Poetry: An Essential Review
A brief, essential review of lyric poetry,
which are short poems packing an idea
and an emotional response to that
Poetry: An Essential Review
Lyric poems can be thought of as snapshots
of a moment in time that have some
meaning, some significance to the poet.
Instead of using a camera, however, the poet
uses words to express the idea and emotion
of the moment.
The poet uses words to make pictures, just as
you might use a camera to take a picture of a
beautiful sunset or to capture forever a
special moment with friends or family.
Poetry: An Essential Review
In the same way as a special photograph, at
the heart of each lyric poem is an idea and an
emotional response to that idea. This is the
soul or core of any lyric poem, the poet
expressing feelings and thoughts about
his/her life experiences in the world around
A poet chooses to reveal this idea and
emotional response using the tools available
to him/her as a writer.
Poetry: An Essential Review
A writer chooses the tools that best work, in the same way a
carpenter uses hammer, nails, a level and saw to build a house,
or a cook uses flour, eggs, flavour and milk to make a cake.
The more skilled the builder or cook, the more interesting and
enjoyable will be the house or cake. In the same way, the skill
of the poet using the tools at his/her disposal will produce the
more interesting and captivating poem.
But what are these tools?
Poetry: An Essential Review
The first tool available to the poet is
words. This ingredient is as essential as
wood to the builder or flour to the cakemaker.
The term we use to discuss the use of
words by a poet is the word diction.
Poetry: An Essential Review
Diction is simply the word choices the poet
makes. But finding the exact word to use to
be the most effective at his/her goal, which is
to communicate those two things –
- what are they again?
- is part of a pain-staking and timely process.
Poetry: An Essential Review
When discussing word choice, we
must differentiate between the
denotation of a word and the
connotation of that word.
Poetry: An Essential Review
Denotation is the objective dictionary
meaning of a word.
Connotation is the subjective, emotional
meaning of a word.
Poetry: An Essential Review
An example that might help to understand
this concept is the word “vomit.” If we look it
up on Dictionary.com, we find the word
“to eject the contents of the stomach through
the mouth; regurgitate; throw up” or “to eject
from the stomach through the mouth.”
This is the word’s denotation.
Poetry: An Essential Review
But the word’s connotation for most of us would
definitely be a negative one.
For example, if a poet says of the words of a lover to a
loved one, “She vomited words of love into his ear”,
the meaning is substantially different than if he or
she used verbs like “cooed”, “whispered” or
But remember, and this is important: the choice of a
word is entirely dependent on the intention of the
writer and what he/she wants to communicate.
Poetry: An Essential Review
The second tool a poet has at his/her disposal
is imagery.
There are three categories of imagery:
A. Sensuous Imagery
B. Figurative Imagery and
C. Symbolic Imagery
Let’s take a look at these categories.
Poetry: An Essential Review
A. Sensuous Imagery
Simply put, sensuous imagery is the choice of words by
a poet in which our senses are “stimulated.”
The poet wants us to hear and feel and see the things
he/she is experiencing to bring us more immediately
to the scene or emotions being described. The poet
wants us to experience the poem just as we
experience the world around us in every day
life…through our senses.
Poetry: An Essential Review
There are 6 types of sensuous imagery that we will examine. They
Visual: Words that appeal to our sense of vision.
Auditory: Words that appeal to our sense of hearing.
Tactile: Words that appeal to our sense of touch.
Gustatory: Words that appeal to our sense of taste.
Olfactory: Words that appeal to our sense of smell.
Motor: Words that appeal to our sense of motion.
Let’s look at real examples of these to help us understand.
Poetry: An Essential Review
“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
What words in this short poem appeal to our sense of sight?
Poetry: An Essential Review
“This Is Just to Say”: William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
Are there words in this short poem that appeal to your sense of taste? Or touch?
In the following poem by Archibald Lampman, what words appeal to our sense of touch? Of
sight? Of hearing? Of motion?
