhymes.

Rhyme - Vowel

For Vowel Rhyme see Assonance.

Rhyme scheme

One of many patterns into which rhyme is organized. By tradition, lower case letters are used to indicate the rhyme scheme, beginning with “a.” There are many different rhyme schemes. Perhaps one of the most recognized is the rhyme scheme of a Shakespearian sonnet which is abba cdcd efef gg. For example, here is Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds a
Admit impediments. Love is not love b
Which alters when it alteration finds, a
Or bends with the remover to remove. b
(a sight rhyme; rhymed in Shakespeare’s day
O, no, it is an ever-fixed mark c
That looks on tempests and is never shaken; d
It is the star to every wandering bark, c
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. d
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks e
Within his bending sickle’s compass come; f
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, e
But bears it out even to the edge of doom f
If this be error and upon me proved, g
I never writ, nor no man ever loved. g

Rhythm - Sprung

Sprung Rhythm is a term used by Gerard Manley Hopkins to describe the rhythm of most language and music which he observed to be patterned by a regular beat of stressed syllables, interspersed with a variable number of unstressed syllables.

Rime Couée

Tail rhyme, a stanza in which a usually closing short line rhymes with a previous short line and is separated from it by longer lines.

Rising Meter

Meter in which an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable (as in the iamb and the anapaest) such that there is a rising movement in each foot.

Romantic Period

English Romanticism is sometimes held to have begun in the mid-to-late eighteenth century, although some use the date of the publication of Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads in 1798 as a convenient starting point. A popular ending point is 1832, the date of the passage of the Reform Bill, although some extend it through the beginning of Victoria's reign in 1837.
The traditional canon of the six major Romantic poets consists of William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, John Keats, and Percy Bysshe Shelley.


A mainly octosyllabic poem consisting of between ten and fifteen lines, having only two rhymes and with the opening words used twice as an unrhyming refrain at the end of the second and third stanzas.


A poem of French origin usually of 13-14 lines that repeats the first two lines in the middle and the first three lines at the end, but with only two rhymes. Swinburne's The Roundel consists of 11 lines, two stanzas, where the first two lines are repeated, the second time at the poem's end.


It's a smaller version of the rondel. The rondelet is a seven line poem with a refrain in the first, third and seventh line and a rhyme scheme: A-b-A-a-b-b-A.


A poem usually of 13-14 lines that repeats the first two lines in the middle and the first three lines at the end, but with only two rhymes. Swinburne's The Roundel consists of 11 lines, two stanzas, where the first two lines are repeated, the second time at the poem's end.

Run-On Line

A line which ends before grammatical and semantic unity has been achieved and where the sense therefore carries on to the next line without a pause.

Sapphic Ode

The Sapphic Ode consists of quatrains, three 11-syllable lines, and a final 5-syllable line, unrhyming but with a strict metre.
An example is "Ode on Solitude" by Alexander Pope.

Satirical Verse

A poem that ridicules human folly or vice with the purpose of bringing about reform or of keeping others from falling into similar folly or vice.
The idea that morality is the basic motivation of the satirist has a good deal to be said for it, and a good deal has been said for it, often by satirists themselves and sometimes after quoting Mark Twain's remark: "Humor must not professedly teach, and it must not professedly preach, but it must do both if it would live forever. By forever, I mean thirty years. . . . I have always preached. That is the reason that I have lasted thirty years." Twain, who spent his life denouncing conventions.

Ask you what Provocation I have had?
The strong Antipathy of Good to Bad.
When Truth or Virtue an Affront endures,
The Affront is mine, my Friend, and should be yours . . .
O sacred Weapon! Left for Truth's defense,
Sole dread of Folly, Vice, and Insolence !

—Alexander Pope


The act of 'scanning' a poem to determine its meter. To perform scansion, one breaks down each line into individual metrical feet and determines which syllables have heavy stress and which have lighter stress.
According to the early conventions of English poetry, each foot should have at least one stressed syllable, though feet with all unstressed syllables are found occasionally in Greek and other poetic traditions.


