By Tara Cavanaugh
and David Jagusch
ED 205 P
All About Poetry
Epic Poetry
Allegory &
T.S. Eliot
Rhyme & Meter
Modern Poetry
Irony & Image
Simile &
Alliteration &
Tone & Word
Free Verse
Elizabeth Bishop
Langston Hughes
W.B. Yeats
Emily Dickinson
Works Cited
William Shakespeare
William Wordsworth
E.E. Cummings
Epic poetry
Characteristics: usually found in preliterate
societies, this style of poetry was typically
passed down through oral traditions, until
someone eventually wrote them down- this is
why we can read them today. These poems
usually take the form of a long narrative, which
means it is usually a very long story told in the
first person (“I did this” instead of “he or she did
that”). These poems were written a long time
ago- The Odyssey, for example, is t thought to
have been written anywhere between 8 and 7
The Odyssey by Homer
Elizabethan Poetry
Most of our ideas about how poetry
should be written come from this era.
Elizabethan poetry was written in
through the17th and 19th
centuries.This poetry has a heavy
emphasis on many rules regarding
rhythm, rhyme, meter.
Major themes of this poetry are:
discovery of the self, political
turbulence, and originality (later in the
For examples of this poetry, please
see: William Shakespeare, William
Modern Poetry
In modernism, we see poets breaking the rules of gentlemanly
Elizabethan poetry, and forming new definitions of what makes a poem
interesting. No longer did poetry have to follow rules about rhythm,
rhyme, and meter. Poetry from this era ranges from small poems
about an image (see E.E. Cummings), to long, sprawling epics written
in several languages (see T.S. Eliot). For more examples of 20th and
21st century poetry, see below:
Elizabeth Bishop
Langston Hughes
T.S. Eliot
See also: Modern Poetry
Was extremely studious- he studied in Harvard AND the
Sorbonne in Paris!
Pioneer of “high modernism” (a.k.a. hard-to-understand
His poetry usually has a depressing tone.
Liked to use Italian, Greek, Russian, French, and German in
his poems- because he spoke nearly all of them!
Fragment from “The Love Song of J. Alfred
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants and oyster shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’
Let us go and make our visit.
E.E. Cummings
Liked to play with the
use of punctuation
and to make new
Studied at Harvard
See also: Modern Poetry
[in- Just]
in Justspring
when the world is mudluscious the little
lame baloonman
and wee
and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's
when the world is puddle-wonderful
the queer
old baloonman whistles
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
Elizabeth Bishop
Fragment from “The Fish”
I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water,
with my hook
fast in the corner of his mouth.
He didn’t fight.
He hadn’t fought at all.
Fragment from “Sestina”
September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.
She was a
perfectionist and
did not publish
many poems.
She wrote in
many different
types of forms.
Taught at Harvard
and Cambridge
see: Modern Poetry
William Shakespeare
Regarded as the best writer in the
English language
Master of the sonnet
Was a poet and playwright- he wrote
37 plays and 134 sonnets.
The most-quoted author in the English
Also: Elizabethan
Sonnet 138
by William Shakespeare
When my love swears that she is made of truth
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor'd youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young.
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false speaking tongue:
On both side thus is simple truth supress'd:
And wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore says not I that I am old?
O! love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told:
Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be.
William Wordsworth
Major poem is “The Prelude,”
published after his death
Was England’s poet laureate
He wanted to write poetry “in the real
words of men”
Fragment from “The
my voice proclaims
How exquisitely the individual
(And the progressive powers
perhaps no less
Of the whole species) to the
external World
Is fitted:--and how exquisitely,
Theme this but little heard of
among Men,
The external World is fitted to
the Mind . . .
Please see Elizabethan
Whether he was a real man
or not is disputed!
Is credited with recording the
Iliad and the Odyssey
If he was a real man, he is
rumored to have been blind.
The movie Oh Brother
Where Art Thou? is based on
the Odyssey!
see: Epic Poetry
The opening of The Odyssey:
TELL ME, O MUSE, of that
ingenious hero who travelled far and
wide after he had sacked the
famous town of Troy. Many cities did
he visit, and many were the nations
with whose manners and customs
he was acquainted; moreover he
suffered much by sea while trying to
save his own life and bring his men
safely home; but do what he might
he could not save his men, for they
perished through their own sheer
folly in eating the cattle of the Sungod Hyperion; so the god prevented
them from ever reaching home. Tell
me, too, about all these things, O
daughter of Jove, from whatsoever
source you may know them.
He is an Irish cultural
His poems are very political
and were written during political
turmoil in Ireland
Fragment of “Easter 1916”
I have met them at the close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley was born:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
see Modern Poetry
Emily Dickinson
Is credited with inventing
American poetry
Was considered very strange
and mentally disturbed; spent
most of her life in seclusion
Common theme of death and
Christianity in her poems
See also Modern
I never lost as much but twice,
And that was in the sod.
Twice have I stood a beggar
Before the door of God!
Angels- twice descending
Reimbursed my storeBurglar! Banker! –Father!
I am poor once more!
Langston Hughes
Fragment from “THEME FOR ENGLISH B”
The instructor said, Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you--Then, it will be true. I wonder if it's that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page: It's not easy to know
what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me---we two---you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York too.) Me---who?
see: Modern Poetry
Is considered a “Harlem
Renaissance” Poet- he was
an African American that was
one of the first of his race to
be a published and respected
His poetry has been set to
jazz music
And if you’re hankering for even more information about
Norton’s Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, 3rd ed.
Volumes 1 and 2
An allegory tells a story that can be read symbolically.
Interpreting an allegory is complicated because you need
to be aware of what each symbol in the narrative refers to.
Allegories thus reinforces symbolic meaning.