Poetry: An Essential Review
“Winter Uplands”: Archibald Lampman
The frost that stings like fire upon my cheek,
The loneliness of this forsaken ground,
The long white drift upon whose powdered peak
I sit in the great silence as one bound;
The rippled sheet of snow where the wind blew
Across the open fields for miles ahead;
The far-off city towered and roofed in blue
A tender line upon the western red;
The stars that singly, then in flocks appear,
Like jets of silver from the violet dome,
So wonderful, so many and so near,
And then the golden moon to light me home—
The crunching snowshoes and the stinging air,
And silence, frost and beauty everywhere.
Poetry: An Essential Review
B. Figurative Imagery.
Figurative imagery are figures of speech that help us to see things or
understand things in a fresh new way. There are six to which we’ll give
our attention here.
Simile: Comparisons using “like” or “as”
Metaphor: Direct comparisons
Personification: Giving life-like qualities to an inanimate object
Apostrophe: Addressing the dead or absent as if alive or present
Hyperbole: Gross exaggeration not meant to deceive
Metonymy: Using a part to represent the whole
Let’s take a closer look at each.
Poetry: An Essential Review
1. Simile: A simile compares two unlike objects, finding the quality
they share, using “like” or “as”. Again, the poet wants these
comparisons to be fresh and new to engage us in our
experience with the poem.
Let’s check out some examples.
In the following piece by Christina Rossetti, can you find a
number of similes? What two things are being compared?
Name some visual imagery from the second stanza.
It may help you to know that “halcyon” means calm and peaceful;
“dais” is a raised platform where people are placed to give them
respect and honour; and “vair” are furs.
Poetry: An Essential Review
“A BIRTHDAY”: Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
MY heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
Because my love is come to me.
Raise me a daïs of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.
Poetry: An Essential Review
2. A metaphor is a comparison of two unlike
objects with a quality in common, just as in a
simile, but a metaphor is a direct comparison.
Let’s checkout a poem that contains examples
of metaphors.
Ask yourself: What is the metaphor in the
following poem? What are the common
attributes to the two things compared?
Poetry: An Essential Review
“I Am a Rock”: Paul Simon
A winter’s day
In a deep and dark DecemberI am alone
Gazing from my window
To the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock;
I am an island.
I build walls.
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship;
Friendship causes pain.
Its laughter and its loving I disdain.
I am a rock;
I am an island.
Poetry: An Essential Review
Don't talk of love.
Well, I've heard the word before;
It’s sleeping in my memory.
I wont disturb the slumber
Of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me.
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room
Safe within my tomb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock;
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain,
And an island never cries.
Poetry: An Essential Review
3. Personification is the giving of life-like
qualities to a non-living or inanimate
What is personified in the following
poem? Why do you suppose the poet
chose to use personification in this way?
Poetry: An Essential Review
“The Sound of the Stream”: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The sea awoke at midnight from its sleep,
And round the pebbly beaches far and wide
I heard the first wave of the rising tide
Rush onward with uninterrupted sweep;
A voice out of the silence of the deep,
A sound mysteriously multiplied
As of a cataract from the mountain's side,
Or roar of winds upon a wooded steep.
So comes to us at times, from the unknown
And inaccessible solitudes of being,
The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul;
And inspirations, that we deem our own,
Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing
Of things beyond our reason or control.
Poetry: An Essential Review
4. Another figure of speech is apostrophe. This
is when the poet addresses the absent as if
present or the inanimate as if alive.
The most famous example would be the poem
“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, in which the
speaker is speaking to the absent star as if it
were alive and present….a double whammy
apostrophe! Here’s another…
Poetry: An Essential Review
“Dandelion”: Hilda Conkling
O little soldier with the golden helmet,
What are you guarding on my lawn?
You with your green gun
And your yellow beard,
Why do you stand so stiff?
There is only the grass to fight!
Poetry: An Essential Review
5. The next figure of speech is hyperbole.
Hyperbole is a gross exaggeration that
is not intended to deceive, but used for
Example: “I’ve told you a million times
not to shoot fireworks in the house!”
Poetry: An Essential Review
6. Metonymy is a figure of speech in which part of
something represents the whole.
“All hands on deck!”
“Friends, Romans, countrymen: lend me your ears!”
