Introduction to Poetry By Billy Collins I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive. I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem's room and feel the walls for a light switch. I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author's name on the shore. But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it. They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.
O Me! O Life! By Walt Whitman Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring, Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish, Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless? ) Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d, Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me, Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined, The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here—that life exists and identity, That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
Speech: “Tomorrow, and tomorrow” BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE Tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
Because Everyone Wants to Know Author Unknown Prose is a starting pitcher with a game plan. He pitches to each batter differently each time up. His game is full of little dramas: impending catastrophe, escape, tension building, subsiding, building again. Poetry is a one-inning reliever-- a fireballer, a screwballer, a pitcher with a slider that batters flick their bats at as it breaks a foot outside in the dirt. Prose is a boxer: jabbing, moving, slipping, stinging, wearing his opponent down. Poetry is a knockout punch; the big left hook that is carried on all the highlight films. Prose is a song; poetry is a guitar lick every kid can yow-yow with his mouth. Prose is the Mona Lisa; poetry is the smile.
Allusion A reference to something or someone—can be a historical or literary figure, place, or event.
Allusion “Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, way before Nirvana, there was U 2, and Blondie, and music still on MTV. Her two kids in high school, they tell her that she's uncool, Cuz she's still preoccupied with 19, 1985” “ 1985” Bowling for Soup “That you were Romeo; you were throwing pebbles, And my daddy said, 'Stay away from Juliet. ’ And I was crying on the staircase, begging you, 'Please, don't go. ’ “Love Story” Taylor Swift
Alliteration The repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words
Alliteration “This time, this place Misused, mistakes Too long, too late Who was I to make you wait? ” “Far Away” Nickelback “Now Peter Piper picked peppers, but Run rapped rhymes. Humpty Dumpty fell down, that's his hard time. ” “Peter Piper” Run DMC
Assonance The repetition of similar inner vowel sounds followed by different consonant sounds “DAYS WANE AWAY”
Assonance “Snap back to reality, Oh there goes gravity Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked He's so mad, but he won't give up that easy, No he won't have it , he knows his whole back city's ropes It don't matter, he's dope He knows that, but he's broke He's so stacked but he knows When he goes back to his mobile home, that's when it's Back to the lab again yo This whole rhapsody He better go capture this moment and hope it don't pass him” “Lose Yourself” Eminem
Couplet Pair of rhyming lines in a poem often set off from the rest of the poem
Couplet “Where ya learned how to kiss and cuss and fight too. Better watch out for the boys in blue. And all this small town he said, she said, Ain't it funny how rumors spread. ” “Dirt Road Anthem” Jason Aldean
Consonance Repetition of inner or end consonant sounds that are preceded by different vowel sounds She swung her fist in angst against the beast. He struck a streak of bad luck.
Consonance “She's a hot little number in her pick-up truck, Daddy's sweet money done jacked it up She's a party all-nighter from South Carolina A bad mamma-jamma from down in Alabama She's a ragin' Cajun, lunatic from Brunswick, Juicy Georgia peach, With a thick southern drawl, sexy swingin walk” “She’s Country” Jason Aldean
Consonance We go together, Like rama lamma ka dinga dong Remembered forever As shoobop sha wadda yippity boom de boom Chang changitty chang shoobop That's the way it should be, wha ooohhh, yeah!
End Rhyme Rhyming words that are at the ends of their respective lines What we consider “normal” rhyme
End Rhyme “Because I'm happy Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof Because I'm happy Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth Because I'm happy Clap along if you know what happiness is to you Because I'm happy Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do” “Happy” Pharrel Williams
Free Verse Poetry with no set meter (rhythm) or rhyme scheme
Free Verse “I want your love and, I want your revenge. You and me could write a bad romance. ” “Bad Romance” Lady Gaga
Hyperbole A huge exaggeration to emphasize strong feeling
Hyperbole “You would not believe your eyes If ten million fireflies Lit up the world as I fell asleep … Cause I'd get a thousand hugs From ten thousand lightning bugs As they tried to teach me how to dance. ” “Fireflies” Owl City “If I could fall Into the sky Do you think time Would pass me by 'Cause you know I'd walk A thousand miles If I could Just see you Tonight” “A Thousand Miles” Vanessa Carlton
Imagery Use of description that helps the reader imagine how something looks, sounds, feel, smells, or tastes. Use of concrete details that appeal to five senses.
Imagery I've got a thick skin and an elastic heart, But your blade it might be too sharp. I'm like a rubber band until you pull too hard, But I may snap and I move fast. But you won't see me fall apart, Cause I've got an elastic heart, I've got an elastic heart. “Elastic Heart” by Sia And the walls kept tumbling down In the city that we love Great clouds roll over the hills Bringing darkness from above But if you close your eyes, Does it almost feel like Nothing changed at all? And if you close your eyes, Does it almost feel like You've been here before? How am I gonna be an optimist about this? “Pompeii” Bastille
Irony A contrast between what is said and what is meant. When things turn out different than what is expected.
