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Glossary of Poetic Terms P - Z

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Explore the Craft of Writing Poetry

Glossary Definitions are simplified and limited to their use within the scope of poetic study. I recommend the use of a good dictionary for more complete explanation.
Poetic terms defined A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
Genre, Devices,Movements, Stanzaic Form & Verse Form A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z
P Poetic Genre and Verse Forms P
paeon Metric Pattern  Metric foot of one long and three short syllables in any order
Palindrome Word, phrase, poem that reads the same backward as forward. eg radar
Palinode The retraction of a statement from a previous poem written by the same poet.
panegyric Greek choral lyric celebrating a person's achievements. same as encomium
para-rhyme or frame-rhyme A sound element. Consonance occurring front and back of the word. Also called double consonance. back/bike boat/bait
parable A short narrative with a moral. The moral theme is usually left to interpretation rather than being explicitly being stated as in the fable.
paradox A figure of speech which is seemingly a self contradictory concept that on reflection becomes some deeper meaning. from Milton's Methought I Saw L14 "I waked, she fled, and day brought back my night."
parallelism Side by side comparisons in verse usually using similar frames.
parataxis Clauses one after another without any conjunctions. "I came, I saw, I conquered." Julius Caesar
Parody Greek (a song sung beside…) Verse that is the satirical imitation or mimicking of another's distinctive, usually serious writing. The goal is for comic effect or ridicule. The structure of the poem is dependant upon the structure of the piece being imitated. It is usually regarded as a step up from burlesque.
pastoral A poem centered on the beauty and simplicity of country life. This can be mythical with shepherds and nymphs in idealized country settings. Also called bucolic and Idyll poetry. The opposite of Georgic which centers on the work of country life.
pentameter Line measure.  5 metric feet within a line.
penultimate Second to last of a series, as in a series of stanzas or a series of syllables.
Performance Poetry Poetry that is performed 'live' in pubs and clubs - usually from memory. It is often humorous in nature Performance poetry was made popular in the UK by Adrian Mitchell and the Liverpool Poets. Poetry Slam in the US is a form of Performance Poetry, although the poetry takes on all kinds of emotions, anger, fear, determination.
periphrasis "Round about" speaking, using unrelated imagery to describe a person, place or thing. sea dragons = war ships
persona Latin=clay or bark actor's mask. Poetic or fictional writing genre, a narrative or story told through the development and voice of a fictional character.
personification Figurative language that gives human characteristics to a thing, idea or animal. The nonhuman is dramatized in human terms.
phanopoeia Ezra Pound's notion of one factor of writing poetry, 'throwing a visual image on the mind'
phirach or pyrrhic Metric Pattern. A metric foot made up of 2 unstressed syllables uu
pivot or volta A change in direction of a thought or argument.
pleonasm Use of unnecessary word, often done to pad a metric line.
poem A written or spoken composition using the line as a foundation.
poëme A word used to describe a philosophical, epic or dramtic poem. Introduced by Alfred de Vigny
podic Metric Pattern. Folk meter, often found in anonymous nursery rhymes and ballads. It is rhymed verse in the rhythm of normal speech.
poesis From Greek - to make, the making of a poem.
poesy Archaic English word for poetry.
poetic Displaying the best quality of poetry.
poetic justice Virtue is rewarded and vice punished.
poetic licence The freedom of poets to break the rules of written language and/or change fact to create an effect
poetaster or poeticule A writer of light or inferior verse. Also rhymester.
poetry Latin-poeta, "Imaginative or creative literature." New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. I could fill a page with definitions of this word from multiple sources. I define "poetry" as the magic that happens when a poet merges craft and soul and touches the reader through words. Someone wrote "any one can write a poem, only rarely does one translate as "poetry".
polemic A poem with a contraversial subject.
polysyndeton The close repetition of conjunctions.
