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Glossary of Poetic Terms A - D


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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
A Poetic Genres and Verse Forms A
abstract Intangible, not concrete, separate from the physical.
Abstract Poetry A poetic movement and genre which attempts to communicate emotion through word sounds.
academic verse Poetry that follows the conventions of a particular school of poetry or movement. See Trail Blazers to Modern Poetry
acatalectic  Line measure.  A complete metric line.
accent  Metric pattern. Latin - accentus = "song added to speech".   The recurring beat of a metric line. Emphasis or stress on a syllable via pitch, stress or length, in comparison to the other syllable or syllables within the metric foot. It is the basis for most poetic meters in English.
accentual verse  Line measure. The measure of stressed syllables within the line without attention to any specific pattern. Sometimes, the measure also includes unstressed syllables, but not always. This is also known as folk verse; it carries the rhythm of normal speech.
accentual syllabic verse  Line measure. The measuring of the line by metric feet determined by counting both stressed and unstressed syllables and dividing them into patterns. eg iambic tri meter is 6 syllables, 3 unstressed, 3 stressed da DUM/ da DUM/ da DUM/. The metric feet are made up of a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables.
acephalous Line measure. "headless" the initial syllable of a metric line of verse is missing.
Acritic Verse Greek-"song of the frontiersmen". A poetic genre, the heroic or epic poetry of 10th century Byzantium. The poetry emerged from an almost continuous state of warfare. It was composed as first hand experiences in narratives of recitation, or in a simple, recurring, cadence that was easy to remember and pass on. It set up the beginnings of modern Greek verse.
Acrostic Greek for "at the tip of the verse". This poetic genre dates back to 1000 BC in ancient Babylonia. The first letter of each line or stanza spells out a name, a word, the title of the work or even a sentence or phrase. There are several Acrostic variations.
Action Poetry Verse meant to be performed by several voices.
Adonics Line measure with metric pattern. A 2 foot line composed in 5 syllables, a dactyl followed by a trochee.
adynaton Poetic device, the magnification to impossibility. E.g. "I'd walk a million miles for one of your smiles." The opposite of aporia.
Aesthetic Movement School of thought that art is its own justification and purpose.
Afflatus "act of blowing or breathing on", verse inspired by the study of another's poem.
aicill rhyme   A sound element.  (Commonly used in Celtic verse forms.) According to the NPEOPP aicill rhyme is simply rhyming an end word of one line with a word somewhere early in the next line. Robin Skelton's Shapes of our Singing takes it a step further and states aicill rhyme occurs when the end word of the first line is disyllabic. An on-line source describing Gaelic pronunciation takes it even a step further describing aicill rhyme as occuring when the last stressed syllable of an end word rhymes with the next to last unstressed word in the next line with no mention that the end word need by disyllabic. (Gaelic examples I've been able to find seem to support all 3 definitions, of course I can't really hear the stressed/unstressed definition but one example appeared as if the internal rhyme could be unstressed by the position in the line and the words around it.)
Aide-Memoire Usually a short poem that acts as an aid to memory, like "Thirty days hath September/April, June and Novemeber./
Alexandrine  Line measure. French - An iambic hexameter (6 metric feet) line made up of 2 hemistiches (half lines) separated by caesura. One source says to be a true Alexandrine line has two equal and complete hemistiches separated by an absolute caesura (period, question mark, colon). The caesura gives a dramatic, sometimes formal effect to the line. The pattern slows speech and gives the line a sense of importance. Pausing with a comma and with hemistiches not quite complete or equal have been referred to as a "loose" Alexandrine or a Fourteener. The rhythm is less abrupt and more pleasant to the ear.
allegory Figurative Language (Greek-altos agoreuein -others speak) A symbolic representation, a subject described under the guise of something else with similar points. The characters or symbols usually become what they represent and are often named accordingly. e.g. Dr. Love,  Valley of Humiliation, Mr. Worldy Wiseman etc. An extended metaphor that explains good and evil, or moral or religious principals that are often written as dreams. Allegory uses the entire poem for the comparison and the pattern holds throughout the piece, point by point.
