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CACOPHONY (cack-AH-fuh-nee or cack-AW-fuh-nee)
Discordant sounds in the jarring juxtaposition of harsh letters or syllables which are grating to the ear, usually inadvertent, but sometimes deliberately used in poetry for effect.
Sidelight: Sound devices are important to poetry. To create sounds appropriate to the content, the poet may sometimes prefer to achieve a cacophonous effect instead of the more commonly sought-for euphony. The use of words with the consonants b, k and p, to cite one example, produce harsher sounds than the soft f and v or the liquid l, m and n.
(See also Dissonance)
(Contrast Euphony)

The recurrent rhythmical pattern in lines of verse; also, the natural tone or modulation of the voice determined by the alternation of accented or unaccented syllables.
Sidelight: Cadence differs from meter in that it is not necessarily regular, but rather a more flexible concept of rhythm such as is characteristic of free verse and prose poetry.
(See also Accent, Ictus, Sprung Rhythm, Stress)
(Compare Caesura)

CAESURA (siz-YUR-uh)
A rhythmic break or pause in the flow of sound which is commonly introduced in about the middle of a line of verse, but may be varied for different effects. Usually placed between syllables rhythmically connected in order to aid the recital as well as to convey the meaning more clearly, it is a pause dictated by the sense of the content or by natural speech patterns, rather than by metrics. It may coincide with conventional punctuation marks, but not necessarily. A caesura within a line is indicated in scansion by the parallel symbol (||), as in the first line of Emily Dickinson's "I'm Nobody! Who Are You?":

I'm no | body! || Who are | you?
Sidelight: As a grammatical, rhythmic, and dramatic device, as well as an effective means of avoiding monotony, the caesura is a subtle but effective weapon in the skilled poet's arsenal.
Sidelight: Since caesura and pause are often used interchangeably, it is better to use metrical pause for the type of "rest" which compensates for the omission of a syllable.
Sidelight: A caesura occurring at the end of a line is not marked in the scanning process.
Sidelight: The classical caesura was a break caused by the ending of a word within a foot.
(See Diaeresis)
(See also Alexandrine, Hemistich)
(Compare Accent, Cadence, Rhythm)

In a literary sense, the authoritative works of a particular writer; also, an accepted list of works perceived to represent a cultural, ideological, historical, or biblical grouping.
Sidelight: Other literary groupings or collections include sonnet sequences, lyric sequences, cycles, companion poems, and anthologies.
A major division of an extended narrative poem, such as an epic, as distinguished from shorter divisions like stanzas.

CANZONE (kan-ZO-nee)
An Italian lyric poem of varying stanzaic length, usually written in a mixture of hendecasyllables and heptasyllables with a concluding short stanza or envoi.
Sidelight: The word "canzone" is derived from the Latin cantio (a song) and normally embraced subjects like love, heroic courage, or moral virtue. Milton's pastoral elegy, Lycidas, is an example in English poetry of a structure similar to the canzone.
(Compare Ghazal, Melic Verse, Ode, Romance, Society Verse)

See Pattern Poetry

Latin for "seize the day," a common motif in lyric verse throughout the history of poetry, with the emphasis on making the most of current pleasures because life is short and time is flying, as in Robert Herrick's, "To the Virgins" or Edward Fitzgerald's The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

Misuse or abuse of words; the use of the wrong word for the context, as atone for repent, ingenuous for ingenious, or a forced trope in which a word is used too far removed from its true meaning, as "melancholy table" or Milton's "blind mouth" in Lycidas.

(See also Enallage, Malapropism, Mixed Metaphor, Oxymoron, Paradox, Solecism, Synesthesia)

A term applied to a line of verse which is metrically incomplete due to the omission of one or two of the ending unaccented syllables of the final foot.
Sidelight: In versification, poets sometimes use catalexis in lines of trochaic and dactylic verse to achieve a final accented syllable for a strong close or a rhyme, as did William Blake in the poem, "Tyger! Tyger!"
(Compare Acatalectic, Acephaly, Hypercatalectic)

A poem comprised of a list of persons, places, things, or abstract ideas which share a common denominator. An ancient form, it was originally a type of didactic poetry.

The use of a grammatical substitute (like a pronoun) which has the same reference as the next word or phrase, as "before him, John saw a sea of smiling faces."

(Compare Antonomasia, Metonymy)

See Tail Rhyme

Poetry made up of lines borrowed from a combination of established authors, usually resulting in a change in meaning and a humorous effect.

(Compare Parody, Pastiche)

Also called interlocking rhyme, a rhyme scheme in which a rhyme in a line of one stanza is used as a link to a rhyme in the next stanza, as in the aba bcb cdc, etc. of terza rima or the aaab cccb of "La Tour Eiffel."
Sidelight: Another type of chain rhyme, which is usually referred as rime enchainée, links consecutive lines, with the last word of one line rhyming with the first word of the following line.
(Compare Anadiplosis, Envelope Rhyme)

Similar to chain rhyme, but links words, phrases, or lines (instead of rhyme) by repeating them in succeeding stanzas, as in the pantoum, but there are many variations.

