A Glossary of Poetic Terms for IGCSE

How the poem is constructed. This relates to the number of stanzas in the poem, number of lines in a stanza, the length of the line, the pattern of rhyme and rhythm.
Based on the number of lines in a poem and its rhythm, there are different types of poems such as ballads, haikus, limericks etc (see below)
Originally a narrative song. The speaker of a ballad relates a story in stanza form, usually in quatrains-stanzas of four lines each. Ballads often have a consistent meter (same rhythm pattern in each stanza) and repeat key phrases.
Any story set to music as a single song can arguably be called a ballad. E.g. The Highway Man by Alfred Noyes
The word sonnet comes from the Italian word sonnetto meaning little song. Sonnets are lyric poems of 14 lines and fall into two main types: English (Shakespearean) or Italian (Petrarchan). Petrarchan or Italian sonnet divided into one octave with a rhyme scheme of abbaabba, and one sestet with a rhyme scheme of cdecde, cdccdc, or cdedce. The Shakespearean (or English) sonnet has three quatrains followed by a rhymed couplet. This follows the rhyme scheme of abab, cdcd, efef, gg.
Petrarchan or Italian sonnet: On His Being Arrived to the Age of Twenty-three, by John Milton.
The Shakespearean: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
A narrative poem is in some ways like narrative prose. It describes events and characters, real or imaginary, in story form.
Forms of narrative poetry include the epic, the ballad
An ode is a lyric poem that celebrates its particular subject. It is generally serious in tone
Famous odes include Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" and Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn."
The term lyric is used to classify poems that aren't clearly narrative. In a lyrical poem, a single speaker conveys a thought, emotion, or sensory impression. Originally meant to be sung, a lyric poem can be of any length.
John Donne; Allen Ginsberg and Adrienne Rich. Many forms of lyric poetry exist including the aubade, sonnet, ode, elegy, and dramatic monologue
Dramatic monologue
Dramatic monologues are poems delivered by speakers who describe themselves or relate events they saw or participated in.
Robert Browning is known for his poetic dramatic monologues.
An elegy is a lyric poem that praises a dead person or people. The subject may or may not be personally known to the poet.
For example, Shelley's "Adonais" praises his friend Keats
Visual/ Concrete poetry
This is poetry written in a shape resembling an object, which enriches its meaning.
William Burford's poem "A Christmas Tree" is shaped in the form of a tree.

The attitude of the author, as opposed to the poetic persona, toward the subject matter and/or audience. Tone is closely linked to mood
Formal, ironic, light, solemn, sentimental…
The matching similarity of sounds between syllables or paired groups of syllables, usually at the ends of verse lines
in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why,remember how
A recognizable and variable pattern in the beat of the stresses in the stream of sound. The regular reoccurrence of stresses and pauses. Rhythm helps determine a poem's mood and, along with other elements, the poem's meaning.
Steady, irregular…
Pace of the poem
Quick, moderate, slow…
Free Verse
Free verse isn't constrained by a rhythm or rhyme scheme. Instead, poets rely on imagery, figurative language, assonance, repetition, and alliteration to infuse music into the poem.
Walt Whitman, e.e. cummings, used this technique.
The regular rhythmic pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.

The basic unit of meter consisting of a group of two or three syllables with a fixed metrical pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. Scanning or scansion is the process of determining the prevailing foot in a line of poetry, of determining the types and sequence of different feet. Types of feet: U (unstressed); / (stressed syllable)

Iambic Pentameter
Consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, repeated five times in a row.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Blank verse
Unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter.
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will” Tennyson’s ‘Ulyssess’
A pair of rhyming verse lines, usually of the same length.
A grave’s a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace
This is a pause in the rhythm.
Sometimes, the sudden rush of fortune. The municipal pipe bursts,
In poetry, when one line ends without a pause and continues into the next line for its meaning. This is also called a run-on line.
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:

