Poetry Background Notes

Since school was closed last Thursday, we missed a day of note taking, so I decided to put ALL of the poetry terms/background notes on the class site so that you will have a copy of everything that could appear on your poetry test this Friday, January 14.  I will mention this posting in class prior to Friday!  

****Please note that the posting of notes to the class website will NOT be a regular occurrence!  It is always the students' responsibility to take notes in class!

prose--language heard in everyday life

verse--writing arranged w/ a metrical rhythm, typically having a rhyme

poetry--literature that appears in verse form; have a regular rhythm & possibly a rhyme scheme.

Three major types of poetry:

  1. narrative--poetry that tells a story; a story written in verse
  2. lyric--highly musical verse that expresses the observations & feelings of a single speaker; creates a single, unified impression
  3. concrete--one with a shape that suggests its subject; the poet arranges letters, punctuation & lines to create an image or picture on the page

Three things that most poems have:

1.  rhyme--the repetition of sounds at the ends of words

a.  end rhyme--rhyming words at the ends of lines

          b. internal rhyme--rhyming words within the lines; this emphasizes the flowing nature of a poem

rhyme scheme--a regular pattern of rhyming words in a poem

Dust of Snow by Robert Frost

The way a crow       a

Shook down on me b

The dust of snow         a

From a hemlock tree         b

This stanza has rhyme scheme abab

2.  rhythm--the pattern of stressed & unstressed syllables in spoken or written language

  1. refrain--a regularly repeated line or group of line in a poem or song

stanza--a group of lines that form units in a poem

Stanzas are commonly named according to the number of lines found in them as follows:

  1. couplet--two line stanza
  2. tercet--three line stanza
  3. quatrain--four line stanza
  4. cinquain--five line stanza
  5. sestet--six line stanza
  6. heptastich--seven line stanza
  7. octave--eight line stanza

figurative language--writing or speech not meant to be taken literally; common types of figures of speech:  metaphor, personification, simile 

a.  simile--a figure of speech that uses like or as to make a direct comparison b/t two unlike  ideas; “good as gold,” “spread like wildfire,” “busy as a bee”

b.  metaphor--a figure of speech in which something is described as though it were  something else; works by pointing out a similarity b/t two unlike things

extended metaphor--a subject is written or spoken of as though it were something  else, but several connected comparisons are made--not just one as in a regular  metaphor

c.  personification--a type of figurative language in which a nonhuman is given human  characteristics

sensory language--writing or speech that appeals to one or more of the 5 senses

imagery/images--words or phrases that appeal to one or more of the five senses

repetition--the use, more than once, of any element of language--a sound, word, phrase, clause, or sentence

alliteration--the repetition of initial consonant sounds

onomatopoeia--the use of words that imitate sounds; crash, buzz, screech, hiss, neigh, jingle

free verse--poetry not written in a regular, rhythmical pattern; poet is free to write lines of any length or with any number of stresses

metrical verse--every line must have a certain length & a certain number of stresses

meter--the rhythmical pattern of a poem; determined by the number of stresses or beats in each line

My fath er was the first to hear

As you can see, each strong stress is marked w/ a slanted line; each unstressed w/ a horseshoe symbol; weak & strong stresses divided with a vertical line into two groups called feet

couplet--two consecutive lines of verse with end rhymes; often functions as a stanza

ballad--a songlike poem that tells a story, often one dealing with adventure & romance; written in four to six line stanzas & have regular rhythms & rhyme schemes; often has a refrain

epic poem--a long narrative poem about the adventures of gods or a hero; serious in tone & broad in theme; offers a portrait of the culture in which it was produced; earliest known epics were created in ancient Greece & Rome & are part of the oral tradition

haiku--a three line Japanese verse form; first and third lines have 5 syllables; second line has 7 syllables; writer uses images to create a single, vivid picture-generally of a scene from nature

limerick--a humorous, rhyming five line poem with a specific meter & rhyme scheme--three strong stresses in lines 1, 2, and 5 and two strong stresses in lines 3 & 4; follow rhyme scheme aabba

ode--a formal lyric poem w/ a serious theme; usually long & may be written for a private occasion or a public ceremony; often honors people, commemorate events or respond to natural scenes

sonnet--a 14 line lyric poem w/ a single theme; written in iambic pentameter 

iamb--a metrical foot consisting of one short (unstressed) & one long (stressed) 


pentameter--a line of verse consisting of five metrical feet

Two types of sonnets:

  1. Italian or Petrarchan--divided into two parts--an 8 line octave and a 6 line sestet; 

octave rhymes abba abba, while sestet rhymes cde cde; these two parts work

together-octave raising a question, stating a problem or presenting a brief

narrative & the sestet answers the question, solves the problem or comments

on the narrative

2. Shakespearean or English sonnet--has three four line quatrains plus a concluding 

two line couplet; rhyme scheme is usually abab cdcd efef gg; each of the 

three quatrains explores a different variation on the main theme, then the 

couplet presents a summarizing or concluding statement