“May I approach the bench, your honour?” (in this
case, it’s the judge the lawyer wants to approach, not
the bench itself; the bench represents the judge)
Poetry: An Essential Review
C. Symbolic Imagery.
A symbol is the use of a concrete object to
represent an abstract idea.
Symbolic imagery, then, is the extended use
of a symbol in a poem to communicate
In the following poem, what symbols are used?
What abstract ideas do they represent?
Poetry: An Essential Review
“Up-Hill”: Christina Rossetti
Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting-place?
A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
You cannot miss that inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when 'ust in sight?
They will not keep you standing at that door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labor you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.
Poetry: An Essential Review
Another set of tools available to the poet, the third in
our review, are sound devices. These help bring out
the musical qualities of lyric poems. The six we will
examine are:
a. Alliteration: The repetition of initial sounds
b. Assonance: The repetition of vowel sounds
c. Consonance: The repetition of consonant sounds
d. Euphony: An overall pleasant and calming sound
e. Cacophony: An overall harsh, unpleasant sound
f. Onomatopoeia: Words that imitate sounds
Poetry: An Essential Review
Alliteration is the repetition of initial
consonant or vowel sounds in a line of
The well-known children’s poem, “Peter
Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled
Peppers” illustrates this well. Let’s look
at another example.
Poetry: An Essential Review
“High Flight” by John Gillespie MaGee
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
Look for the alliteration used in lines 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11 & 13.
Poetry: An Essential Review
B. Consonance is the repetition of
consonant sounds in a line of poetry.
Do you remember what consonants are?
Let’s re-visit “High Flight”, and find
examples of consonance.
Poetry: An Essential Review
C. Assonance is the repetition of vowel
sounds in a line of poetry.
Do you remember what vowels are?
Look for assonance in the following
Poetry: An Essential Review
By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94)
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie,
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
Poetry: An Essential Review
D. Euphony is the use of long vowels and softsounding consonants that result in a poem
having an overall sound of quiet, calm and
What sounds in the following poem help create
a sense of quiet and calm? Let us read the
poem, and then make a list of sounds used
that create euphony.
Poetry: An Essential Review
Velvet Shoes: ELINOR WYLIE
Let us walk in the white snow
In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
At a tranquil pace,
Under veils of white lace.
I shall go shod in silk,
And you in wool,
White as a white cow's milk,
More beautiful
Than the breast of a gull.
We shall walk through the still town
In a windless peace;
We shall step upon white down,
Upon silver fleece,
Upon softer than these.
We shall walk in velvet shoes:
Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below.
We shall walk in the snow.
Poetry: An Essential Review
E. Cacophony is the use of hard consonants and short
vowel sounds that give a poem an unpleasant, harsh
Look at the following excellent example. How does the
harshness of the sound of this poem help
communicate the idea within it? After reading it,
make a list of the harsh sounds used.
By the way, the expression “Dulce et Decorum Est Pro
Patria Mori” means “It is good and honorable to die
for one’s country.”
Poetry: An Essential Review
Dulce Et Decorum Est : Wilfred Owen
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.-Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
Poetry: An Essential Review
“Dulce Et Decorum Est” (continued)
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,-My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Poetry: An Essential Review
F. Onomatopoeia is the use of words that
imitate the sound they represent.
A partial list of words would include
“oink”, “bark”, “ring”, “meow”, “clang”,
“bang” and hundreds more. Make a list
of at least 5 more.
Poetry: An Essential Review
The fourth group of tools the poet uses to
create his/her work are formal devices.
Formal devices are the use of form in a poem,
or the physical structure of the poem.
Let’s focus on two: formal structure and
Poetry: An Essential Review
A poet has the option of a variety of styles for building a poem. Here is a
partial list:
Stanza: the “paragraphs” in which any poem is divided
Ballad: a sung story, divided into 4-line stanzas
Sonnet: both types are 14 lines of iambic pentameter, but each is
organized differently from the other
Elizabethan or English Sonnet
Petrarchan or Italian Sonnet
Couplets: two rhymed lines of iambic pentameter
Blank Verse: 5 feet or “groups” of iambic pentameter
Free Verse: a non-regular rhythmic and organic form
Concrete: takes a shape that reflects its content
Haiku: a three-lined, short poem of Japanese origin
Limerick: 5 lines of usually humorous poetry
Poetry: An Essential Review
Stanzas are the building blocks of poems. It is the name
we give the “paragraphs” found in a poem.
