Glossary of Poetic Terms
No.1 on Google UK
||A metrical foot (of Greek origin) containing one long
syllable and three short syllables. The position of the long syllable
can be varied hence the so-called first, second, third or fourth paeon.
||Word, phrase or line of verse which reads the same
forwards or backwards e.g. 'Able was I ere I saw Elba.'
||Poem which retracts a statement made in a previous poem.
||Poem which praises or eulogizes something or someone.
||Verse form of Malayan origin featuring interlinked
quatrains rhyming a-b-a-b. The structure of the pantoum is similar to
that of the villanelle. It was used by French poets including Charles Baudelaire
and introduced into English by Henry Austin Dobson.
||Seemingly absurd statement which, on closer examination,
reveals an important truth e.g. Wordsworth's ' The child is father of
||Phrases or sentences placed side by side which exhibit
repetition of structure or meaning. Parallelism is particularly a
feature of religious verse (especially Hebrew) or of incantations. A
more modern example is the beginning of T.S. Eliot's Ash-Wednesday
'Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn'
||Term coined by Edmund Blunden to describe a form of 'near
rhyme' where the consonants in two different words are exactly the same but the
vowels vary. Pararhyme is particularly a feature of the poetry of
Wilfred Owen. For example, in Owen's
unfinished poem Strange Meeting we find lines ending with words
such as 'groaned' and 'groined' and 'hall' and 'Hell'.
Pararhyme is more commonly known as double
||The use of clauses (one after the other) but without
conjunctions e.g. Caesar's 'I came, I saw, I conquered'.
||Term coined by G.M.Hopkins to
describe competent but uninspired poetry.
||Group of 19th century French poets (including Leconte de
Lisle) who reacted against the excesses of
romanticism - favouring instead restraint and objectivity. See also
poets who, in turn, reacted against the objectivity of the
||Imitation of a poem or another poet's
style for comic/satiric effect. In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Lewis
Carroll's poem Old Father William is a parody of The Old Man's
Comforts by Robert Southey.
See also my poem
Cock-Eyed Beauty which is
a parody of Pied Beauty by G.M. Hopkins.
||Literary work composed of material taken from various
sources or written in the style of other poets/authors.
||A poem about idyllic rural life - often featuring the
life of shepherds. Early examples of the form include the
Theocritus and the eclogues of Virgil. Milton's poem Lycidas
is also an example of a pastoral poem.
Pastorals tended to die out with the rise of
||Term coined by Ruskin to describe a tendency of poets
(particularly Wordsworth) and painters to attribute human feelings to
anthropomorphism and personification.
||Poetry (or other literature) which evokes pity or sadness in the reader e.g.
Send No Money by Philip Larkin. Carried too far, pathos can become
||Written by poets from poor backgrounds e.g.
the work of John Clare and
Robert Bloomfield. Often concerned with
rural issues or nature. Bloomfield's The Farmer's Boy would be a
||A line of poetry comprising of five metrical 'feet'.
Shakespeare's plays were largely written in iambic pentameter. See
and Shakespeare's line.
||Poetry that is performed 'live' in pubs
and clubs - usually from memory. In the UK, performance poetry is often
humorous in nature e.g. John Hegley, John Cooper Clarke, Ivor Cutler and
Atilla the Stockbroker etc. Performance poetry was pioneered in the UK by Adrian
Mitchell and the Liverpool Poets (Roger McGough, Adrian Henri and Brian Patten.)
Black poets such as Benjamin Zephaniah and Linton Kwesi Johnson
have also reached a wide audience through performing their own poetry.
See also Poetry Slam.
||Circumlocution (or roundabout speaking) employed for
poetic effect. See
||Figure of speech whereby inanimate objects or
abstractions are given human characteristics. In his poem Low Water
Ted Hughes uses personification to describe
a river e.g.
'She lolls on her deep couch. And a long thigh
Lifts from the flash of her silks.'
Personification is a form of
metaphor. See also
||Poundian term to describe a poem which relies upon
'throwing a visual
image on the mind'. He went on to say that this is particularly
exemplified by Chinese poetry because the Chinese language is composed
of pictograms. See also logopoeia and
according to Pound, make up the tripartite division of poetry.
||The use of unnecessary or superfluous words. Poets often
fall into this trap when trying to pad out a metrical line e.g. the
clown's song from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.
When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.
||Originally a metrical composition. However, many modern
poets no longer use meter so a more accurate definition might be: a
concentrated or charged piece of writing; often featuring stanzas and
||Term coined by Alfred de Vigny to define epic
or dramatic poems presenting philosophic thoughts.
||The making of poetry. It derives from the
Greek word 'to make' and eventually became the English word
'poetry' via 'poesie' and 'poesy'.
||Archaic word for poetry. Shelley uses it in the first
stanza of his long poem
The Mask of Anarchy.
||A writer of poems.
||An inferior poet. See
||An under appreciated poet. In French, it
literally means the 'cursed poet'.
||A female poet.
||Exhibiting the good qualities of poetry.
||The particular language (words and phrases) employed by
poets. Poetic diction has changed much over the centuries. Traditionally
poetry was associated with a certain 'floweriness', but since the advent
of modernism this
has been replaced by a more sparse lexicon. Modern poets have also
tended to avoid elision
such as ne'er or 'tis and also the use of archaic terminology such as
thee, thy and thou.
||To make poetical.
||The justice meted out by poets (in an ideal world) -
where virtue is rewarded and vice punished.
||The freedom of poets to depart from the
normal rules of written language and/or literal fact in order to create
an effect. This often occurs when poets use inventive
||Essays describing the art and theory of poetry e.g.