Closely related to similes, metaphors immediately identify one
object or idea with another, in one or more aspects. The meaning of
a poem frequently depends on the success of a metaphor. Like a
simile, a metaphor expands the sense and clarifies the meaning of
The basic definition of rhyme is two words that sound alike. The
vowel sound of two words is the same, but the initial consonant
sound is different.. Rhyme helps to unify a poem; it also repeats a
sound that links one concept to another, thus helping to determine
the structure of a poem. There are true rhymes (bear, care) and
slant rhymes (lying, mine).
Meter is the rhythm established by a poem, and it is usually
dependent not only on the number of syllables in a line but
also on the way those syllables are accented. This rhythm is
often described as a pattern of stressed and unstressed
Something concrete and representational. Literal images
appeal to our sense of realistic perception. There are also
figurative images that appeal to our imagination. Poetic
imagery alters or shapes the way we see what the poem is
Irony refers to a difference between the way something appears and
what is actually true. Irony allows us to say something but to mean
something else, whether we are being sarcastic, exaggerating, or
understating. Irony is generally more restrained than sarcasm, even
though the effect might be the same. The key to irony is often the
tone, which is sometimes harder to detect in poetry than in speech.
The word like signifies a direct comparison between two things that
are alike in a certain way. Usually one of the elements of a simile is
concrete and the other abstract. Sometimes similes force us to
consider how the two things being compared are dissimilar, but the
relationship between two dissimilar things can break down easily, so
similes must be rendered delicately and carefully.
A symbol works two ways: It is something itself, and it also
suggests something deeper. It is crucial to distinguish a
symbol from a metaphor: Metaphors are comparisons
between two seemingly dissimilar things; symbols associate
two things, but their meaning is both literal and figurative. No
symbols have absolute meanings, and, by their nature, we
cannot read them at face value. Rather than beginning an
inquiry into symbols by asking what they mean, it is better to
begin by asking what they could mean, or what they have
Alliteration occurs when the initial sounds of a word, beginning either with a
consonant or a vowel, are repeated in close succession. The function of
alliteration, like rhyme, might be to accentuate the beauty of language in a
given context, or to unite words or concepts through a kind of repetition.
Alliteration, like rhyme, can follow specific patterns. Sometimes the consonants
aren't always the initial ones, but they are generally the stressed syllables.
Assonance occurs when the vowel sound within a word matches the
same sound in a nearby word, but the surrounding consonant sounds
are different. "Tune" and "June" are rhymes; "tune" and "food" are
assonant. The function of assonance is frequently the same as end
rhyme or alliteration: All serve to give a sense of continuity or fluidity to
the verse.
The tone of a poem is roughly equivalent to the mood it creates
in the reader. Much depends on interpretation. A poem gives its
readers clues about how to feel about it. The tone may be based
on a number of other conventions that the poem uses, such as
meter or repetition. Tone is not in any way divorced from the
other elements of poetry; it is directly dependent on them.
Word order matters, sometimes for clarity of meaning, and
sometimes for effect. Readers should always question why
poets have chosen a particular order, whether the choice is
conventional or just the opposite.
A Sonnet is a poem consisting of 14 lines (iambic pentameter) with a particular
rhyming scheme.
Examples of a rhyming scheme:
#1) abab cdcd efef gg
#2) abba cddc effe gg
#3) abba abba cdcd cd
Sonnet of Demeter--Italian Sonnet
Oh the pirate stars, they have no mercy!
Masquerading as hope they tell their lies;
Only the young can hear their lullabies.
But I am barren and I am thirsty
Since she has gone. No hope is there for me.
I will roam and curse this earth and these skies-Death from life which Zeus sovereign denies.
My heart's ill shall the whole world's illness be
Till she is returned-- my daughter, my blood-From the dark hand of Hades to my care.
With my tears these mortals shall know a flood
To show Poseidon's realm desert and bare.
No myrtle shall flower, no cypress bud
Till the gods release her...and my despair.
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Haiku (also called nature or seasonal haiku) is an
unrhymed Japanese verse consisting of three unrhymed
lines of five, seven, and five syllables (5, 7, 5) or 17
syllables in all. Haiku is usually written in the present
tense and focuses on nature (seasons).
Come on let us see
All the real flowers of this
Sorrowful world
~Basho 1644-1694
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An Epic is a long narrative poem celebrating the
adventures and achievements of a hero...epics deal with
the traditions, mythical or historical, of a nation.
Examples: Beowulf, The Iliad and the Odyssey, the
Aeneid, Gilgamesh
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Free Verse is an irregular form of poetry in which the content free of traditional rules of
versification, (freedom from fixed meter or rhyme).
In moving from line to line, the poet's main consideration is where to insert line breaks.
Some ways of doing this include breaking the line where there is a natural pause or at a
point of suspense for the reader.
Authors: Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound, T.S. Elliot
“I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
~Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
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A Limerick is a rhymed humorous, and or nonsense
poem of five lines. With a rhyming scheme of: a-a-bb-a.
I love ta see the morning sun
that's how I tell the days begun.
Birds all singing a happy song
it tis the place where I belong.
Far from school without the nun
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A poem in which all the lines have the same end rhyme.
I was sitting in my chair
wanting to become a millionaire
It won't happen I'm well aware
but I still think its very unfair
I have even said a little prayer
but I don't have that special flair
And my bodies in great despair
I think I look more like a pear
But at least I still have my hair
and a table to play solitaire
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A poem consisting of four lines of verse with a
specific rhyming scheme.
Quatrain rhyming scheme’s:
#1) abab
#2) abba -- envelope rhyme
#3) aabb
#4) aaba, bbcb, ccdc, dddd -- chain rhyme
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