We’ll see many examples and uses of stanzas as we
read poetry.
How many stanzas are in the following poem?
And to review, how is personification used in this poem?
And in what form is the poem written? Be specific!
Poetry: An Essential Review
“Check” by James Stephens
The Night was creeping on the ground!
She crept, and did not make a sound
Until she reached the tree, And then
She covered it, and stole again
Along the grass beside the wall.
I heard the rustle of her shawl
As she threw blackness everywhere
Along the sky, the ground, the air,
And in the room where I was hid!
But, no matter what she did
To everything that was without,
She could not put my candle out!
So I stared at the Night! And she
Stared back solemnly at me!
Poetry: An Essential Review
Ballads are made up of quatrains (four-line stanzas),
the typical form being that the first and third lines are
of four feet, and the second and fourth lines of three
Ballads are probably the oldest poetic form in English. It
is a form meant to be sung, and many popular songs
are still written is this form.
Some relatively recent, famous examples are “The Ode
to Billy-Joe”, by Bobbie Gentry or “The Wreck of the
Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot.
Poetry: An Essential Review
O MY LUVE'S LIKE A RED, RED ROSE by: Robert Burns (1759-1796)
O MY Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June.
O, my Luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.
Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun!
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only luve,
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!
Poetry: An Essential Review
“Ode To Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry
It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin' cotton and my brother was balin' hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And Mama hollered out the back door "y'all remember to wipe your feet"
And then she said "I got some news this mornin' from Choctaw Ridge"
"Today Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge"
And Papa said to Mama as he passed around the black-eyed peas
"Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense, pass the biscuits, please"
"There's five more acres in the lower forty I've got to plow"
And Mama said it was shame about Billy Joe, anyhow
Seems like nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billy Joe MacAllister's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge
Poetry: An Essential Review
And Brother said he recollected when he and Tom and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn't I talkin' to him after church last Sunday night?
"I'll have another piece of apple pie, you know it don't seem right"
"I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge"
"And now you tell me Billie Joe's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge"
And Mama said to me "Child, what's happened to your appetite?"
"I've been cookin' all morning and you haven't touched a single bite"
"That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today"
"Said he'd be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way"
"He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge"
"And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge"
Poetry: An Essential Review
A year has come 'n' gone since we heard the news 'bout
Billy Joe
And Brother married Becky Thompson, they bought a store
in Tupelo
There was a virus going 'round, Papa caught it and he died
last Spring
And now Mama doesn't seem to wanna do much of anything
And me, I spend a lot of time pickin' flowers up on Choctaw
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie
Poetry: An Essential Review
“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.
With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early
The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconson
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.
Poetry: An Essential Review
Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling.
The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
T'was the witch of November come stealing.
The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane West Wind
Poetry: An Essential Review
When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya
At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it's been good to know ya.
The Captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the words turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.
Poetry: An Essential Review
Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the ruins of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.
And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.
In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.
Poetry: An Essential Review
Sonnets are another popular poetic form. There
are two kinds of sonnets. Both types have 14
lines and are written in iambic pentameter,
but they differ in their internal structure.
The two types of sonnets are
A. Elizabethan or English or Shakespearean
B. Petrarchan or Italian
Poetry: An Essential Review
The Shakespearean sonnet has 14 lines, and
has a rhyme scheme of abab, cdcd, efef &
The rhyme scheme helps its organization; using
it, the poet expresses a thought or problem in
three different ways in the first three groups
of four lines, and then summarizes in a witty
or thoughtful way in the last two lines.
Poetry: An Essential Review
Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day? by William Shakespeare
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Does the rhyme scheme follow the pattern described earlier in these notes?
