Poetry: Sound Device



P.S. ELA-1 Language:   Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

A. Notice and correct grammatical and mechanical errors in writing.
B. Demonstrate command of correct sentence structure and variety.
C. Apply standard usage to formal speaking and writing.


P.S ELA-5 Writing Craft:   Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

A. Create an effective introduction.
B. Use showing details v. telling details.
C. Maintain a focus on the main idea throughout the body paragraphs.
D. Write an effective conclusion.

Sound devices are resources used by poets to convey and reinforce the meaning or experience of poetry through the skillful use of sound.  After all, poets are trying to use a concentrated blend of sound and imagery to create an emotional response.  The words and their order should evoke images, and the words themselves have sounds, which can reinforce or otherwise clarify those images.  All in all, the poet is trying to get you, the reader, to sense a particular thing, and the use of sound devices are some of the poet’s tools.  One of the most important aspects in the study of poetry is the value of words, how the meaning is made more relatable through the euphony of language as well as the denotation.  

Remember that the focus of this poetry unit is to introduce or reacquaint you, the learner, with terminology essential in understanding poetry.  Your heightened perspective of poetry makes you an advanced English student. The learning significance of composing poetry is to have you apply the concepts introduced with each poetic device.
The final exam, naturally, will reinforce your understanding of these poetic terms.

POETRY AS RHETORIC  Harold Bloom calls poetry cognitive music.  Poetry is, essentially, rhetoric.  Like rhetoric, which we can define here as the “art of persuasion,” poetry uses a series of tropes (the figurative/metaphorical use of a word), combined with sound, with rhythm, to “convince us” of something – perhaps the aesthetic dignity of the poem, the epiphany that that poem is peddling, the realistic nature of the poem’s speaker, the emotional honesty of the poem, the irony of the speaker – poetry can and does try to convince us of so many things, and in that way, poetry is a kind of supreme art of rhetoric, convincing us on multiple levels while shadowing forth its own kind of poetic argument for the validity of its style, form, and content.

You are to select one of the forms below that appeals to you and compose a poem in that form (two poems if you select a limerick).  You are expected to incorporate, in your verse, a combination of the poetic terms included on this page.  Along with a poem, compose a paragraph that justifies your selection of the form, as well as, examples of the sound device terms that you have applied.  If you have composed one of the forms mentioned in the form device verse, please select another form among the group offered.

The poetry terms that are referred to throughout these lessons will be emphasized on the final exam.




RHYTHM   An essential of all poetry, the regular or progressive pattern of recurrent accents in the flow of a poem as determined by the arses and theses of the metrical feet, i.e., the rise and fall of stress. The measure of rhythmic quantity is the meter.

Sidelight: A rhythmic pattern in which the stress falls on the final syllable of each foot, as in the iamb or anapest, is called a rising or ascending rhythm; a rhythmic pattern with the stress occurring on the first syllable of each foot, as in the dactyl or trochee, is a falling or descending rhythm.

Sidelight: From an easy lilt to the rough cadence of a primitive chant, rhythm is the organization of sound patterns the poet has created for pleasurable reading.

RHYME   In the specific sense, a type of echoing which utilizes a correspondence of sound in the final accented vowels and all that follows of two or more words, but the preceding consonant sounds must differ, as in the words, bear and care. In a poetic sense, however, rhyme refers to a close similarity of sound as well as an exact correspondence; it includes the agreement of vowel sounds in assonance and the repetition of consonant sounds in consonance and alliteration. Differences as well as identity in sound echoes between words contribute to the euphonic effect, stimulate intellectual appreciation, provide a powerful mnemonic device, and serve to unify a poem. Terms like near rhyme, half rhyme, and perfect rhyme function to distinguish between the types of rhyme without prejudicial intent and should not be interpreted as expressions of value. Usually, but not always, rhymes occur at the ends of lines.

Sidelight: Originally rime, the spelling was changed due to the influence of its popular, but erroneous, association with the Latin word, rhythmus. Many purists continue to use rime as the proper spelling of the word.

Sidelight: Early examples of English poetry used alliterative verse instead of rhyme. The use of rhyme in the end words of verse originally arose to compensate for the sometimes unsatisfactory quality of rhythm within the lines; variations in the patterns of rhyme schemes then became functional in defining diverse stanza forms, such as, ottava rima, rhyme royal, terza rima, the Spenserian stanza and others. Rhyme schemes are also significant factors in the definitions of whole poems, such as ballade, limerick, rondeau, sonnet, triolet and villanelle.