Poetics by Aristotle.
||To write or compose poetry.
||Originally the poet appointed by the king or queen of
England to write
occasional verse to
celebrate royal or national events. In return the poet laureate received
a stipend. Ben Jonson was the first unofficial
poet laureate although Edmund Spenser did
receive a pension from Elizabeth I after flattering her in The Faerie
Queene. Jonson was succeeded by Sir William D'Avenant but
John Dryden became the first official poet
laureate in 1668. Traditionally English poets laureate are appointed for life
but Andrew Motion, the current laureate, is the first to be appointed
for ten years. The requirement to write occasional verse is no longer
enforced. See complete list of UK
In the USA, the title of poet laureate was
officially established in 1985 by the Senate. The post is salaried but
is only held, on average, for 1-2 years. However, a number of unofficial
poets laureate held the post prior to this date - starting with Joseph
Auslander in 1937. See complete list of
US Poets Laureate.
||The work of a poet. The exalted, expressive, elevated use
of words. Coleridge defined it as: 'the best
words in the best order.' Poetry is, however, a highly subjective term.
One man's poetry is another man's schmaltz! Compare with
See also Poets on Poetry.
||The journal of the Poetry Society, founded in
||Form of performance poetry
pioneered by Marc Smith in Chicago U.S.A.. Poetry Slam takes the form of
a competitive poetry reading where participants read their own poems
from memory and are marked on their performance by judges. See
Poetry Society, the
||UK society founded in 1909 to promote poetry
and the art of verse speaking. Visit the
Poetry Society website.
||Part of the south transept of Westminster Abbey where
many famous English poets are buried or commemorated - including
Chaucer, Spenser, Dryden, Tennyson, Gay, Drayton and Browning etc.
Technically it is not a corner, nor is it occupied exclusively by poets.
||A poem presenting a controversial discussion
e.g. Milton's Areopagitica (1664).
||The repetition of conjunctions (in close proximity)
e.g. 'and' in The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll by Bob Dylan.
||Factitious word created by blending the sounds and
meanings of two other words e.g. 'slithy' from Lewis Carroll's
Jabberwocky which is a combination of 'lithe' and 'slimy'. See also
||Alternating lines of iambic hexameter and iambic
||In the style of Ezra
Pound i.e. highly eclectic.
||A group of poets and artists including D.G.
Rossetti, Walter Pater and William Morris. Their work is
characterised by the use of medieval settings and subject matter and was
a reaction against the ugliness of Victorian life. They were particularly inspired by
La Belle Dame Sans Merci by
The Lady of Shalott by
Tennyson is pre-raphaelite in style although he wasn't a member of the
||Classical foot consisting of four short or unstressed
syllables. Also known as proceleusmatic.
||The introductory section of a poem or literary work. In
The Canterbury Tales Chaucer employed a general prologue but also
individual prologues e.g. The Franklin's Prologue and The
Reeve's Prologue. See also
||Piece of writing which features the charged language
normally associated with poetry but which does not feature stanzas or
line breaks. An example of a prose poem is Season in Hell by
||The formal study of the structure of verse
including rhyme, meter, rhythm, stanzaic pattern, alliteration,
consonance, assonance, language use etc.
||From the Greek meaning to 'make' a 'person' - hence the
personification of inanimate objects or abstractions. See also
but written prior to the wedding in question. In 1596
celebrate the double marriage of Lady Elizabeth and Lady Katherine -
daughters of the Earl of Worcester.
||Pen-name or nom de plume adopted by a
||Reviews which overpraise or laud unworthy
work; usually produced by literary cliques. Probably originated from the
character Mr Puff in Sheridan's play The Critic. See
||Playful device where similar sounding words with
different meanings, or single words with multiple meanings are employed.
Shakespeare frequently used puns for both comic and serious effect e.g.
in Romeo and Juliet the dying Mercutio says: "Ask for me
tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man."
William Empson identified puns as a form of
||Poetry that does not try to educate, instruct or convert
the reader - as opposed to
didactic verse. An example of pure poetry
would be Ariel's
Songs by William Shakespeare.
||17th Century US colonial poets - such as
Edward Taylor, Anne Bradstreet and Michael Wigglesworth - who wrote
||Pejorative term for an excessively ornate or
florid passage of writing.
||Group of 1930s
left-wing poets including W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Cecil
and Louis MacNeice. They were known for their use of industrial imagery - which included references to trains,
skyscrapers, factories, roads etc. The actual term 'pylon' was derived from
Spender's 1933 poem The Pylons.
See also MacSpaunday
A metrical foot comprising two unstressed syllables.