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Poetry Terms

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January 2010
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If you want to read poetry and appreciate it, you need to understand the different poetic devices that poets use to write or compose their poems. If you want to analyze a poem, you need to understand the language that people use to discuss poetry. If you want to write about a poem, you need to be able to use the language of a poetry. If you want to compose your own poetry, you need to understand the figures of speech and other poetic devices that poets use to compose their poetry.

Here is a list of poetry terms that you should know:

Basic Terms

  • Denotation. The dictionary meaning of a word.
  • Connotation. The implied or suggested meaning of a word.
  • Literal meaning.  The simplest, most obvious meaning.
  • Figurative meaning. The associative or connotative meaning.
  • Meter. The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry.
  • Rhyme. Can be end rhyme in which two words at the end of lines rhyme. Or it can be internal rhyme in which two words close together have same sound. 

Figurative Language

  • Apostrophe. Direct address of an inanimate object, abstract qualities, or a person not living or present. Example: “Beware O Asparagus, you’ve stalked my last meal.”
  • Hyperbole. Exaggeration for emphasis. Example: “I am so hungry, I could eat a horse.
  • Metaphor. A comparison between unlike things, without using the words “like” or “as.” Example: He is a bull running up the football field.
  • Metonymy. A closely related term is substituted for an object or idea. Example: He remained loyal to the crown.
  • Oxymoron. A combination of two words that contradict each other. Example: Bittersweet.
  • Paradox. A situation or phrase that appears to be contradictory but which contains a truth. Example:  “In order to preserve peace, we must prepare for war.”
  • Simile. A comparison between unlike things using like or as. Example: Here lips are as red as a rose.
  • Synecdoche. A part substituted for a whole. Example: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”


Poetry Devices

  •  Irony. A contradiction between what is said and what is meant (verbal irony), or a contradiction between what actually occurs and what is expected (situational irony)
  • Imagery.  A word picture; a word or sequence of words representing sensory experience (visual, sound, smell, touch)
  • Symbol. An object or action that represents something other than its literal meaning. Example: White represents innocence, purity, hope.
  • Alliteration. The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. Example: The sunlight streamed down on the sand.”
  • Assonance. The repetition of similar vowel sounds. Example: “I rose and told him of my woe.”
  • Onomatopoeia. The use of words to imitate the sounds they describe. Example: Buzz, crack, whir.
  • Allusion. A reference to a person, historical event, or artistic work outside the poem.


Poetic Form

  • Open. A poetic form free from specific line length, rhyme, and metrical form.
  • Closed. A poetic form subject to fixed structure and pattern
  •  Stanza. A unit of a poem, often repeated in the same form throughout the poem.
  • Blank verse. A poem of unrhymed iambic pentameter.
  • Free verse. A poem with no specific line length, rhyme structure, or metrical verse.
  • Metrical verse. A poem with a particular rhyme scheme, line structure, and metrical verse.
  • Couplet. A pair of lines in a verse that rhyme.
  • Quantrin. A group of four lines of a verse.
  • Sonnet. A 14 line poem in iambic pentameter.



1 Comment

  1. poettraveler says:

    Well done indeed!
    An excellent summary of the essentials.
    I support your objectives.

    In many years of writing I have always tried to encourage others in their aspirations and objectives in the field of writing and with particular (but not exclusive) regard to poetry.

    I’m pleased I found your blog. I hope you will visit mine.

    Best wishes,
    – poettraveler –
    Writer & Poet

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