alliteration  A sound element.   (from Latin al litera- to letter) Repetition of 2 or more beginning sounds of the stressed syllable of successive words in a line, most commonly repeated consonants that phonetically match e.g. Little ladies like lovely Lillys or Center for Secret Sisters. However beginning vowel sounds will always alliterate e.g The ant eater entered the exit.
allusion Figurative language using a recognizeable reference such as myth, historical event, line from another's poem or a cultural artifact to compress and enrich the poem. Metaphor and allegory are forms of allusion.
alternate rhyme A sound element.   abab cdcd Rhyme change every other line.
ambiguity Although not always desirable in prose, ambiguity in poetry can add texture to the piece. Ambiguity is the ability to be understood in more than one way, an uncertainty, an instance of double meaning.
American Verse Forms Verse Forms originating in America.
amphibrach  Metric Pattern  A metric foot of short-long-short or unstressed-stressed-unstressed (uSu e.g. forever)
Amphigory Parody or nonsense verse. In this poetic genre silliness and wit are the main goals , amusing while containing little inside knowledge.
amphimacer  Metric Pattern. A metric foot of long-short-long or stressed-unstressed-stressed
amphisbaenic or backward, rhyme Sound Element  Rhyme in reverse. later/retail ; stop/pots.
anachronism A poetic device, adding an image which is completely out of place either by time, event, or person.
anaclasis Substituting a different measure to break the rhythm of a metric line.
anacoluthon Greek-not consistent, an interuption which is followed by a syntatically different phrase.
anacrusis  Metric Pattern. Unstressed syllabic prefix outside of the metric pattern.
anadiplosis Greek-double back. When the last word of a line is repeated as the first word of the next line.
Anagram Word play, the transposition of one word or phrase to another. This has been a tool of light verse, occasional verse and epigraphs probably as far back as the written word. e.g. transposing Mary to army
anapest Metric Pattern.  Metric foot of 2 unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. (uuS e.g. through the night / understand)
anaphora A sound element.  Greek for repetition, "a carrying, up or back" A rhetorical device in which there is repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases or lines.  Martin Luther King Jr's famous speech "I had a dream" is an example.
anastrophe or antistrophe "Counterturning or turning back" a change of voice from the previous strophe but maintaining the same meter. (As demonstrated at the 2nd strophe of the Pindaric Ode.) It the inversion or unusual order of words or clauses.
anceps  Metric Pattern. (doubleheaded) In quantitative verse, a metric foot with a syllable which can be either long or short. Usually only one foot in a line will be anceps; it is common in Aeolic verse.
Anisometric Verse Verse that is unmetered and the lines within the strophe are uneven.
antepenultimate 3rd to last in a series.
anthimeria One part of speech substituted for another, such as a noun for a verb.
anthropomorphism An abstract taking on the character of a person.
antibacchic Metric Pattern. Metric foot of long-long-short. (I have never seen this, rare in English.)
antispast Metric Pattern. Metric foot of short-long-long-short (another really rare one)
antistrophe The second part or strophe of the Pindaric Ode, usually written with the same structure and the first strophe.
antithesis Figure of speech, when contrasting words or phrases are closely placed.
antonym Words of opposite meaning.
Antonymic translation where antonyms are substituted for words in a text, this gives a sentence, paragraph, line the opposite meaning
apheresis A letter or syllable omitted at the beginning of a word. " 'Twas the night before Christmas."
aphorism A precise observation, this could apply to an objective scientific observation or it could be a pithy or sarcastic observation delivering fact in a humorous manner. A gnome.
apocopate rhyme A sound element.   (Greek to cut off ) Lines rhyming on the penultimate syllable.  OR  rhyme of parts of a word summer/ come ; timely / rhyme
apocopate Removal of a syllable or letters at the end of word. 
aporia An expression of doubt or anxiety. The opposite of adynaton.
apostrophe from Greek -"to turn away" a writing technique in which the poet addresses someone not there or addresses an object as if it is a person. Coleridge's - To William Wordsworth L1 "Friend of the Wise," .
