Poetic Devices Poetry is the kind of thing poets write. - Robert Frost
Man, if you gotta ask, you'll never know. - Louis Armstrong
A POET IS LIMITED in the materials he can use in creating his works: all he has are words to express his ideas and feelings. These words need to be precisely right on several levels at once:
• they must sound right to the listener even as they delight his ear
• they must have a meaning which might have been unanticipated, but seems to be
the perfectly right one
• they must be arranged in a relationship and placed on the page in ways that are
at once easy to follow and assist the reader in understanding
• they must probe the depths of human thought, emotion, and empathy, while
appearing simple, self-contained, and unpretentious
Fortunately, the English language contains a wide range of words from which to choose for almost
every thought, and there are also numerous plans or methods of arrangement of these words, called
poetic devices, which can assist the writer in developing cogent expressions pleasing to his readers.
Even though most poetry today is read silently, it must still carry with it the feeling of being spoken
aloud, and the reader should practice "hearing" it in order to catch all of the artfulness with which
the poet has created his work.
the SOUNDS of words
Words or portions of words can be clustered or juxtaposed to achieve specific kinds of effects when we hear them. The sounds that result can strike us as clever and pleasing, even soothing. Others we dislike and strive
to avoid. These various deliberate arrangements of words have been identified.
Alliteration: Repeated consonant sounds at the beginning of words placed near each other, usually on the
same or adjacent lines. A somewhat looser definition is that it is the use of the same consonant in any
part of adjacent words.
Example: fast and furious
Example: Peter and Andrew patted the pony at Ascot
In the second definition, both P and T in the example are reckoned as alliteration. It is noted that this is
a very obvious device and needs to be handled with great restraint, except in specialty forms such as
limerick, cinquain, and humorous verse.
Assonance: Repeated vowel sounds in words placed near each other, usually on the same or adjacent lines.
These should be in sounds that are accented, or stressed, rather than in vowel sounds that are unac-
Example: He's a bruisin' loser
In the second example above, the short A sound in Andrew, patted, and Ascot would be assonant.
Consonance: Repeated consonant sounds at the ending of words placed near each other, usually on the
same or adjacent lines. These should be in sounds that are accented, or stressed, rather than in vowel
sounds that are unaccented. This produces a pleasing kind of near-rhyme.
Example: boats into the past
Example: cool soul
Cacophony A discordant series of harsh, unpleasant sounds helps to convey disorder. This is often furthered
by the combined...