METER   A measure of rhythmic quantity, the organized succession of groups of syllables at basically regular intervals in a line of poetry, according to definite metrical patterns. In classic Greek and Latin versification, meter depended on the way long and short syllables were arranged to succeed one another, but in English the distinction is between accented and unaccented syllables. The unit of meter is the foot. Metrical lines are named for the constituent foot and for the number of feet in the line: monometer (1), dimeter (2), trimeter (3), tetrameter (4), pentameter (5), hexameter (6), heptameter (7) and octameter (8); thus, a line containing five iambic feet, for example, would be called iambic pentameter. Rarely does a metrical line exceed six feet.

Sidelight: In the composition of verse, poets sometimes make deviations from the systematic metrical patterns. This is often desirable because (1) variations will avoid the mechanical “te-dum, te-dum” monotony of a too-regular rhythm and (2) changes in the metrical pattern are an effective way to emphasize or reinforce meaning in the content. These variations are introduced by substituting different feet at places within a line. (Poets can also employ a caesura, use run-on lines and vary the degrees of accent by skillful word selection to modify the rhythmic pattern, a process called modulation. Accents heightened by semantic emphasis also provide diversity.) A proficient writer of poetry, therefore, is not a slave to the dictates of metrics, but neither should the poet stray so far from the meter as to lose the musical value or emotional potential of rhythmical repetition. Of course, in modern free verse, meter has become either irregular or non-existent.

IAMB   a unit of rhythm in poetry that consists of one syllable that is not accented or stressed followed by one syllable that is accented or stressed (as in the words away or above )

ALLITERATION   Also called head rhyme or initial rhyme, the repetition of the initial sounds (usually consonants) of stressed syllables in neighboring words or at short intervals within a line or passage, usually at word beginnings, as in “wild and woolly” or the line from the poem, Darkness Lost:

From somewhere far beyond, the flag of fate’s caprice unfurled,

Sidelight: The sounds of alliteration produce a gratifying effect to the ear and can also serve as a subtle connection or emphasis of key words in the line, but should not “call attention” to themselves by strained usage.

ASSONANCE   The relatively close juxtaposition of the same or similar vowel sounds, but with different end consonants in a line or passage, thus a vowel rhyme, as in the words, date and fade.

CONSONANCE   A pleasing combination of sounds; sounds in agreement with tone. Also, the repetition of the same end consonants of words such as boat and night within or at the end of a line, or the words, cool and soul, as used by Emily Dickinson in the third stanza of He Fumbles at your Spirit.

CACOPHONY (cack-AH-fun-ee)  Discordant sounds in the jarring juxtaposition of harsh letters or syllables, sometimes inadvertent, but often deliberately used in poetry for effect, as in the opening line of Fences:

Crawling, sprawling, breaching spokes of stone,

NEAR RHYME   Also called slant rhyme, off rhyme, imperfect rhyme or half rhyme, a rhyme in which the sounds are similar, but not exact, as in home and come or close and lose.

Sidelight: Due to changes in pronunciation, some near rhymes in modern English were perfect rhymes when they were originally written in old English.

INTERNAL RHYME  Also called middle rhyme, a rhyme occurring within the line, as in the poem, The Matador:

His childhood fraught with lessons taught by want and misery

EUPHONY (YOO-fuh-nee)  Harmony or beauty of sound that provides a pleasing effect to the ear, usually sought-for in poetry for effect. It is achieved not only by the selection of individual word-sounds, but also by their relationship in the repetition, proximity, and flow of sound patterns.

Sidelight: Vowel sounds are generally more pleasing to the ear than the consonants, so a line with a higher ratio of vowel sounds will produce a more agreeable effect; also, the long vowels in words like moon and fate are more melodious than the short vowels in cat and bed.

MODULATION  In poetry, the harmonious use of language relative to the variations of stress and pitch.

ONOMATOPOEIA (ahn-uh-mah-tuh-PEE-uh)  Strictly speaking, the formation or use of words which imitate sounds, like whispering, clang and sizzle, but the term is generally expanded to refer to any word whose sound is suggestive of its meaning.

Sidelight: Because sound is an important part of poetry, the use of onomatopoeia is another subtle weapon in the poet’s arsenal for the transfer of sense impressions through imagery.

Sidelight: Though impossible to prove, some philologists (linguistic scientists) believe that all language originated through the onomatopoeic formation of words.
These definitions, by the way, come by way of the Glossary of Poetic Terms