Arabic Verse Forms Verse forms from the Middle East
archaism The deliberate use of an archaic word or phrase to evoke a sense of another time in the distant past.
archetype A recurring character, event or symbol that crosses cultures.
Archilochian Verse A heptameter named for the Greek poet Archilochus that is made up of 4 dactyls followed by 3 trochees. Suu/Suu/Suu/Suu/Su/Su/Su. Spondees can be substituted for any dactyl in Greek measure.
Arlabecca verse Occitan genre of verse of the Middle Ages, a song "defined by" poetic meter.
arsis and thesis Metric Pattern. The rise and fall or the accented and unaccented parts of a poetic foot.
Ars Poetica Latin - art of poetry - Poetry about writing poetry. The genre dates back to ancient times and can be found in the writings of Aristotle and Horace. It explores what is poetry and how to write it. Probably the most famous poem about the art of poetry is titled Ars Poetica by Archibald Mac Leish
Art Mayor A Spanish term to identify any line of 9 or more syllables. However, it commonly refers to a specific pattern of a double adonic line. (A tetrameter line made up of dactyl/trochee/dactyl/trochee Lss/Ls/Lss/Ls)
Art Menor Spanish term that refers to any verse of 8 or less syllables.
asclepiad Metric Pattern. An Aeolic meter built around the choriamb (metric pattern of LssL). The common example is a spondee followed by 2 choriambs and an iamb. LL LssL LssL sL
assonance  A sound element.  A rhetorical device in which vowel sounds are repeated regardless of the consonants before and after. In English this is usually within a line but in other cultures, Welsh and Spanish in particular this can be between internal or end words of different lines.
asyndeton "unconnected" A poetic device to omit conjunctions or connective words to create a feeling piling on or overwhelming evidence. Found in European baroque verse.
auditory image A word or phrase that triggers the readers auditory sense.
Austrian Verse Forms Verse Forms from Austria.
B Also see Poetic Genres and Verse Forms B
baccius Metric Pattern. A metrical foot consisting of a short syllable followed by two long syllables or an unstressed syllable followed by two stressed syllables.
Ballad A universal stanzaic form of poem or song that tells a tale in the language of the common man. In English there is an identifiable rhythmic pattern that is also associated with the form.
bard From Welsh/Celticbardd meaning poet. The ancientbardd not only created verse, he was believed to have magical powers and had great influence in the courts.
bathos The unintentional switch from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Beast Epic Narrative, poetic genre telling a fictional tale with animals emulating human behavior.
beat The rhythm of the verse, in English the pattern of stressed, unstressed sounds.
beher Line Measure. (Urdu) Meter or line length of the sher (couplet of the Ghazal). There are 19 types of beher but the most common are short, medium and long.
Belarus Verse Forms Verse forms from Belarus.
binary meter Metric Pattern. A metric measure that has two syllables per foot, as in iambic, trochaic, pyrrhic, and spondaic meters, sometimes referred to as duple or double meters.
Boast or Brag A poetic genre in which 2 speakers try to "one-up" the other. Each topping the other's assertion.
bombast Language that is pompous or overdone.
Boolean poem Technique using only the words which are common in 2 distinct poems to create a new poem.
Bouts-Rimes (French - rhymed ends) A game in which list of rhymes is prepared in advance then given to the players who must write a poem using the rhymes in the order they appear. It is said to be inspired by a minor 17th century, French poet Dulot as a kind of joke after he complained he had lost hundreds of sonnets which turned out to be just the rhymes for the sonnets, no actual poems. Bouts Rimes
Breton Lay Originating in France and quickly adapted in England in the Middle Ages, is a poetic genre, a short narrative love poem, often involving Arthurian subjects. e.g. Chaucer's Franklin Tale. Mythology, the supernatural and fairies are liberally employed. As a genre it carries a broad stroke from any verse set in Brittany to the Lais of Marie de France, to Middle English romantic short verse.
breve Metric Pattern. In scanning Accentual Syllabic verse, the breve is the symbol used above an unstressed vowel. It looks like a shallow u without the tail. e.g. ă The stressed syllable is identified with a macron which is a straight line above the stressed vowel. e.g. ā
bridge A contrasting lyric which often occurs between a verse and chorus. A connector.