A stanza consisting of seven lines.


A poem consisting of six six-line stanzas and a three-line envoy, where the words ending the lines of the first stanza are repeated in a different order at the end of lines in each of the subsequent five stanzas and, two to a line, in the middle and at the end of the three lines in the closing envoy.

Examples are Algernon Charles Swinburne's "Complaint of Lisa," W. H. Auden's "Hearing of valleys," and Donald Hall's "Hang it all, Ezra Pound, there is only one sestina." Sir Philip Sidney's "Ye goat-herd gods, that love the grassy mountains" and Algernon Charles Swinburne's "Sestina" are double sestinas.


A stanza or poem or six lines.

For example, Shakespeare's "Venus and Adonis" and William Wordsworth's "I wandered lonely as a cloud."

Sick Verse

Mordant, black-humoured or horrific works such as Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven," Robert Browning's "`Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came'," and Robert Service's "The Cremation of Sam McGee." This term was popularized by George Macbeth's anthology Penguin Book of Sick Verse (1963).


The explicit comparison of two objects/phenomenon/states, etc by employing either 'as' or 'like' e.g. 'My love is like a red, red rose' by Robert Burns.
Another famous simile is 'Like a patient etherised upon a table;' from the start of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot.

Skeltonic Verse

Verse written in the style of John Skelton (1460-1529). Skeltonic verse is composed of short lines of irregular metre and features tumbling rhyming couplets.


A fixed verse form, usually of fourteen lines but occasionally twelve or sixteen, following a sophisticated rhyme scheme. The English form is usually written in of iambic pentameter.
The Petrarchan, or Italian, sonnet is divided into an octave which rhymes a b b a, a b b a, and a sestet which usually rhymes c d e c d e, or c d c d c d.
The Sestet usually replies to the argument of the octet.
The Miltonic sonnet follows the Petrarchan but without significant break in meaning between the octave and sestet - see more below.
The Shakespearean sonnet has three quatrains and a final couplet which usually provides an epigrammatic statement of the theme.
The Rhyme scheme is a b a b, c d c d, e f e f, g g, or else a b b a, c d d c, e f f e, g g.
The Spenserian sonnet rhymes a b a b, b c b c, c d c d, e e, and often has no break in meaning between the octave and sestet.

Sonnet - Curtal

An eleven line sonnet devised by Gerard Manley Hopkins and featuring an a-b-c-a-b-c, d-b-c-d-c rhyme scheme e.g. Pied Beauty. Hopkins also used the traditional stanza to great effect.

Sonnet - Miltonic

John Milton invented a sonnet form that utilised the original Petrarchan rhyme scheme but did not feature the traditional break between the octave and the sestet - hence giving his sonnet a more unified feel e.g. "On His Blindness."

*After Milton the use of the sonnet declined until the end of the 18th century when it was picked up again by the likes of Thomas Gray (see On the Death of Richard West). The sonnet re-established itself with the romantic poets - see "Ozymandias" by Shelley and "Upon Westminster Bridge" by Wordsworth. Since then the sonnet has continued to be a popular form. W.H.Auden was a regular sonneteer —"The Quest and Sonnets from China."


A writer of sonnets.


A section of lines forming a division in a poem. Stanzas are often of a specific number of lines and may be in a fixed metre or rhyme scheme.


The first stanza of a Pindaric ode.


A syllable is a unit of speech that is made up of one or more phones (single sounds or "phonetic segments") and in turn makes up words. It influences the rhythm of a language, its prosody, its poetic meter, its stress patterns, etc.
* Syllable Counting Technique used in both traditional metrical verse forms (see meter) and in Japanese inspired poems such as haiku and tanka. In traditional metrical forms the counting is based on the regular patterns of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line. In Japanese forms, the syllable count is based solely on the total number of syllables. Some modern poets such as Marianne Moore and Peter Reading have used this second type of syllable counting to give their work intricate structures.


The conflation of the senses, such as when we refer to a color as "loud" (mixing sight and sound) or a scent as "sharp" (mixing smell and touch). A good example can be found in Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum Est" when he describes the soldiers a "Drunk with fatigue" and refers to "smothering dreams".


