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5.17: Poetry

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    Poetry\(^{128}\) is easy to recognize but hard to define.

    Let's start with Webster's definition: "The art of rhythmical composition, written or spoken, for exciting pleasure by beautiful, imaginative, or elevated thoughts." As lovely as that sounds, it may already say too much about this unique and unpredictable art form. Rhythm is important; it's perhaps the only element in poetry we can truly count on. Rhymes are optional, but some sort of rhythm to the reading of quality poetry will always almost exist.

    We can experience poetry through our eyes or our ears. It is usually meant to excite pleasure, but it can also reflect sorrow or regret. That brings us to "beautiful, imaginative, or elevated thoughts."

    Writing poetry is fun. Find poems you love and share them with classmates/friends. Write love poems to your partner. Discover your own meanings in poetry and discuss those meanings without making them conform to an understood critical meaning. Poetry can be sweet or silly, short or long, fun, thoughtful, or personal. It can have more than one voice. Let poetry help you find connections in your life. Perhaps, you could use a poem as an intro to a science report!\(^{129}\)

    Poetry Devices and Forms:

    Poetry often uses particular forms and conventions to expand the literal meaning of the words, or to evoke emotional or sensual responses. Devices such as alliteration, onomatopoeia, and rhythm are sometimes used to achieve musical or incantatory effects. Poetry's use of personification, symbolism, irony, and other stylistic elements of poetic diction often leaves a poem open to multiple interpretations. To read more about poetic devices (which might also be called figurative language), head to the chapter on Figurative Language in this textbook.



    Repetition of consonants, particularly at the beginning of words. Ex: It was the sweet song of silence.


    A direct comparison between two things. Ex: This classroom is as stale as a hospital.


    Occurs when something happens that is different from what was expected.


    Words that imitate sounds like Bang! Or Meow!


    Giving humanistic characteristics to non-humans. Ex: The dog nodded in agreement.


    A comparison using "like" or "as." Ex: That classroom is like a hospital.



    A sonnet is made up of fourteen lines of rhymed iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is a line made up of five beats. English sonnets have a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg. It is usually one stanza long.


    A pair of lines of verse. It usually consists of two lines that rhyme and have the same meter. Two words that rhyme can be called a couplet.

    Example: I did but saw her passing by. But I shall love her till I die.


    A quatrain is a four-lined, rhyming poem or stanza. Quatrains have several possible rhyme schemes. The first is designed as two couplets joined together with the a a b b pattern. Other rhyme patterns are a b a b, a b b a, and a b c b.

    Example: "Weather"

    Evening red and morning gray (a)

    Set the traveler on his way (a)

    But evening gray and morning red (b)

    Bring the rain upon his head (b)


    Usually about nature, this style from Japan consists of three unrhymed lines. The first and last line contain five syllables and the middle line has seven syllables. These are easy in theory to fill in the syllables, but it can be hard for the students to actually make them meaningful.


    There is no fixed pattern, and it can, but does not have to, use rhyming words. Lyric poems focus on feelings and visualizations rather than on a story. Narrative poems tell a story.

    Want An Example?

    “Child of our Time”\(^{130}\)

    I am a child of our time two thousand one

    Hearing all my life it’s time for action

    Don’t really care where I spend my last coin

    I need followers and transactions

    Sea level rising, I show my grief

    By posting about the global warming

    It was years ago I lost my belief

    My generation equals performing

    Strangers are now the eyes over a mask

    Socially isolated, when’s the end?

    Watching the capitol under attack

    Today inhumanity is a trend

    I learned very fast some men can be vile

    Like the one time, my friend went on a date

    If she knew what he hid behind that smile

    The lunch would not have ended with the rape

    Child of our time, generation aware

    I lived it and I’m now used to despair

    \(^{128}\)"Choosing High Quality Children's Literature/Poetry." Wikibooks, The Free Textbook Project. 26 Feb 2013, 18:45 UTC. 18 Nov 2016, 16:47

    <>. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.

    \(^{129}\)This could easily be an assignment. Write a poem about your science report from a different class!

    \(^{130}\)This gem by Hanna Appelgren was written for NDSCS Creative Writing (Eng211) class in the Spring of 2021. This is licensed CC-BY-NC-SA.

    This page titled 5.17: Poetry is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Sybil Priebe (Independent Published) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.

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