Metric pattern:  An unbroken word within a metric foot.
Bridging Title When the first line of a poem is also used as the title.
Broadside ballads Poems on a single sheet of paper and set to a traditional tune. Originating in the late 16th century as a cheep form of poetic journalism. Often funny or pathetic accounts of current news events.
broken rhyme A sound element.  Breaking an end word to create rhyme with another line. Like breaking the word heartbreak carrying the "break" to the next line so that heart can rhyme with part.
bucolic A poem centered on the beauty of country life. It is a sub-genre of pastoral verse, bucolic verse is lofty, the realm of upper class, aristocratic country living as opposed to the more humble shepherd and peasant setting of Pastoral or Idyllic verse or the hardships of working in the country described in Georgic verse.
burden A central idea commonly repeated in a refrain.
burlesque Poetic genre that ridicules or mocks by the use of grotesque exaggeration or by the treatment of a unimportant subject with the gravity due one of great importance. The verse has a little cheeky attitude.Burlesque by Jan Haag
Burmese Verse Forms Verse forms from Burma
C Also see Poetic Genres and Verse Forms C
cadence The natural rhythm of speech.
cacophony  A sound element.  Words or phrase which create a discordant sound used to mirror the context of their meaning.
cadence Latin-falling The rise and fall rhythm of speech
caesura A pause mid way in a line, signaled usually by punctuation a comma, semicolon or period.
 caesura rhyme  A sound element.  Couplet rhymed at the caesura mid line and alternating at the end of the line as if an alternate rhymed quatrain abab is written as a couplet.
Canon Poetry at its highest standard.
Canto In epic verse, a major division or section of an extended narrative. (not to be compared to a stanza)
Catalan verse Catalan verse in the eastern region of Spain began as prose poetry. By the 15th century narratives in octo-syllabic couplets became popular. Eight syllable lines became a standard in both Catalan and Castilian poetic forms. By the 16th century Castilian became the language of the east and the only poetry that remained in the Catalan language were ballads and a popular religious song.
catalectic or catalexis An incomplete metric line. Omission of a syllable at the beginning or end of a metric line. Opposite of acatalectic meaning a complete metric line.
catharsis Purification of emotions brought about by a vicarious (dramatic) experience.
caudate rhyme A sound element.   Same as tail rhyme, the short line at the end of the stanza rhymes with the other short line in the stanza, with longer lines in between.
Celtic Twilight Originally the title of an anthology of works by WB Yeats but later became a generic term of Irish folk lore and mysticism in literature.
chain A series of verses or stanzas in which the last word of the verse or stanza is repeated as the first word of the next verse or stanza.
chain rhyme  A sound element.  poetic device, interlocking rhyme that links one stanza to the next. Such as in the Terza Rima rhyme aba bcb cdc etc.There are various chain techniques with a long history see.chain verse.
Chansonnier A collection of troubador poems.
Chant Poetic genre, short verse with a strong metric rhythm which is repeated frequently.
Chantey or shanty French chanter-sing, A poetic genre, a sailor's work song, alternating solo and chorus.
chevelle Any word used only to fill in a required syllabic count in a metric line.
chiasmus Figure of speech the first half of a line is reversed in the second half.
Chinese Verse Forms Verse forms originating in China.
choral lyric or chorus Verse meant to be sung as a refrain, but a refrain is usually one or two lines while a choral lyric can be several lines (Originally meant to be sung by a choir.) eg. these infamous lines Take me out the ball game/take me out with the crowd/buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks/ etc. are lines to the "chorus" of Jack Norworth's Take Me Out to the Ball Game
choree Metric Pattern. Same as trochee, a metric foot of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable.
choriamb Metric Pattern.  4 syllable quantitative metric foot made up of LssL or accentual syllabic metric foot of SuuS.
cinquain Any poem or stanza in 5 lines. Same as quintain or quintet.
cliché An overused phrase or a stereotypical image.
