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POETRY Form and Function. ACADEMIC VOCABULARY. Structure. Poetic form : the way words are organized and patterned, including length and placement Arrangement of lines and stanzas Units of sound used Form is chosen to fit subject matter Line = single row of words on a page in a poem

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poetry form and function

POETRY Form and Function



Poetic form: the way words are organized and patterned, including length and placement

  • Arrangement of lines and stanzas
  • Units of sound used
  • Form is chosen to fit subject matter

Line = single row of words on a page in a poem

Stanza = a group of lines that form a unit of thought in a poem


Conventional/Traditional or Fixed form: poetry with set rules, such as number of lines, rhythm, and rhyme (sonnets)

Organic or Irregular form: poetry that takes shape freely because of the flow of content (free verse)

  • a 14-line poem with a specific rhyme scheme and meter
  • Commonly written in iambic pentameter
  • Stanza arrangement-
    • octaves (eight lines) and sestets (six lines)
    • quatrains (four lines) and couplets (two rhyming lines).
  • Most sonnets focus on love and deep subjects such as fate or immortality.

Traditional Form

devices used
Devices Used

Apostrophe: directly addressing an absent person, a nonhuman creature or object, or an abstract idea.

Hyperbole: exaggeration to convey strong emotions.

Extended Metaphor: long, elaborate comparison of two unlike things

Irony: contrasts of situations in which what is expected is not what actually occurs.

Paradox: seemingly impossible contradictions that turn out to be true.

Inverted Sentences: To maintain meter and rhyme scheme, poems sometimes use unusual word order. Punctuation may show slurred, omitted, or accented syllables.

  • A long narrative poem on a serious subject, presented in an elevated or formal style. (Fixed Form)
  • Traces the adventures of a great hero who embodies the culture.
  • Tells a Full Story: includes story elements (characters, setting, plot, and point of view)
  • Conveys universal themes or messages about important aspects of human nature i.e. good and evil, life and death, honor and loyalty.

Epic storyline examples:

    • a great battle between people or forces in conflict
    • a long journey involving of a quest or search
    • the coming-of-age of a young hero
epic traits
Epic Traits
  • Epic Hero: a figure of high social status and often of great historical or legendary importance.
    • actions often determine the fate of a nation or group of people.
    • performs exceedingly courageous, even superhuman, deeds that reflect the ideas and values of an era.
  • Supernatural Plot Elements: Complication by the actions of gods or mysterious, larger-than-life forces.
  • Large-Scale Setting-involves more than one nation.
  • Long, Formal Speeches-especiallyfor the main character.
  • Begins with an Invocation-calling upon a Muse or other help in telling the story.
  • Epic Similes -extended comparisons that continue for a number of lines and often relate heroic events to simple everyday events in people's lives.
  • Springs from Oral Tradition
traditional forms
Traditional Forms

Ballad: has meter, rhyme and repeated passages

  • Usually a type of narrative poem (tells a story or recounts events)
  • originally meant to be sung

Ode: a lyric poem (short, a single speaker expresses personal thoughts and feelings) of a serious or meditative nature that aims to elevate its subject


Odes tend to be longer poems but may take a variety of forms.

  • A Pindaric ode uses a three-stanza pattern in which the first two stanzas follow the same form and the third stanza is different; the three-stanza pattern may then be repeated to create odes of six stanzas, nine stanzas, and so on.
  • A Horatian ode uses one single stanza pattern.
  • Odes that use a variety of stanzas or no stanzas are called irregular odes
fixed forms
Fixed Forms
  • Elegy: a poem that reflects on death, or mourns the loss of someone or something
  • Villanelle: 19 lines arranged in 5 stanzas of 3 lines and 1 stanza of 4 lines including repeated lines
  • Blank Verse: unrhymed iambic pentameter
sound units
Sound Units

Rhythm: the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables

Meter: the repetition of regular rhythmic units

Foot: each unit of meter; consists of a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables

Scansionor scanning: the notation of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry - breaking down a lines into rhythmic components to determine meter

metrical feet
Metrical Feet

• Iamb, or iambic foot: an unstressed followed by a stressed syllable . Iambs are the most common meter.

EXAMPLE: My life closed twice before its close—

• Trochee, or trochaic foot: a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. Used to provide a singsong or trance-like rhythm.

EXAMPLE: Tiger!/Tiger!/ burning/ bright

metrical feet1
Metrical Feet

• Anapest: two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. Often convey galloping or other forward motion.

EXAMPLE “Till at length into Aix Roland galloped and stood.”

• Dactyl: a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. Also move the rhythm along quickly, and often a poet will end a line with a half-foot to provide a stop.

EXAMPLE Hickory Dickory Dock

sound devices
Sound Devices

Rhyme scheme: a pattern of end rhyme in a poem

Exact rhyme: word pair or set whose accented vowel sounds—and succeeding sounds—are identical, as in amuse, confuse, and lose

Slant rhyme / off rhyme: rhyme that is approximate but not exact, as in road/ride and sell/seal

End rhyme: rhyme that occurs at the end of a line of poetry

Internal rhyme: rhyme that occurs within a single line of poetry

device and structure names
Device and Structure names

End-stopped line: a line whose end coincides with a pause in normal speech

Enjambment: a line whose end does not coincide with a natural pause. A pause or breaking in the middle of a line or a run on that gives end stop

Couplet: 2- rhyming line stanza, usually a response to an earlier developed issue

quatrain: 4-line stanza

sestet: 6-line stanza

tercet: 3-line stanza

octave: 8-line stanza

organic irregular form
Organic/Irregular Form
  • Arose out of desire to achieve more flexibility in verse formsto fit the new content
  • Takes shape and pattern from content itself
  • Rhythm and meter may exist but usually in unexpected ways
organic irregular form1
Organic/Irregular Form

Free Verse

  • Lacks regular meter and rhyme
  • Usually still has a musical quality achieved through sound devices like alliteration and repetition
  • Flows naturally to indicate the cadences of everyday speech
walt whitman
Walt Whitman

Famous for free verse

Creates rhythm with poetic devices:

Cataloging – listing (people, things, attributes)

Parallelism – related ideas phrased in similar ways


(LIT 509)

free verse
Free Verse

Recognize the poetic forms of Whitman:

Going to school, I dress quickly, eat in a rush, run for the bus.

Going to school, I read closely, listen, speak, write, rush to the next class.

Repetition – “Going to school”

Cataloging – lists of actions

Parallel grammatical structure – I + Verb + Adv

writing exercise
Writing Exercise

Write a few lines of your own using free verse and at least two of Whitman’s devices.

Have you exhibited a specific tone (an expression of attitude toward the subject) through your choice of words and details?

  • Free Verse
  • Lingering Romantic Notions (subject matter = nature)
  • A bit of Transcendentalism present (individualism)
  • Optimistic Tone, always positive

* http://www.elronds-haus.de/whitman.htm

emily dickinson s style
Emily Dickinson’s Style
  • Quatrains that echo the rhythms of church hymns, lines 2 & 4 rhyme
  • Slant rhyme
  • Inventive punctuation – use of dash
  • Irregular capitalization and inverted syntax to emphasize words
  • Imagery and figurative language
  • Depressing, pessimistic tone.
  • Subject matter = death
poems are untitled
*poems are untitled

My life closed twice before its close –

It yet remains to see

If Immortality unveil

A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive

As these that twice befell.

Parting is all we know of heaven,

And all we need of hell.

writing exercise1
Writing Exercise
  • Choose either Whitman or Dickinson’s style
  • Write at least two stanzas to emulate his or her poetry
  • Be sure to use at least two elements of the poet in your own free verse