The contraction of two syllables into one, for metrical purposes, by changing two adjacent syllables into a diphthong. Example: the first line of Milton's Paradise Lost, "Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit".


(Greek, 'a receiving together')

A figure of speech in which some significant aspect or detail of an experience is used to represent the whole experience. In Shakespeare's Spring, 'married ear' really refers to the ear of a married man.


Small Japanese poem consisting of exactly 31 syllables. A tanka is a haiku with two further lines of seven syllables added.


A statement redundant in itself, such as "The stars, O stars, are astral bodies!"


A poem in which the last letter of each line spell out a word, phrase, or name.
See also Acrostic. (A double acrostic has the first and last letters forming new words.)

Terza Rima

An Italian stanzaic form, used by Dante in his Divina Commedia, consisting of tercets with interwoven rhymes, aba bcb dcd efe ... and a concluding couplet rhyming with the penultimate line of the last tercet.
The original Italian form was iambic pentameter, plus one syllable. Examples in English are Sir Thomas Wyatt's "Of the Mean and the Sure Estate," Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind," and Robert Browning's "The Statue and the Bust."


This poetry form consists of at least 5 lines of 1, 2, 3, 4, 10 syllables (total of 20).
Tetractys can be written with more than one verse, but must follow suit with an inverted syllable count. Tetractys can also bereversed and written 10, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Double Tetractys: 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 10, 4, 3, 2, 1
Triple Tetractys: 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 10, 4, 3, 2, 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, and so on.

"Euclid, the mathematician of classical times, considered the number series 1, 2, 3, 4 to have mystical significance because its sum is 10, so he dignified it with a name of its own - Tetractys.
The tetractys could be Britain's answer to the 'haiku.' Its challenge is to express a complete thought, profound or
comic, witty or wise, within the narrow compass of twenty syllables."


A line of poetry consisting of four metrical 'feet'.
Shakespeare's "Fear no more the heat of the sun" is an example.


A line of poetry consisting of three metrical 'feet.'


An eight-line stanza having just two rhymes and repeating the first line as the fourth and seventh lines, and the second line as the eighth. Examples are W. E. Henley's "Easy is the Triolet" and Robert Bridges' "When first we met we did not guess."


A stanza consisting of three lines.

Trochaic Meter

A front stressed two-syllable meter.

Troubadours / Trouvères

Troubadours and Trouveres were lyric poets or poet-musicians of France in the 12th and 13th centuries.
'Their repertories of poetry were very self-conscious, and the discussion of technique played an important part in the poems themselves. For sheer virtuosity, the poets surpass all other lyric poets of the Middle Ages, with the possible exception of Dante. '

Vers de Société

Sophisticated light verse - a poetic term for social or familiar poetry, which was originally borrowed from the French, and has now come to rank as an English expression.
Poets writing in this vein include Charles Stuart Calverley, Frederick Locker Lampson, and John Betjeman.

Vers Libre

Free verse - unrhymed verse without a consistent metrical pattern. For instance, Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass."


The Villanelle has 19 lines, 5 stanzas of three lines and 1 stanza of four lines with two rhymes and two refrains.
The 1st, then the 3rd lines alternate as the last lines of stanzas 2,3,and 4, and then stanza 5 (the end) as a couplet. It is usually written in tetrameter (4 feet) or pentameter.
For example, Oscar Wilde's "Theocritus,"
W.H. Auden's "Villanelle,"
Dylan Thomas' "Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night."

Virelai Complex

A form of the medieval French lyric. It consists of short lines in stanzas with only two rhymes, where the final rhyme of one stanza becomes the main rhyme of the next.


A literary and artistic movement occurring between 1912-1915 which attacked the sentimentality of 19th Century art. Ezra Pound's strong literary support for the Vorticist ideals became the prime source of inspiration for artists.


An alliterative rhyming quatrain with four-stress lines that follows the so-called bob, known together as a bob-and-wheel.


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