Portmanteau word The artificial combination of parts of words to express their combined qualities. e.g. fog/smoke =smog
posteriore (Italian "a posteriore" – rear), indicating the last foot of a metric line changes as when a line of iambic pentameter might be written with 4 iambs and ends with a trochee
prayer Verse meant to communicate with the divine, a higher power.
pregunta Spanish "question"; Verse that is question-answer between 2 people. The Greeks called this form of verse, stichomythia.
Primer Couplet A metered, rhymed, informative distich. Most often it is written in iambic dimeter, rhymed aa.
prose The ordinary form of written or spoken discourse without poetic structure or devices.
prosody The study of sound and rhythm in verse.
Prothalamium,Prothalamion An ode celebrating marriage before the wedding, specifically for the bride.
pyrrhic or phirach Metric Pattern. A metric foot made up of 2 unstressed syllables such as "of the".
Q See Poetic Genre and Verse Forms Q
Qawaalli Urdu poetic genre most often sung. The traditional theme is love of God but more recently the theme can be love of another.
Quantitative verse Line measure. A measure of the line by dividing it into metric feet. The metric feet are made up of a combination of long and short syllables. In English, quantitative verse is sometimes difficult to discern and we transition to Accentual Syllabic Verse by default which warps the intent a bit. Or we will often attempt to reduce to the lowest common denominator and simply count syllables, still a little warped.
quatorzain Any 14 line poem or stanza. A sonnet is always a quatorzain, a quatorzain need not always be a sonnet. (see Sonnet Comparison Chart)
quatrain Any poem or stanza in 4 lines.
quintain, quintet or cinquain Any poem or stanza in 5 lines. The words cinquain, quintain and quintet are interchangeable, French Latin and Italian.
R Also see Poetic Genre and Verse Forms R
rann In Celtic poetry, the 4 line stanza.
refrain or repeton A sound element. The repetition of a line, lines or part of a line at intervals in a poem, usually at the end of a stanza.
rentrement A sound element. (French - rentrament) A word, phrase or line usually at the beginning of the poem that is repeated as a refrain within the poem.
repetend A word, phrase or line that is repeated randomly.
repetition A sound element. The recurrence of a phrase or word used for emphasis
rhetoric The art of persuasion through the manipulation of words
rhopalics Metric Pattern.A line in which each word progresses to include 1 more syllable than the preceding word.
rhyme A sound element. The echo of vowel and consonant sounds, in English rhyme occurs between stressed syllables.
rhyme scheme A sound element. Pattern of rhyme in a poem
rich rhyme A sound element. Ordinary rhyme beginning a step backward. The sounds start being matched before the last stressed vowel. All 3 sounds of the syllable are echoed in rich rhyme, as in foul/fowl as compared to ordinary rhyme growl/fowl. Rich rhyme, often called rime riche or identity rhyme is more commonly used in French prosody than in English.
riddle Verse that hides the solution to the question it asks.
riding rhyme A sound element. A rhymed couplet that is open ended, moving the subject into the subsequent rhymed couplet without pause or punctuation.
rime en kyrielle A sound element. When an entire line is used as a refrain rather than just a phrase or word such as in the Pantoum or Villanelle.
rising meter Metric Pattern.Meters that are end-stressed. eg. iamb or anapestic
Ritornello Musical term often ending the Madrigal or occurs as a recurring passage that contrasts in rhyme and rhythm with of the rest of the lyrics. Similar to a "choral or congregational response". Sometimes called a Tornado.
run on Enjambment.
running meter Lines of equal length.
running rhythm Metric Pattern. Meter with a regular pattern such as iambic pentameter.
Russian Verse Form Verse form from Russia.
rhymester A writer of light or inferior verse. Also poeticule or poetaster.
S Also see Poetic Genres and Verse Forms S
saga An Old Norse prose narrative, epic story of the history, legends and heroes of Iceland and Norway.
Salaam Urdu poetic genre of introduction to the goodwill of the holy Prophet. These poems are recited standing.
Sapphics Metric verse originally attributed to the Greek poet Sappho, 6 BC.