(Compare Envelope, Rondeau)

Literally, a song of heroic deeds, it refers to a class of Old French epic poems of the Middle Ages, such as the Chanson de Roland, believed to have been written by the Norman poet, Turold.

(See Jongleur, Trouvere)
(See also Epic, Epopee, Epos, Heroic Quatrain)
(Compare Ballad, Narrative, Tragedy)

An elaborate fixed form of ballade in Old French poetry, consisting of five stanzas of eleven lines with a refrain at the end of each stanza, rhyming ababccddedE and an envoi of five lines rhyming ddedE.
Sidelight: The chant royale was originally used by 12th century troubadours and trouveres. Its 60-line length provided increased range for elaboration of the subject matter, which often dealt with satirical observations as well as elevated topics.

A small book or pamphlet containing ballads, poems, popular tales or tracts, etc.

See Rhyme Royal

CHIASMUS (kye-AZ-mus)
An inverted parallelism; the reversal of the order of corresponding words or phrases
(with or without exact repetition) in successive clauses which are usually parallel in syntax, as Pope's "a fop their passion, but their prize a sot," or Goldsmith's "to stop too fearful, and too faint to go."
Sidelight: While the term, chiasmus, is usually used in reference to syntax and word order, it also includes the repetition in reverse of any element of a poem, including sound patterns.
Sidelight: An antimetabole (an-tye-muh-TAB-uh-lee) is a type of chiasmus in which the words reversed involve a repetition of the same words, as "do not live to eat, but eat to live," or Shakespeare's "Remember March, the ides of March remember."
The distinction is not generally observed, however.
(See also Anastrophe, Hypallage)
(Compare Envelope, Palindrome)

A rare form of trochee, also written as choreus.

In classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of four syllables, the first two forming a trochee and the second two an iambus, as in BOT-tom | -less PIT or RO-ses | are RED.

See Pindaric Verse

A five-line stanza of syllabic verse, the successive lines containing two, four, six, eight and two syllables. The cinquain, based on the Japanese haiku, was an innovation of the American poet, Adelaide Crapsey.

(See also Quintet)

The adherence to the traditional standards that are universally valid and enduring.

(Compare Idealism, Imagism, Impressionism, Metaphysical,
                 Objectivism, Realism, Romanticism, Symbolism

See Pun

A comic light verse, two couplets in length, rhyming aabb, usually dealing with a person mentioned in the initial rhyme. It was named for its originator, Edmund Clerihew Bentley, an English writer, who wrote the following example at age sixteen:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Detested gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

Rhetorically, a series of words, phrases, or sentences arranged in a continuously ascending order of intensity. If the ascending order is not maintained, an anticlimax or bathos results.
Sidelight: The term is usually applied to the point of supreme interest in a series of thoughts or events, often the turning point of a play or narrative.
A couplet in which the sense and syntax is self-contained within its two lines, as opposed to an open couplet.

(See also Distich, Heroic Couplet)

A rhyme of two contiguous or close words, such as in the idiomatic expressions, "true blue" or "fair and square."
Sidelight: Close rhymes are a distinguishing characteristic of echo verse.
(Compare Ricochet Words)

A literary work written in the form of a drama, but intended by the author only for reading, not for performance in the theater.

The effect of finality, balance, and completeness, which leaves the reader with a sense of fulfilled expectations. Though the term is sometimes employed to describe the effects of individual repetitive elements, such as rhyme, metrical patterns, parallelism, refrains, and stanzas, its most significant application is in reference to the concluding portion of the entire poem.

A meter consisting chiefly of seven iambic feet arranged in rhymed pairs, thus a line with four accents followed by a line with three accents, usually in a 4-line stanza. It is also called common meter.
Sidelight: A meter of 4-line stanzas of tetrameter verse is called a long meter (L.M.). A meter of 4-line stanzas in which the first, second, and fourth lines are trimeter and the third tetrameter is called a short meter (S.M.). The meter of 8-line stanzas of which the first four lines are tetrameter and the last four are trimeter is called hallelujah meter (H.M.).
Sidelight: While essentially the same as ballad meter, common measure is more regularly iambic.
A poem that is associated with another poem, which it complements.

