In this post we will look at the terms you will need to be comfortable with when discussing poetry. The prescribed poetry for CSEC 2015 is listed here.

Elements of Poetry


The standard rhyme consists of the repetition, in the rhyming words, of the last stressed vowel and of all the speech sounds following that vowel.

End rhymes are by far the most frequent type and occur at the end of a verse-line.

Internal rhymes occur within a verse-line. For example,

Sister, my sister, O fleet sweet swallow


A recognisable, though varying pattern in the beat of the stresses or accents in the stream of speech-sounds.


This is the recurrence, in regular units, of a prominent feature in the sequence of speech-sounds of a language. There are four main types of metre in European languages:

  • in classical Greek or Latin the metre was quantitative;
  • in French and other Romance languages the metre is syllabic;
  • in the older Germanic languages including Old English the metre is accentual;
  • the last type combines the features combines the features of the last two types: accentual-syllabic.


This term dictates when a line of poetry stops and a new line begins.


The types of words, phrases and sentence structures, and also sometimes of figurative language, that constitute any work of literature.


This can be defined as the expression of a literary speaker’s “attitude to his listener”. Tone can be conveyed through the choice of words or the viewpoint of a writer on a particular subject.


The emotional tone pervading a section or the whole of a literary work, which fosters in the reader expectations as to the course of events, whether happy or (more commonly) terrifying or disastrous. Alternative terms for mood are atmosphere and ambiance.

Literary Devices


This is a comparison using the word ‘like’ or ‘as’ to connect two distinctly different things.


A comparison between one thing or a person to another. The comparison in a metaphor is more immediate than it is in a simile. The items being compares must have some characteristics in common.


The repetition of a speech sound in a sequence of nearby words. The term is usually applied only to consonants, and only when the current sound begins a word or a stressed syllable within a word.


A word or combination of words whose sound seems to resemble closely the sound it denotes. For example: hiss, buzz, rattle, bang.


Imagery makes poetry concrete as opposed to abstract. It is the use of figurative langue to represent objects, actions and ideas in such a way that it appeals to our physical senses.


The use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense.


A bold overstatement or the extravagant exaggeration of a fact or possibility. It may be used for either serious, ironic or comic effect.


An inoffensive expression used in place of a blunt one that is felt to be disagreeable or embarrassing.  Euphemisms are used frequently with reference to such subjects as religion, death, bodily functions and sex.


A play on words that are either identical in sound, or very similar in sound, but are sharply diverse in meaning.


A literary technique in which two or more ideas, places, characters and their actions are placed side by side in a narrative or a poem for the purpose of developing comparisons and contrasts.


In its most basic form, irony represents that figure of speech in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning of the words. It may also be a situation that may end up in quite a different way than what is generally anticipated.

Irony can be: verbal, structural, romantic, dramatic, cosmic, stable and unstable, tragic, and Socratic.

Point of View


The speaker is the voice or the persona of the poem. Never assume that the poet is the speaker. The character adopted by the poet.


The author of the poem.

Forms of Poetry


Narrative pieces of folk songs, which originate and are communicated orally, among illiterate or only partly literate people.

A shorter more modern definition states that it is a song, transmitted orally which tells a story.


A lyric poem consisting of a single stanza of fourteen iambic pentameter lines linked by an intricate rhyme scheme. There are two major patterns of rhyme in sonnets in the English Language: the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet or the Shakespearean sonnet.


A fairly short poem consisting of the utterance by a single speaker, who expresses a state of mind or a process of perception, thought and feeling.


Originally accompanied by music and dance, and later reserved by the Romantic poets to convey their strongest sentiments, the ode can be generalised as a formal address to an event, a person, or a thing not present.

Dramatic Monologue

Dramatic monologue in poetry, also known as a persona poem, shares many characteristics with a theatrical monologue: an audience is implied; there is no dialogue; and the poet speaks through an assumed voice—a character, a fictional identity, or a persona.

Free Verse

Sometimes referred to as an “open form” verse. It is printed in short lines instead of prose but its rhythmic pattern is not organised into regular metrical form.

Blank Verse

Unrhymed lines of iambic pentameter. It is the closest to the natural rhythms of English speech and flexible and adaptive to diverse levels of discourse, as a result it is more frequently used than any other type of versification.

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