Poetry: An Essential Review
The Italian sonnet has 14 lines, and has a rhyme scheme of abba
abba & cdecde.
The rhyme scheme helps its organization; using it, the poet
expresses a thought or problem in the first eight lines (octet) of
the poem, and then summarizes or comments on the thought or
problem in the last six lines (sestet).
Note the rhyme scheme in the following poem, which is written in
the form of an apostrophe. The octet expresses the problem,
that England is in moral decay; the sestet express the qualities
of John Milton that would help England. A classic Italian sonnet.
Poetry: An Essential Review
"London, 1802" by William Wordsworth
Milton! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart;
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life's common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.
Poetry: An Essential Review
The simplest stanza form is the couplet, two lines which form a rhymed pair.
Here are some examples.
True wit is nature to advantage dressed,
What oft was thought, but ne'er so well expressed.
-- Eve King
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
is idle, biologically speaking.
-- Edna St. Vincent Millay
Deck the halls with boughs of holly
And have some egg nog; it'll make you jolly.
-- Unknown
When shall we three meet again,
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
-- from Macbeth by William Shakespeare
O, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive!
--Sir Walter Scott
Poetry: An Essential Review
Blank verse is written in iambic
pentameter, and is often used in English
poetry because it most resembles the
rhythm of the English language.
All of Shakespeare’s plays were primarily
written in blank verse.
Poetry: An Essential Review
Free verse is an organic form of poetry. It
uses irregular rhythm, and rhyme is
also used irregularly, both used
depending on the needs of the poet.
Check out this example by the poet e e
Poetry: An Essential Review
Your Little Voice by e.e. cummings
your little voice
Over the wires came leaping
and i felt suddenly
With the jostling and shouting of merry flowers
wee skipping high-heeled flames
courtesied before my eyes
or twinkling over to my side
Looked up
with impertinently exquisite faces
floating hands were laid upon me
I was whirled and tossed into delicious dancing
with the pale important
stars and the Humorous
dear girl
How i was crazy how i cried when i heard
and tide and death
your voice
over time
Poetry: An Essential Review
Concrete poems resemble an object,
usually one related to the poem.
“A Christmas Tree” by William Burford
If you are
A love compassionate,
You will walk with us this year.
We face a glacial distance, who are here
At your feet.
Poetry: An Essential Review
Another form used by poets is the haiku.
Haikus are three-lined poems, the first line of
which contains five syllables, the second line
seven syllables, and the third line five
syllables. The first two lines usually introduce
an image, and the third line makes an
unusual but charged connection.
Poetry: An Essential Review
A broken pencil
tip and a rusty breadknife;
no matter: begin.
-- Unknown
Faceless, just numbered.
Lone pixel in the bitmapI, anonymous.
-- Chris Spruck
Poetry: An Essential Review
The last form we’ll look at is the limerick.
Limericks consist of five anapestic lines.
Lines 1, 2, and 5 of limericks have seven to ten
syllables and rhyme with one another.
Lines 3 and 4 of limericks have five to seven syllables
and also rhyme with each other.
These poems are often humorous, and sometimes
bawdy or “dirty.”
Poetry: An Essential Review
Here are three limericks by Edward Lear from A Book of Nonsense:
There was an Old Person whose habits,
Induced him to feed upon rabbits;
When he'd eaten eighteen,
He turned perfectly green,
Upon which he relinquished those habits.
There was an Old Person of Buda,
Whose conduct grew ruder and ruder;
Till at last, with a hammer,
They silenced his clamour,
By smashing that Person of Buda.
There was an Old Lady of Chertsey,
Who made a remarkable curtsey;
She twirled round and round,
Till she sunk underground,
Which distressed all the people of Chertsey.
Poetry: An Essential Review
The second aspect we’ll look at for formal structure is
There are several ways a poet can create rhythm in a
poem (remember, lyric poems are musical beasts,
and rhythm is a part of music). We’ll look at three:
1. punctuation,
2. run-on lines and
3. meter.
Poetry: An Essential Review
Punctuation is a way to create rhythm by
starting and stopping, slowing down or
speeding up the reading of the poem.
