A Glossary of 30 Poetic Techniques


Well, I’m sure you’ve all seen a glossary or two in the past – and all pretty much look the same, don’t they? In fact, they should! Because if they’re doing their job properly, then they should all be giving you the most important poetic techniques to know when analysing a poem.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s my own little Glossary of 30 Poetic Techniques for you to peruse. Enjoy…! Oh~ and you can also download the glossary as a PDF file entitled GLOSSARY OF 30 POETIC TECHNIQUES (if you think it’s useful!)

  1. ADJECTIVE  –  a word that describes a noun.
  2. ADVERB  –  a word that describes a verb. (Easy so far, right?)
  3. ALLITERATION – the repetition of the same consonant sound in words which are close to each other.
    • SIBILANCE – a special kind of alliteration with words beginning with s, soft c, sh, and z.
    • PLOSIVE – another special kind of alliteration with words beginning with b, p, d and t. The effect is to create a more punchy and powerful feel.
    • FRICATIVE – yet another special kind of alliteration with words beginning with f, th and v. These sounds give a softer, freer and more flowing effect. Although there are other effects depending on the context of the poem, of course!
  4. ASSONANCE – when there is a repetition of a vowel sound in a series of words.
  5. CAESURA – a pause in the middle of a line of poetry, marked by punctuation, and creating a pause which helps to focus attention on an important word or idea in the poem. It often helps to add meaning to the poem.
  6. END STOP – ending a line of poetry with a punctuation mark.
  7. ENJAMBMENT – a run-on line; when a line of poetry runs on to the next line without stopping (i.e. there is no end stop).
  8. FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE – using imagery to write descriptions in a non-literal way.
  9. FORM – the type of poem e.g. sonnet, ballad, dramatic monologue.
  10. HYPERBOLE – exaggerating something which is not meant to be taken literally.
  11. IAMBIC PENTAMETER – this type of rhythm is seen in sonnets. It is a rhyme of 5 feet per line which are each made up of one unstressed beat and one stressed beat. (da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM). The effect is to place emphasis on certain words so that they help to carry the main idea and theme of the poem. But it is also used to create a lively and dynamic rhythm (depending again, of course, on the context of the poem).
  12. IMAGERY – figurative language that commonly uses similes, personification and metaphors.
  13. IRONY – words which are intended to mean the opposite of what they say.
  14. JUXTAPOSITION – placing two opposing ideas next to one another.
  15. METAPHOR – a figure of speech in which we describe one thing as being something else.
  16. ONOMATOPOEIA – sound words e.g. bang, crash, rustle etc.
  17. OXYMORON – when two words with opposite definitions or words which are not normally associated with each other are placed side by side e.g. ‘cold heat’ ; ‘bitter sweet.’
  18. PATHOS – language which evokes feelings of sorrow.
  19. PENTAMETER – five feet on a line
  20. PERSONIFICATION – describing an inanimate object with human characteristics.
    • personification of animals has the special name ‘ANTHROPOMORPHISM’.
  21. REFRAIN – a repeated line in a poem. It has the effect of emphasising the main message of the poem.
  22. REPETITION – repeating a key word or phrase in order to emphasise or enhance the meaning of the poem.
  23. RHYME – words which rhyme with each other.
  24. RHYMING COUPLET – two lines which come after each other in a poem and which rhyme.
  25. SEMANTIC FIELD – a group of words which all connect in some way. For example, if a stanza contains the words: dull, grey, gloomy, dark, and sinister, then we may assume that the atmosphere of the place being described is depressing and drab.
  26. SIMILE –  a figure of speech where one thing is described as being ‘like’  or ‘as’ something else.
  27. SONNET – a form of poetry which has 14 lines, a particular rhyme scheme and is often written in iambic pentameter.
  28. SYMBOLISM – images which carry an alternative meaning to the more literal one. Objects, colours, sounds and places are often used to have a secondary meaning apart from the obvious. They help to emphasise the main theme of the poem or text.
  29. VOICE – the perspective created by the poet.
  30. VOLTA – a turning point in poetry.

So, that’s it! I really do hope that it helps!


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