Satirical Verse A verse that makes fun of , ridicules or humorously exposes flaws in a particular individual, society, government, or thing. Alexander Pope, Swift and the Scriblerus Club were all known for their satiral verse.
saudades A genre of Galician verse- poems of longing that carry a fatalistic tone.
scansion The process of measuring the metrical structure of a line.
scop An Old English poet who was held in high regard. Writer of epics and lays to be performed, often by a Gleeman
sectional rhyme A sound element. is internal rhyme within the line. e.g.:she'd be his wife, his life in song.
Seharan West African poetic genre sung at wedding ceremonies praising the bride, groom and their relatives.
Sehra Urdu genre of poetry in which individuals praise their brothers. It is rhymed and isometric but the specific frame is at the discretion of the poet giving variation to the verse.
Semitic Verse Forms Verse forms of the Hebrews and Sumerians
Septenary or Fourteener Line measure. A line is written in 2 parts separated by caesura. It is patterned in iambic heptameter (7) and grew to popularity in 16th century English poetry. Most often the caesura occurs sometime after the 3rd foot.
septet Any 7 line stanza.
Serpentine Verse that begins and ends with the same word. Named for the image of a snake with its tail in its mouth. It is symbolic of eternity, without beginning or end.
sestet A six line stanza following the octave in a sonnet or other forms in which the group of 6 lines attempts to distinguish itself from other line groups. This is in contrast to the words sixain or sexain which are 6 line stanzas usually written in conjunction with other sixains or sexains as in the Sestina. You will often find sestet misused as synonymous with the sixain.
Shantey, Shanty or Chantey French chanter -sing, A sailor's work song, alternating solo and chorus.
Short Usually when you see the word Short before the title of a known verse form the metric line of the standard verse form has been cut by one metric foot. e.g. Short Couplet assumes a Couplet is iambic pentameter therefore the Short Couplet is iambic tetrameter etc.
sibilant Consonants which create a hissing sound such as s or z.
Sick Verse Poetry with an unhealthy obsession with death, desease and dying.
simile Comparison of one thing with another, Love is like a rose. A signal word is always used such as: like or as.
Sirvente From the Provencal servin=paid soldier. A poetic genre of the 12th -14th centuries, a satirical troubadour song, some times called the Soldier's song. It often took the frame of the Canso.
sixain or sexain 6 line stanzas usually written in conjunction with other sixains or sexains as in the Sestina.
skald Nordic bard.
Skeltonic Verse A poem written in dipodic lines with tumbling rhyme. Sometimes called Tumbling Verse.
slack syllable Metric Pattern. An unstressed syllable.
slant rhyme or consonance, near rhyme, off rhyme, imperfect rhyme A sound element. Shared similar consonant sounds but different vowel sounds as in bleak and black or sometimes only the last consonant sound such as fame and room.
soliloquy Old English verse, a single person's dramatic discourse, speaking to one's self..
Sonnet Italian - sonnetto, "little song", is a lyrical meditation. The sonnet should sing. Even though there are many varieties of the sonnet, it is one of the most identifiable and popular of the verse forms because of its classic 14 line frame, lyrical meter and rhyme, and dramatic pivot or volta. Sonnet Comparison Chart
Spanish Verse Forms Verse forms from Spain, including Catalan and Castilian and Galician.
spelling rhyme End words that have similar spelling but don't rhyme. move/love
spondee Metric Pattern. A metric foot of 2 strong stressed syllables. S-S e.g. night-mare. In quantitative verse, the metric foot is a 2 long sounds or syllables.
spoonerism Literary technique reversing the initial consonants of the penultimate end word and end word of the first line in the second line.
sprung rhythm Metric Pattern. Meter designed to imitate natural speech. It often begins with a stressed syllable and is followed by variable unstressed and stressed syllables creating a line of mixed irregular feet similar to free verse. However unlike free verse, a poem written in sprung rhythm generally maintains lines with the same number of metric feet throughout.
