Unseen Poetry

Use the following SIRS as a reminder of what to cover when you are writing about a poem:

  • Subject matter (what is the poem about? Does the title provide a clue?)
  • Imagery and vocabulary: imagery (metaphors, similes, personification, symbolism), vocabulary and punctuation
  • Rhyme/Rhythm/Structure (and how does this link to the subject matter/themes)
  • Summary linking the poem to the question

List of Poetic Device/Terms:

Alliteration

the first letter of a word is repeated in words that follow; the cold, crisp, crust of clean, clear ice.

Assonance

the same vowel sound is repeated but the consonants are different; he passed her a sharp, dark glance, shot a cool, foolish look across the room.

Enjambment

a device used in poetry where a sentence continues beyond the end of the line or verse. This technique is often used to maintain a sense of continuation from one stanza to another.

Hyperbole

exaggerating something for literary purposes which is not meant to be taken literally; we gorged on the banquet of beans on toast.

Imagery

similes, metaphors and personification; they all compare something ‘real’ with something ‘imagined’.

Irony

the humorous or sarcastic use of words or ideas, implying the opposite of what they mean.

Metaphor

a word or phrase used to imply figurative, not literal or ‘actual’, resemblance; he flew into the room.

Monologue

an uninterrupted monologue can show a character’s importance or state of mind. Monologue can be in speech form, delivered in front of other characters and having great thematic importance, or as a soliloquy where we see the character laying bare their soul and thinking aloud.

Onomatopoeia

a word that sounds like the noise it is describing: ‘splash’, ‘bang’, ‘pop’, ‘hiss’.

Oxymoron

Where two words normally not associated are brought together: ‘cold heat’ ‘bitter sweet’.

Personification

attributing a human quality to a thing or idea: the moon calls me to her darkened world.

Repetition

the repetition of a word or phrase to achieve a particular effect.

Rhyme

the way that words sound the same at the end of lines in poetry. Poems often have a fixed rhyme-scheme (for example, sonnets have 14 lines with fixed rhyme scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG). Try to comment as to what contribution the rhyme-scheme is making to the text as a whole. Why do you think the poet has chosen it? Does it add control or imitate the ideas in the poem?

Rhythm

a repetitive beat or metre within a poem. Tennyson’s poem The Lady of Shallot uses a strong internal rhythm to build up the sense of unrelenting monotony in the poem:

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

Simile

a phrase which establishes similarity between two things to emphasise the point being made. This usually involves the words ‘like’ or ‘as’; ‘he is as quick as an arrow in flight’, ‘as white as snow’, ‘like a burning star’.

Symbolism

often objects, colours, sounds and places work as symbols. They can sometimes give us a good insight into the themes. So, snakes are often symbols of temptation as in the story of Adam and Eve, white usually symbolises innocence and a ringing bell can be a symbol for impending doom.

Tone

the writer’s tone or voice or atmosphere or feeling that pervades the text, such as sadness, gloom, celebration, joy, anxiety, dissatisfaction, regret or anger. Different elements of writing can help to create this; long sentences or verses, with assonance (repeated vowel sounds), tend to create a sad, melancholic mood. Short syllabic, alliterative lines can create an upbeat, pacy atmosphere.

(Adapted from: BBC Bitesize)

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