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Elements of Poetry

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January 2010
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Part II

This post is a continuation of a previous post.

A knowledge of the “elements of poetry” will enable you to analyze poetry and write your own poetry.

In this post, I discuss the following elements of poetry:

  • Imagery
  • Rhyme and rhyme scheme
  • Diction
  • Figures of speech, such as simile and metaphor


Imagery refers to the words in the poem that enable readers to see with their imagination. You can create a “word picture” or image by using words and phrases that appeal to the senses, such as sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Examples of imagery include the following: bare black branches, wind-swept barren  field, sun-soaked beach, green leaves, and rusty car.

  • Olfactory imagery. Use to stimulate the sense of smell.
  • Tactile imagery. Use to stimulate the sense of touch.
  • Visual imagery. Use to stimulate the sense of sight.
  • Auditory imagery. Use to stimulate the sense of hearing.
  • Gustatory imagery. Use to stimulate the sense of taste.
 Use imagery to communicate deep meaning, and to evoke an emotional response.


By T.S. Eliot

The winter evening settles down
with smell of steaks in passageways.
Six o’clock.

The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves about your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.

The morning comes to consciousness
Of faint stale smells of beer
From the sawdust-trampled street
With all its muddy feet that press
To early coffee-stands.
With the other masquerades
That time resumes,
One thinks of all the hands
That are raising dingy shades
In a thousand furnished rooms.

Rhyme and Rhyme Scheme

Rhyme refers to the repetition of sound of two or more words on a line of poetry. There are many types of rhymes, but the most popular are end-rhyme, internal rhyme, eye-rhyme and slant rhyme.

End-Rhyme. The end rhyme occurs at the end of lines of poetry. It is the most common type of rhyme. This type of rhyme is popular in traditional and modern poetry. Perfect rhyme is an example of end-rhyme—in that the ends of words sound the same and are spelled the same. (True/blue, mountain/fountain)

Internal Rhyme. The rhyme occurs within the line or lines of the poem. Example: “The Splendour falls on castle walls/And snowy summits old in story/and the snow summits old in story: /The long light shakes across the lakes/And the wild cataract leaps in glory by Alfred Lord Tennyson in “Blow, Bungle, Blow.”

Eye-Rhyme. The eye-rhyme is based on similarity of spelling rather than the sound of words. (Love/move/prove)

Half-rhyme or slant rhyme. This type of rhyme is imperfect or approximate. It is a rhyme in which either the vowels or the consonants of the stressed syllables are identical as in eyes, light, years, yours.
Rhyme Scheme. A poem’s rhyme scheme refers to the way in which rhymes are arranged in the poem.  Most often, letters are used to indicate which lines rhyme. For instance, if the first and second lines of a poem rhyme and the third and fourth lines rhyme, then the rhyme scheme would be aa, bb. It is important to note that different types of poetry have their own unique rhyme scheme. For instance, a Shakespearean sonnet has the following rhyme scheme: abab, cdcd, efef, gg.


The diction of a poem refers to the choice of words you select to compose a poem. Each word can have more than one meaning. So, when choosing a word, take the following into account:
  • Denotation. The dictionary definition of the word.
  • Connotation. The implied meaning of the poem. 

Figures of Speech

You can use several  figures of speech to expand the meaning of your poem. The most common types of figures of speech are:
  • Metaphor. A figure of speech in which you make an indirect comparison between two different things without using the words “like” or “as.” You take two unlike things and claim they are the same, as in “a” is “b.” Example: “She is a black window spider.
  • Simile. A figure of speech in which you make a direct comparison between two different things by using “like” or “as.” Example: He dressed like a derelict.
  • Personification. A figure of speech in which the animals, ideas, or inanimate objects are given human attributes, characteristics, or traits. Example: “The sky cried, the sun smiled, and the wind screamed…”
  • Metonymy. A figure of speech in which a word replaces another word that is closely associated with it.  Examples: pint for beer, skirt for women, press for journalism
  • Synecdoche. A figure of speech in which you substitute a part of something for its whole.  Examples: The White House for Federal government, cloth for member of the clergy, castle for home.

Next, I will identify a few resources that you can use to learn to read and write poetry.


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