stanza Italian meaning "stopping place" or "room" . Most often stanza refers to a reoccurring uniform pattern of 2 or more lines of verse, the poetic equivalent to a paragraph in prose. A stanza does not stand alone; stanza implies more than one unit. A stanza is also used synonymously with strophe when the units vary in length within the poem, as in free verse. In other words, a stanza must have other units in the same poem whether uniform or not, unlike the strophe which are usually not uniform in structure and can stand alone.
stanzaic Poem made up of same structured stanzas.
stich A single line of verse written adjacent to other lines. When it stands alone it is a monostich.
stichic Line measure.Verse in which all lines having the same metrical form.
stichomythia From Greek drama, when 2 characters speak in alternating lines, question and answer. Similar to the Spanish Pregunta.
stressed syllable Emphasized or accented syllable.
Stretched Sonnet A poem that stretches the boundaries of frame and meter of the traditional sonnet but has the sound and feel of the lyrical meditation typical of the sonnet.
strophe Greek meaning "turn" Originally the beginning section of a choral ode in a classical Greek drama where the chorus chanted a verse while turning from one side to another or toward the altar. Initially a unit of quantitative verse of identical metric structure, synonymous with stanza. Later in English the term was loosely extended to mean a structural division of a poem containing non uniform divisions or units of varying length, as in free verse. A strophe can stand alone or refer to a whole poem if there are no breaks. Conversely a stanza does not stand alone and implies more than one unit.
Syllabic Verse Line measure. Measuring the line by counting the number of syllables.
syllable A unit of pronunciation uttered without interruption, It forms the whole or part of a word.
symbol An image that represents more than its literal meaning, something to be felt.
synalepha When an adjacent vowel sound is is suppressed. eg "And strike to dust th' imperial tow'rs of Troy" Pope.
synecdoche A part of something that represents the whole. suit=corporate
synesthesia a sensory experience described in a different sense. sour sound
synonym Words or phrases with the same meaning. finger/digit
syntax The way the basic components of a line are arranged.
T Also see Poetic Genres and Verse Forms T
tail rhyme A sound element. In a stanza of long lines, the last line is shorter and is rhymed with one other line within the stanza which is also shorter.
Tautogram All words begin with the same letter. The original tautograms were in verse but the technique has broadened into prose. This is a visual, literal device - six sisters sing or Christ child come close. unlike the phonetic device of alliteration although a tautogram could also be alliterative.
teleutons Sound Element repeated endings
tercet Any poem or stanza in 3 lines.
tetrameter Line measure. 4 metric feet in a line.
tetrastich A poem in 4 lines.
Thai Verse Forms Verse forms from Thailand.
theme The poem's central idea.
tone The emotion or attitude behind the poem.
tornada The Occitan tornada is a dedication to a patron or friend added at the end of verse, usually as a 1/2 stanza in the same structural pattern of the previous stanzas. As opposed to the French envoy which is usually a summary of the poem's theme added to the end of the verse.
Tornado Ritornello, sometimes called the Tornado, is a musical term often ending the Madrigal or occurs as a recurring passage that contrasts in rhyme and rhythm with of the rest of the lyrics. Similar to a "choral or congregational response".
transferred epithet Figure of speech a type of metonymy, is a device of emphasis in which the characteristic of one thing is attributed to another. Hart Crane observing a landscape from an airplane in Part III of For the Marraige of Faustus Helen, an image includes the movement of the plane, "nimble blue plateaus" .
tribach Metric Pattern. A metric foot of 3 unstressed syllables. uuu
trimeter Line measure. 3 metric feet in a line
triple meter Metric Pattern. A metric foot of 3 syllables such as anapests dactyls and amphibrachs
triple rhyme A sound element. words that rhyme in 3 syllables eg mystery / history
triplet Any mono rhymed poem or stanza in 3 lines.
tristich A poem in 3 lines.
trochee Metric Pattern. Metric foot of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable in accentual syllabic verse or long sound followed by a short sound in quantitative verse. Su or Ls
trochaic Metric Pattern. A line of trochees. Su / Su / Su / Su etc (depending on # of metric feet)
troubadour From the Middle Ages 12th-13th centuries, Occitan verb "trobar" = to compose or invent. The troubadour was a composer of lyrics and song. The troubadour were often of the nobility and should be distinguished as composers from the jongluer who was usually his servant of lesser class, a minstrel who merely performed anothers composition.
tumbling rhyme A sound element. monorhymed lines until the rhyme runs out of energy then the lines switch to a new mono-rhymed series.
twime Synonym for distich.
