Poetry Explained

Poetry Jargon Buster

Yes I know sometimes reading a poetry analysis can be tricky. Especially if you are not au fait with the language of poetry (You may not even be au fait with the term au fait – don’t worry it just means having a good understanding of something) So in order that you might enjoy our articles to the fullest here are some terms and what they mean. This is a working document so if you want some terms added why not drop us a message and let us know?


Allegory: This is where the writer uses a theme throughout the poem when the poem is about something else. A famous example of this is Goblin Market. The Goblin men in that poem are probably meant to represent the temptation to give into sin.

Alliteration: The repetition of consonant sounds in a poem. This can give the poem a nice melodic flow.

Assonance: The repetition of vowel sounds in a poem.

Ballad: This is a poem that tells a story. The structure consists of four line stanzas. These are often put to music.

Climax: The climax is the pinnacle of the dramatic action in a poem, so when it “comes to a head” if you like.

Connotation: This is when a word has meanings beyond its dictionary definition.

Couplet: A pair of rhymed lines in a poem. Sometimes these will be a standalone stanza and at other times they will be included within a stanza.

Elegy: A poem that pays tribute to a dead person.

Enjambment: this is where a sentence “rolls over” onto the next line. For example:

Yesterday they picked
the eyes of a swollen corpse
in a water-logged
trench and ate the things in its bowel.

Epic: This is a long poem and is usually based around a hero. Milton’s Paradise Lost is a famous example of this.

Figurative language: This is the opposite of literal language. Figurative language uses words to mean something other than their original meaning. Hyperbole is an example of this, also the use of metaphor.

Free verse: A poem that doesn’t fit into a traditional form is said to be written in free verse.

Haiku: A strict poetry form that originated in Asia it consists of three lines of 5,7 and 5 syllables.

Hyperbole: A phrase that exaggerates something.

Iambic pentameter: A famous, and well used metre in poetry. Largely associated with Shakespeare it is said to mimic most closely the cadences of the English language. It consists of 5 Iambs, which is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.

Imagery: The use of images to describe something. For instance using metaphors and similes to describe something.

Limerick: A verse of 5 lines in which the first, second, and fifth lines rhyme with each other, while the third and fourth lines form a couplet.

Literal language: This is the opposite of figurative language. This is where the poet means literally what they are saying. It will be devoid of connotations.

Metaphor: A comparison of something to an unrelated object without the use of a word such as “like” or “as”.

Narrator: the voice of the poem. The poem is from the narrator’s perspective. This is not always the view point of the poet, as just with fiction poets can “put on voices”

Octave: A stanza consisting of eight lines.

Ode: A long poetic form that is dedicated to exalting something, usually something precious but not always! Sometimes it is used satirically to praise something obscure.

Onomatopoeia: Words that sound like sounds. For instance the word “bang”

Parody: A form of satire where a famous work is changed for comic effect.

Personification: Giving human like qualities to an object or animal.

Quatrain: A stanza consisting of four lines.

Rhyme: The matching of sounds in words, this is usually (but not always) the end of the word. Of course the rhyming sound can be taken from other parts of the word, this is known as a half rhyme.

Rhythm: The pattern of stresses in a poem.

Rhyme scheme: Obviously you know what a rhyme is, but we may well describe the rhyming pattern for poems that employ one, this is done using capital letters in order to represent each line of the poem. Take this quatrain for instance:

But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes, (A)
Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel, (B)
Making a famine where abundance lies, (A)
Thy self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel: (B)

As you can see there are end rhymes on the first and third line and on the second and fourth lines. Therefore the rhyme scheme for this would be ABAB.

Sestet: A stanza consisting of six lines.

Sestina: A traditional and highly structured poetic form consisting of 39 lines separated into 6 stanzas.

Sonnet: A famous poetic form often used by Shakespeare. It consists of fourteen lines spread over two to four stanzas (dependent on the type)

Stanza: this is what verses in poetry are called.

Tercet: A three line stanza.

Theme: The idea behind a poem. For instance war poetry would be a theme. A poem with this theme may well contain harrowing images and descriptions.

Tone: The feeling of the poem. For instance a poet may try to make their poem dark and morose, or happy and uplifting.

Villanelle: A highly structured poetic form that consists of 19 lines.

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William Green Poetry Expert
Will created Poem Analysis back in 2015 and has a team of the best poetry experts helping him analyze poems from the past and present. Although he has a background in Automotive Engineering, having worked for McLaren testing supercars, Will has a keen eye for poetry and literature.
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