City Poem A poetic genre built around the subject of cities or life in the city. The opposite of pastoral poetry. The rise in popularity of these "urban pastorals" came at the turn of the 19th century and the industrial revolution. eg William Blake's London
climbing rhyme or step rhyme A sound element.   rhyme that moves in or out one syllable per line, the pattern is at the discretion of the poet
x x x a
x x a x
x a x x
a x x x
x a x x
x x a x
closed form Verse written in a preexisting pattern of meter, rhyme, line and/or stanza. e.g. Sestina, Triolet, Lai, Limerick etc. Same as fixed form or verse form.
closed couplet A stanzaic form, a couplet that is complete in thought and syntax. Also complete couplet and heroic couplet
closed verse Verse that is end-stopped.
Cobla Esparza Cobla is Occitan for stanza. The Cobla Esparsa refers to an "isolated" stanza or a complete poem in one stanza which were common in 12th century Europe.
coda Concluding envoy.
comedy A verse meant to be funny.
Comiat or Comjat (Occitan-dismissal) A poetic genre, verse dismissing a lover.
Composite Sonnet A sonnet that is made up of parts (usually evidenced in the rhyme scheme) of other better known sonnet forms such as taking the octave of a Shakespearean Sonnet and ending with the sestet of a Petrarchan Sonnet.
compound rhyme A sound element  When a group of words rhyme like one word, The jack of all trades / He slacks in tall shades.
conceit Italian consetto=concept or idea A poetic device that uses elaborate comparisons such as comparing a twinkle in a loved ones eyes to the sparkle of thousand stars. Common language to create unusual or novel images.
concrete Palpable, real, touchable.
connotation The tone set by the suggested rather than literal meaning of a word.
consonance  A sound element.  Poetic device, shared similar consonant sounds but different vowel sounds as in season and raisin or sometimes only the last consonant sound such as fame and room. This is a simplified meaning, definitions of consonance or slant rhyme seem to wander all over the place. For a more complicated definition see "consonate". also slant rhyme. "He whispered into the dark, dank heart of the night" The prominent and repeated "d" "t" and "k" sounds are consonance.
consonant rhyme A sound element.  Same consonant sound at either the beginning of the lines (head rhyme) or the last consonant at the end of the line (common in Celtic and Spanish verse).
consonate A sound element.  According to Lewis Turco's, Book of Forms, "to consonate is to create a compatible or similar sound, to agree or harmonize". It appears most often in matching end consonants, but not always. The easiest to identify is first and last consonant of the word, also called frame-rhyme or para-rhyme (bike / bake). Consonance assumes all vowel sounds are interchangeable, as are some consonant sounds, but it distinguishes between the soft and hard sounds of consonants created by proximity to other consonants. (e.g. the soft sound of g in "page" and the harder sound of the dg in "edge"
content The subject matter of the poem.
Conversation Poem A poetic genre, a poem in which the reader is seemingly listening in on a casual conversation concerning a serious subject.
corona Any series of fixed verse forms linked by the repetition of the last line of each verse as the 1st line of the next verse and the last line of the last verse is the 1st line of the first verse. e.g. A Corona of Villanelles or a Corona of English Quintets.
corrupted form Intentional disregard of the criteria of a poetic verse form.
couplet 2 lines representing a poetic thought unit.
Crambo A game in which one player gives a word or line of verse to be rhymed by the other players. Similar to Bouts Rimes
cross rhyme A sound element.   When the end word rhymes with a word in the middle of the next line. This comes from the old long hemistiched couplets in which rhyme occurs (ab)(ba): L1 xxxa,xxxb L2 xxxb,xxxa. NPEOPP.
crown A series of stanzas with the last line of the stanza repeated as the first line of the next stanza.