Irony “It's like rain on your wedding day It's a free ride when you've already paid It's the good advice that you just didn't take … A traffic jam when you're already late A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife It's meeting the man of my dreams, And then meeting his beautiful wife. And isn't it ironic. . . don't you think? ” “Ironic” Alanis Morissette
Lyric A type of poetry that expresses the poet’s emotions. It often tells some sort of story or talks of an experience.
Metaphor A comparison between two unlike things that doesn’t use “like” or “as” Example: Life is a rollercoaster
Metaphor “My heart's a stereo, It beats for you, so listen close. Hear my thoughts in every note. Make me your radio, And turn me up when you feel Low, This melody was meant for you, Just sing along to my stereo. ” “My Heart’s a Stereo” Gym Class Heroes “Life is a highway I wanna ride it all night long. ” “Life is a Highway” Rascal Flatts
Meter The pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in lines of a poem
Meter It’s going down, I’m yelling timber You better move, you better dance. Swing your partner, round and round End of the night, it's going down “Timber” Pitbull (feat. Ke$ha)
Mood Overall atmosphere or prevailing emotion feeling of a work.
Mood “And it starts in my toes, And I crinkle my nose, Wherever it goes, I always know. That you make me smile, Please stay for a while now, Just take your time, Wherever you go. ” “Bubbly” Colbie Calliat “Crawling in my skin, these wounds they will not heal, Fear is how I fall, confusing what is real. ” “Crawling” Linkin Park
Onomatopoeia Use of words that sound like what they mean. The sound suggests the sounds made by objects or activities.
Onomatopoeia “Tik tok on the clock, But the party don’t stop” “Tik Tok” Ke$ha “I'm so three thousand eight, You so two thousand late. I got that boom, That future boom. Let me get it now. Boom boom (Gotta get that)” “Boom Pow” Black Eyed Peas
Personification Giving an inanimate object human characteristics.
Personification “But it was just my imagination, once again. Running away with me. Tell you it was just my imagination, Running away with me. ” “Just My Imagination” The Temptations “The highway won’t hold you tonight The highway don’t know you’re alive The highway don’t care if you’re all alone But I do, I do. The highway won’t dry your tears The highway don’t need you here The highway don’t care if you’re coming home But I do, I do. ” “Highway Don’t Care” Tim Mc. Graw (feat Taylor Swift) “Our hearts are hungry for a food that won't come, We could make a feast from these crumbs And we're all staring down the barrel of a gun So if your life flashed before you. ” “Live Like We’re Dying” Kris Allen
Point of View The vantage point or perspective from which a writer presents the action in a work
Point of View “Standing at the back door She tried to make it fast One tear hit the hard wood It fell like broken glass She said sometimes love slips away And you just can't get it back Let's face it For one split second She almost turned around But that would be like pouring rain drops Back into a cloud So she took another step and said, I see the way out and I'm gonna' take it” “Wasted” Carrie Underwood
Repetition The repeating of a sound, word, phrase, or more in a given literary work
Repetition “They, they gonna see us from outer space, outer space Light it up, like we're the stars of the human race, human race … 'Cause we got the fire, fire Yeah we got the fire, fire And we gonna let it burn, burn We gonna let it burn, burn” “Burn” Ellie Goulding
Simile A comparison of two unlike things using “like” or “as”
Simile “Shine bright like a diamond, We're beautiful like diamonds in the sky. ” “Diamonds” Rihanna “You make me smile like the sun, fall out of bed, Sing like bird, dizzy in my head, Spin like a record, crazy on a Sunday night. You make me dance like a fool, forget how to breathe, Shine like gold, buzz like a bee, Just the thought of you can drive me wild. . Oh, you make me smile” “Smile” Uncle Kracker
Slant Rhyme/Half Rhyme Occurs when the stressed vowel sounds are not quite identical (brow / below)
Slant Rhyme The story of my life, I take her home, I drive all night to keep her warm, And time. . . is frozen. The story of my life, I give her hope, I spend her love, Until she's broke, Inside. The story of my life. “The Story of My Life” One Direction
Symbol/Symbolism The use of one things to represent another. Something concrete—such as an object, action, character, or scene—that stands for something abstract, such as concept or idea
Symbolism “All my windows still are broken, But I'm standing on my feet. You can take everything I have, You can break everything I am, Like I'm made of glass, Like I'm made of paper. Go on and try to tear me down, I will be rising from the ground, Like a skyscraper” “Skyscraper” Demi Lovato “My country tis of thee, Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, Land of the Pilgrim’s Pride, From every mountain side, Let freedom ring. ” “America” Samuel Francis Smith
Theme The main idea or underlying meaning of a literary work
Theme Somewhere over the rainbow, Way up high, Are the dreams that you dreamed of, Once in a lullaby. Somewhere over the rainbow, Blue birds fly, And the dreams that you dreamed of, Dreams really do come true. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Tone Author’s attitude toward his or her subject
Tone “What's wrong with the world, mama People livin' like they ain't got no mamas I think the whole world addicted to the drama Only attracted to things that'll bring you trauma … People killin', people dyin’ Children hurt and you hear them cryin’ Father, Father help us Send us some guidance from above 'Cause people got me, got me questionin’ Where is the love? ” “Where’s the Love? ” Black Eyed Peas