Word, phrase or lines that evoke concrete sense-impressions by literal or figurative reference to objects, scenes, actions, or states. Sensory imagery # Visual imagery – sight
  1. Auditory imagery - sound
  2. Olfactory imagery - smell
  3. Gustatory imagery - taste
  4. Tactile imagery - touch
  5. Kinaesthetic imagery – movement
  6. Emotive (natural) imagery - emotions
"The gray sea and the long black land;/And the yellow half-moon large and low." 2. "only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle." 3. Smell the bad breath that "reeks." 4. "Come to the window, sweet is the night air!" 5. "he holds him with his skinny hand." 6. "Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling."
A common figure of speech that makes an explicit comparison between two things by using words such as “like and as”
“I wandered lonely as a cloud”
Compares two different things by speaking of one in terms of the other. Unlike a simile, metaphor asserts that one thing is another thing, not just that one is like another. Very frequently a metaphor is invoked by the to be verb
“He is a pig” "he brayed his refusal to leave" “he was a mule standing his ground.”
A form of metaphor in which human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman things.
“Invention, nature’s child”
The sound of a word echoing the sense of the word.
Hiss, crash, bang
A choice of words used in a literary work.

The manner of expression of a particular writer, produced by choice of words, grammatical structures, use of literary devices, and all the possible parts of language use.
ornate, plain, emotive, colloquial,
The repetition of identical sounds, most often the sounds at the beginning of words in close proximity. Alliteration is also a means of highlighting ideas through the repetition of similar sounds.
"descending dew drops"; "luscious lemons." “Your never-failing sword made war to cease”;
The repetition of a consonant sound. This repetition can occur at the beginning (initial consonance) or in the middle of words (internal consonance)
1. Betty bought some butter 2. Struts and frets his hour upon the stage.
The repetition of a vowel sound. As with consonance, the repetition can occur either initially or internally.
1. "all the awful auguries" or "apt alliteration's artful aid." 2. "Her goodly eyes like sapphires shining bright."
Exaggeration for the sake of emphasis
The common complaint: I’ve been waiting here for ages.
Rhetorical Question
A question asked for the sake of persuasive effect rather than a genuine request for information, the speaker implying that the answer is too obvious to require a reply.
Milton says, “For what can war but endless war still breed?
A reference to famous events, places, or artistic works.
Religious Allusions (Biblical/Koranic etc.). Literary allusions (to a well know work of lit. often Shakespeare)
Occurs when two images that are otherwise not commonly brought together appear side by side or structurally close together, thereby forcing the reader to stop and reconsider the meaning of the text through the contrasting images, ideas, motifs, etc.
"He was slouched alertly" is a juxtaposition within a sentence.
A statement or expression so self-contradictory as to provoke us into seeking another sense or context in which it would be true. Paradoxes are inherent in oxymoron and epigrams. Some paradoxes remain flatly self-contradictory.
‘The child is father of man’ ‘Everything I say is a lie’
Oxymoron combines two usually contradictory terms.
‘bitter sweet’, ‘living death’
Dissonance or cacophony
Harshness of sound and/or rhythm, either inadvertent or deliberate.
It denotes a lack of harmony between sounds rather than the harshness of a particular sound in isolation (cacophony).
“They fought the dogs and killed the catsSplit open the kegs of salted sprats,” From The Pied Piper of Hamlyn
When the sound echoes the sense of the line, it contributes to the euphony, or pleasant sound, of poetry. Cacophony is the contrasting term.
"Calm is the sea, the waves work less and less."
An expression that achieves emphasis or humour by two similar sounding words (homophone).
“Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.”
An inoffensive expression used in place of a blunt one that is felt to be disagreeable or embarrassing.
Pass away instead of ‘die’;
Pathetic Fallacy
The poetic convention whereby natural phenomena which cannot feel as humans do are described as if they could.
rain clouds may ‘weep’, or flowers may be ‘joyful’ in sympathy with the poet’s mood

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