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Poetry Writing - Common Terminology

By Expert Author: Eugene Lopez

When it comes to writing poetry there are a number of common terminology every poetry writer should know. In this article I cover some of the more common poetry writing terminology, what they mean and how you can use them.
Alliteration
This is the use of words which have the same or very similar sounds at the beginning of words, for example, Monday Morning Musings. You can use alliteration in your poetry title as well as in the body.
Couplet
when a pair of lines are the same length, rhyme (usually) and form a complete thought this is known as a couplet in poetry. Shakespeare used them when he wrote his sonnets.
Epic
Odyssey by Homer is a great example of an epic poem. It is long and it is serious. Epic poetry is almost story like in the way that it is written. The story usually involves an heroic figure.
Haiku
I love writing haikus. This is Japanese poetry that involves writing three lines of five, seven and then five syllables. It is very poplar to use a Haiku when writing about nature.
Here's an example: birds land on a tree. wondering what to eat next. wishing they were home.
If you count each sentence you will see the words count out five, seven then five.
Iambic pentameter
This is the most common type of meter in English poetry and if you remember your Shakespeare lessons you will know his plays were written mainly in iambic pentameter. It contains five (penta) rhythmic units (which is where the word meter comes from) and the term describes a particular rhythm that is established in a line of verse. An iambic foot includes an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Think of your heartbeat. As it beats the rhythm can be described as da DUM da DUM da DUM. One unstressed then a stressed beat. To be classed as an iambic pentameter you simply use five of those beats (you can also think of tick, TOCK, tick TOCK, tick TOCK of a clock). Your sentence must follow that rhythm.
Ode
When writing an Ode your poetry will be thoughtful and series in its tone. An ode has a very formal structure and will be written as if you were addressing a particular subject. Originally an ode was a poem that was written so that it could be sung.
Personification
I love using personification in poetry. This is where you give objects and ideas the attributes of a human being. For example: the flowers danced in the warmth of the sun. We know flowers don't actually dance but we use the human trait of dancing to describe what they are doing. Another example is: her bright orange dress floated by screaming to be noticed.
Stanza
This is a common poetry writing terminology and is used to describe a smaller unit within a poem or a verse within a song. The stanzas contained in a poem are usually the same length and will follow a similar meter and rhyme pattern. You may have a poem that has two rhyming lines (Couplets), one with three lines that may rhyme or may not (Tercets) and a stanza with four lines that may or may not rhyme (Quatrains). The best thing to do is search for stanza examples online and read the poetry to get examples of how it works. The Star Spangled Banner is actually a great example of a stanza and one most (if not every) American (and those of us who are not American) know well. Here are two examples:
what so proudly we hailed
at the twilight's last gleaming?
(stanza - couplet)
and the rocket's red glare
the bombs bursting in air
gave proof through the night
that our flag was still there
(stanza - Quatrains)
Verse
A single metrical line of poetry is known as a verse. Also a division of a metrical composition for example in a stanza is known as a verse. Poetry that is not prose is also known as a verse.
As a poet I find it really helps me improve my writing if I am aware of some of the more common poetry writing terminology and how to use them. That doesn't mean I won't go ahead and write something creative without worrying about how many lines it has and whether it rhymes. It just means I will more accurately be able to recognize the type of poetry I am writing and it will help me find my own writing style and voice.

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