Crown of Sonnets A series of 7 Petrarchan Sonnets linked by the repetition of the last line of each sonnet as the 1st line of the next sonnet and the last line of the 7th or last sonnet is the 1st line of the 1st sonnet.
Cut-Up A technique in which a poet cuts up a poem he/she has written and then reassembles it in random order hoping for a fresh perspective.
cywddydd or cynghannedd Welsh harmony of sound All ancient Welsh and Celtic poetry is said to be written in cynghannedd. The harmony is accomplished through the controlled echoing of sounds through alliteration, assonance or consonance. These sounds are meant to offset any over-emphasis of the main rhyme, to create balance of sound.
Czech Verse Form Verse originating in Czechoslovakia.
D Also see Poetic Genres and Verse Forms D
dactyl Metric foot of a stressed syllable followed by 2 unstressed syllables (Suu e.g. holiday)
dead metaphor Because of overuse a metaphor becomes dead, uninteresting. eg love is a rose.
decastich (deca=units of 10) Stand-alone 10 line poem. Also could refer to a strophe or stanza of 10 lines.
decameter Line measure.  10 metric feet in a line.
decorum Adherance to traditional content and structure.
denotation The literal meaning of a word.
dialect A local or provincial form of language, often used in verse to separate or identify a character with a particular time or place.
descriptive verse Verse that describes in detail a particular scene.
dialogue Dramatic poetry, a poem with 2 or more voices communicating. Not necessarily taking opposite sides.
diction Choice of words used to express ideas or emotions.
Didactic A poetic genre, verse meant to instruct of teach. It is also assumed that the reader will learn from the teaching, often moral, theological, political, socialogical or theoretical.
dimeter Line measure.  2 metric feet in a line.
dipodic verse Verse written in lines with 2 heavy stresses and any number of unstressed syllables.
dispondee Metric Pattern.  Two spondees combined into a single foot.
dissonance  A sound element.  Unharmonious syllables,words or phrases deliberately used to create a harsh tone. Whitman's To A Locamotive
distich Greek - 2 related lines, a couplet, complete and closed. A poem in 2 lines.
distributed stress Metric Pattern. (sometimes called hovering accent) In scansion, indecision over which of 2 syllables is stressed.
disyllabic  Line measure. 2 syllables.
ditty A short lyrical verse meant to be sung. Light verse, usually witty.
dodeca Line measure.  Measures of 12- dodecameter =12 metric feet, dodecasyllable =12 syllables in the line.
doggerel Deliberately clumsy, unskilled verse written for comic effect.
double In poetry, double simply means to make 2 of any fixed verse form therefore expanding the content. Double haiku = 6 lines. Double Sonnet = 28 lines etc.
double iamb Metric Pattern.  In a metric line, 2 metric feet of a pyrrhic, followed by a spondee.
double rhyme  A sound element.  When both syllables of a 2 syllable word rhyme with both syllables of another 2 syllable word. e.g. dapper / rapper
Drab Poetry Unadorned verse. It has its origins in the Tudor period, Henry VIII. Poems were referred to as "drab poetry" when they used straight forward language, simple images, no metaphors or other figuarative speech.
dramatic monologue When a poem is narrated by an imaginary character as if he/she is making a speech from a play. 19th century poets such as Hardy, Browning, Tennyson and Eliot used this technique. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Dramatic Verse Verse to be performed in character. This is one of the 3 categories of poetry, along with Lyrical and Narrative Verse.
Dub Poetry Performance poetry spoken over reggae rhythms, from 1970s Jamaica. It is prepared rather than extemporaneous and primarily concerned with political or social reform themes. Dub Poetry
dunadh Beginning and ending the poem with the same syllable, word or line bringing the poem full circle. (A defining feature of ancient Celtic poetry.)
duple meter Line measure.  Same as monometer. A metric line with 1 metric foot.

Glossary of Poetic Terms 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-ZGenres, 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

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

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