U Also see Poetic Genres and Verse Forms U
Ubi Sunt Latin meaning 'where are they? A thematic genre of verse, a lament for the passing of a person, era or anything held dear. It can be found in Old English the poems like Beowulf and The Wanderer. Or'Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?' from To Autumn by John Keats.
unstressed syllable Metric Pattern. The unaccented or not emphasized syllable.
uta Japanese meaning poetry.
utamakura Japanese for "poetic pillow" referring to a phrase or word that taps into shared cultural experiences
V Also see Poetic Genres and Verse Forms V
vaasokht Urdu poetic genre written about the flaws and carelessness of a lover.
Vers de Societe Originally this term referred to poetry that dealt with social issues but today it simply refers to Light Verse.
verse Latin versum, "to turn" refers to either a single line of poetry or to an entire composition of poetry.
verse form A verse form is an entire composition framed in a specific number of lines with prescribed poetic elements such as stanza breaks, meter, rhyme, rhetorical devices etc.
verset Verse which is a surge of language in one breath often a poetic phrase, a fragment of a line or a a very short poem that could be read in one breath. Haiku could technically be called a verset as can the Triversen.
Verso Italian for verse, in Italian prosody there are 3 defined lines. Verso Piano is a line in which the principal accent is on the penultimate syllable; Verso Sdrucciolo is any line that ends with a word that has the principle accent on the 3rd to last syllable; and Verso Tronco is a line with the principal accent on the 10th and last syllable.
Viadeyra Occitan-Catalan is a popular dance song. It is troubadoric genre of light verse, not "high poetry" with a repeated refrain which occurs after every 2 lines.
Viet Verse Forms Verse forms from Vietnam
virtual rhyme Rhyme is the echoing of sound in the accented vowel in a word. However in English there are words with secondary accents such as in idolatry the accent or stress is on the 2nd syllable, however there is a lessor or secondary stress in the last syllable idolatry. Virtual rhyme is when the echoed sound is the secondary stressed sound - idolatry / sea. Virtual rhyme only occurs in English.
voice The who behind the poem, the sound of the character.
volta or pivot A change in direction of a thought or argument.
vulgate Latin vulgus, "mob" or "common people" In poetry vulgate refers to the lowest denomination of language, the speech of the common man without refinement.
W Also see Poetic Genres and Verse Forms W
Welsh Verse Forms or Official Welsh Meters Verse forms from Ancient Wales as codified in the 14th century by Einion Offeiriad and edited by Dafydd Ddu Athro.
word play Literary technique when the manner words are used become the focus of the poem. eg. puns,spoonerisms, anagrams etc.
wrenched rhyme A sound element. When metric stress or accent forces a change in the natural word accent or rhymes a stressed syllable with an unstressed syllable. (lady / to me) Or using a nonsense word to create a rhyme. (correspondence/blondance) It is often done deliberately for comic affect. It is also common in folk verse but it can also occur because of the poet's lack of skill.
Z Also see Poetic Genres and Verse Forms X Y Z
Zabd shuda Nazmein The title of a collection of poems in Urdu which were declared unlawful to recite or distribute by the colonial Government of India and the British Raj. The poems were banned because of their nationalistic fervour for a sovereign India.
zeugma or yoke Figurative language using one word to connect or carry two phrases. Two thoughts held together by one word.

Poetic terms defined A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z

Genres, Devices, Movements, Stanzaic Form & Verse Form - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z

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