(See also Anthology, Canon, Cycle, Lyric Sequence, Sonnet Sequence)

An elaborate metaphor, artificially strained or far-fetched, in which the subject is compared with a simpler analogue usually chosen from nature or a familiar context. Especially associated with intense emotional or spiritual feelings, they sometimes extend through the entire length of a poem. An example of a conceit is Sir Thomas Wyatt's "My Galley," an adaptation of Petrarch's Sonnet 159.
Sidelight: The term is derived from concetto, Italian for "concept." Most modern conceits are written in a more condensed form.
(See also Euphuism, Gongorism, Marinism, Melic Verse, Metaphysical)

Poetry which forms a structurally original visual shape, preferably abstract, through the use of reduced language, fragmented letters, symbols, and other typographical variations to create an extreme graphic impact on the reader's attention. The essence of concrete poetry lies in its appearance on the page rather than in the written text; it is intended to be perceived as a visual whole and often cannot be effective when read aloud.

(See also Pattern Poetry, Visual Poetry)

The suggestion of a meaning by a word beyond what it explicitly denotes or describes. The word, home, for example, means the place where one lives, but by connotation, also suggests security, family, love and comfort.
Sidelight: Sometimes one of the connotations of a word gains enough widespread acceptance to become a denotation.
(See also Allusion, Symbol)

The close repetition of the same end consonants of stressed syllables with differing vowel sounds, such as boat and night, or the words drunk and milk in the final line of Coleridge's "Kubla Khan."
Sidelight: Consonance most often occurs within a line. When used at line ends in place of rhyme, as in the words, cool and soul, in the third stanza of Emily Dickinson's "He Fumbles at your Spirit," it is sometimes referred to as consonantal rhyme to differentiate it from perfect rhyme and other types of near rhyme.
Sidelight: In a more general sense, consonance also refers to a pleasing combination of sounds; sounds in agreement with tone.
(See also Euphony, Modulation, Resonance, Sound Devices)
(Compare Alliteration, Assonance, Rhyme)

The substance of a poem; the impressions, facts and ideas it contains--the "what-is-being-said."

(Compare Diction, Form, Motif, Persona, Style, Texture, Tone)

See Stanza

In a literary sense, established "codes" of basic principles and procedures for types of works that are recurrent in literature. The prevailing conventions of their time strongly influence writers to select content, forms, style, diction, etc., which are acceptable to the cultural expectations of the public.
Sidelight: A knowledge of conventions, particularly from a historical aspect, aids the reader in the understanding, interpretation, and appreciation of literary works, particularly poems following the classical pastoral and epic conventions.
Sidelight: Conventions can change over time. Their very existence fosters the emergence of originality and serves as a comparative measure and contrast to new concepts.
A poem whose light, colloquial treatment of a serious subject is intended to resemble informal conversation. Similar to the dramatic monologue, the term originates from Coleridge's subtitle for his poem, "The Nightingale."

Two successive lines of poetry, usually of equal length and rhythmic correspondence, with end-words that rhyme. The couplet, for practical purposes, is the shortest stanza form, but is frequently joined with other couplets to form a poem with no stanzaic divisions, as in Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess."
Sidelight: If the couplet is written in iambic pentameter, it is called a heroic couplet.
(See also Closed Couplet, Open Couplet, Distich, Elegiac)

A late medieval idealized convention establishing a code for the conduct of amorous affairs of ladies and their lovers. Expressed and spread by the minnesingers and troubadours, it became associated with the literary concept of love until the 19th century.

A game in which one player gives a word or line of verse to be matched in rhyme by the other players.

(See also Bouts-Rimes)

Used in classical poetry, a metrical foot consisting of a short syllable between two long syllables, as in THIR-ty-NINE.
Sidelight: Another name for the cretic foot is amphimacer.
An inferior or petty critic.

The rhyme scheme of abab, also called alternate rhyme, in which the end words of alternating lines rhyme with each other, i.e., the rhymes cross intervening lines.
Sidelight: Cross rhyming derives from long-line verse such as hexameter in which two lines have caesural words rhymed together and end words rhymed together, as in Swinburne's:
Fate is a sea without shore, and the soul is a rock that abides;
But her ears are vexed with the roar and her face with the foam of the tides.
As written above, the rhyme pattern what the French call rime brisée; if the two long lines were to be split after the caesuras into four short lines, the rhyme pattern would become a cross rhyme.

(Compare Envelope Rhyme)

See under Quatrain

The aggregate of accumulated literature, plays or musical works treating the same theme. In poetry, the term is typically applied to epic or narrative poems about a mythical or heroic event or character, such as the Siege of Troy or the Nibelungs of medieval times.
Sidelight: After the death of Homer, a certain group of epic poets, between 800 and 550 BC, wrote continuations and additions on the subject of the Trojan War; chief among them were Agias, Arctinos, Eugamon, Lesches and Strasinos. Since their writing was confined to that single subject, they were referred to as cyclic poets.
(See also Anthology, Canon, Companion Poem, Lyric Sequence, Sonnet Sequence)


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He who would not be frustrate of his hope to write well hereafter in laudable things
ought himself to be a true poem.

---John Milton

For a good poet's made as well as born.

---Ben Jonson