Read the following poem with a sharp eye
to the way the punctuation helps create
Poetry: An Essential Review
Sweet And Low” by Alfred Tennyson
Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
Blow him again to me;
While my little one, while my pretty one sleeps.
Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,
Father will come to thee soon;
Rest, rest, on mother's breast,
Father will come to thee soon;
Father will come to his babe in the nest,
Silver sails all out of the west
Under the silver moon:
Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.
Poetry: An Essential Review
The use of run-on lines is another tool at the
disposal of the poet. This happens when the
meaning of the words may only be heard by
continuing on from the end of a line of
poetry, rather than stopping at the line’s end.
Read this next poem to see how the use of runon lines affects the reading and therefore the
meaning of the poem.
Poetry: An Essential Review
In a Hospital by Fred Cogswell
in a hospital
a breath of infant birth blends
with a last-gasp death
the child does not know
he is alive nor the man
that his breathing’s done
nor can those watchers
who pronounce the one is dead
and the other born
say with certainty
of what they saw before them
any more than this
“in a hospital
we watched two breaths meet in time
the rest is theory”
Poetry: An Essential Review
A third rhythm device a poet has to use is meter. Meter is the
pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a poem. There
are names for the rhythm patterns a poet can employ.
They are:
1. Iambic: unstressed/stressed (te DUM)
2. Trochaic: stressed/unstressed (DUM te)
3. Spondee: stress/stress (DUM DUM)
4. Dactylic: stressed/unstressed/unstressed (DUM te te)
5. Anapestic: unstressed/unstressed/stressed (te te DUM)
Let’s check out some examples of each, and how each serves the
intention of the poet.
Poetry: An Essential Review
“Roofs” by Joyce Kilmer
The road is wide and the stars are out and the breath of the night is sweet,
And this is the time when wanderlust should seize upon my feet.
But I'm glad to turn from the open road and the starlight on my face,
And to leave the splendour of out-of-doors for a human dwelling place.
I never have seen a vagabond who really liked to roam
All up and down the streets of the world and not to have a home:
The tramp who slept in your barn last night and left at break of day
Will wander only until he finds another place to stay.
A gypsy-man will sleep in his cart with canvas overhead;
Or else he'll go into his tent when it is time for bed.
He'll sit on the grass and take his ease so long as the sun is high,
But when it is dark he wants a roof to keep away the sky.
If you call a gypsy a vagabond, I think you do him wrong,
For he never goes a-travelling but he takes his home along.
And the only reason a road is good, as every wanderer knows,
Is just because of the homes, the homes, the homes to which it goes.
They say that life is a highway and its milestones are the years,
And now and then there's a toll-gate where you buy your way with tears.
It's a rough road and a steep road and it stretches broad and far,
But at last it leads to a golden Town where Golden Houses are.
(iambic & anapastic)
Poetry: An Essential Review
“From a Railway Carriage” by by Robert Louis Stevenson
Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And here is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart runaway in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever! (trochaic & dactyl)
Poetry: An Essential Review
One two,
Buckle my shoe;
Three, four,
Shut the door;
Five, six,
Pick up sticks;
Seven, eight,
Lay them straight;
Nine, ten,
A big fat hen;
Eleven, twelve,
Dig and delve
Thirteen, fourteen,
Maids a-courting
Fifteen, sixteen,
Maids in the kitchen;
Seventeen, eighteen,
Maids in waiting;
Nineteen, twenty,
My stomache’s empty.
Poetry: An Essential Review
Each repetition of a particular rhythmic pattern is called a foot. Several
feet can be identified in a line of poetry.
The number of repetitions of a particular rhythmic pattern have names,
derived from the number of feet.
So, then, one measure or foot is called a monometer;
Two feet: Dimeter
Three feet: Trimeter
Four feet: tetrameter
Five feet: pentameter
Six feet: hexameter
Let’s re-examine the previous poems to determine how many feet of each
rhythm there are in a line of the poem.
Poetry: An Essential Review
That’s it.
Review these notes. You can only
memorize these notes to know them.
Read poems and enjoy!
Live long and prosper!

Poetry: An Essential Review