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The Genre of Poetry. Introduction to Literature. Poetry vs. Prose. What distinguishes poetry from prose? It’s rhymed? Only sometimes… It’s about love? Only sometimes… It’s difficult to understand? Usually (but, then again, prose can be, too…)

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the genre of poetry

The Genre of Poetry

Introduction to Literature

poetry vs prose
Poetry vs. Prose
  • What distinguishes poetry from prose?
    • It’s rhymed? Only sometimes…
    • It’s about love? Only sometimes…
    • It’s difficult to understand? Usually (but, then again, prose can be, too…)
  • While there are many ways that poetry and prose can differ, these are the major ones:
    • Poetry places as much importance on the sound, style, and shape of the message as the message itself.
    • Poetry is less concerned with creating a story, defining characters, or establishing a setting than creating a mood or leaving an impression.
    • Because poetry is often shorter and more condensed than prose, interpreting it requires the audience to “read between the lines” and consider multiple meanings.
  • In poetry, meter refers to how we measure a line or lines of poetry. It can be:
    • Syllabic: Measured according to the number of syllables per word
    • Accentual: Measured according to the number of accented, or stressed, syllables
    • Accentual-syllabic: Measured according to the combination of stressed and unstressed syllables
      • Most common in traditional, form poetry
  • When we are measuring the length and rhythm of a poem’s line(s), we are engaging in a process called scansion.
  • Knowledge of poetic forms, rhythms, and scansion is called prosody. Sometimes we refer to a particular poet’s “style” with this term.
    • Ex. Robert Frost’s prosody
  • Stressed Syllable: ́ or ̄
  • Unstressed Syllable: ˘́
  • Feet Break: /
  • Caesura: //
    • A mid-line pause
types of feet
Types of Feet
  • In accentual-syllabic verse…
    • Each unit of stressed and unstressed syllables is known as a foot
    • Different combinations of stresses create different feet—the building blocks of poetry


  • ˘ ¯
  • ¯ ˘ ˘
  • ¯ ˘
  • ˘ ˘¯
  • ¯ ¯
  • ˘ ¯ ˘
  • ¯˘ ¯
  • ˘ ˘
number of feet
Number of Feet
  • In accentual-syllabic verse…
    • Along with the type of foot, the number of feetperlinedictates the name of the structure in which the poem is written
  • *Indicates most common
  • Trochaic Trimeter
    • Likeahigh-bornmaiden


      • Percy Shelley, “To a Skylark”
  • Anapestic Tetrameter
    • And the sheenof theirspearswas likestarson thesea, When thebluewave rollsnightly ondeepGalilee.
      • Lord Byron, “The Destruction of Sennacherib”
  • Iambic Pentameter
    • ShallIcomparetheetoasummer'sday? Thouartmorelovelyandmoretemperate:
      • William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 18”
  • In prose, we call groups of related/nearby sentences paragraphs.
  • In poetry, we call groups of related/nearby lines stanzas.
    • Formal poetry will contain stanzas, often with the same number of lines in each.
    • Free verse poetry may not use stanzas, and, if it does, the stanzas may not be of uniform length.
types of rhyme
Types of Rhyme
  • End Rhyme: The sounds of final vowels and consonants are identical
      • Ex. Gig/big
    • Masculine Rhyme: The final syllables of an end rhyme are stressed and identical (most end rhymes are masculine)
      • Ex. Long/song
    • Feminine Rhyme: Of an end rhyme that is identical, the penultimate syllable is stressed and the final syllable is unstressed
      • Ex. Satin/Latin
    • Triple Rhyme: The final three syllables of an end rhyme are all identical
      • Ex. Deporting/resorting
    • Half Rhyme: Only the final consonant—but not the final vowel—rhymes exactly.
      • Ex. Card/word
  • Eye Rhyme: Two words that look as if they rhyme but are pronounced differently
    • Ex. Cough/bough
  • Internal Rhyme: An exact end rhyme within (in the middle of) a line of poetry
    • Ex. The goose on the loose is wild.
rhyme scheme
Rhyme Scheme
  • In formal (rhymed) poetry, the rhyme schemeis the pattern of end rhymes for each line
  • Different poetical forms—especially traditional ones—will have consistent, expected rhyme schemes
  • Rhyme schemes are portrayed with letters
    • Ex. AABB, ABAB, ABCABC, etc.
  • They flee from me that sometime did me seek A

With naked foot, stalking in my chamber. B

I have seen them gentle, tame, and meek, A

That now are wild and do not remember B

That sometime they put themself in dangerB

To take bread at my hand; and now they range, C

Busily seeking with a continualchange. C

      • Sir Thomas Wyatt, “They Flee From Me”
rhymed forms
Rhymed Forms
  • Terza Rima
  • Sonnet
  • Villanelle
  • Sestina
  • Ballad
  • Ode
  • Elegy
unrhymed forms
Unrhymed Forms
  • Blank verse
  • Haiku
  • Free verse
  • Prose poem
  • High (Golden) Style
    • More complicated, fancy, or multi-syllabic words
    • Unusual stresses or syntax
    • Does not necessarily mean older
  • Low (Plain) Style
    • Common, simple, shorter words
    • Natural syntax that mimics speech
    • Does not necessarily mean more contemporary
additional terms
Additional Terms
  • Elision: Dropping a syllable or letter to fit in poetic meter
    • Ex. O’er the ramparts we watched…
  • Accented Grave: Marking a normally unaccented end syllable (almost always an –ed) to indicate that it should be pronounced
    • Ex. Belovèd
  • Enjambment: Breaking up a clause over multiple poetic lines.
    • Ex. A farmer was ploughing

his field

  • End-stopped: Ending a clause or sentence at the end of a poetic line.
    • Ex. Humpty dumpty sat on a wall.

Humpty dumpty had a great fall.

  • In groups of 3-4:
    • Scan:
      • “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”
      • “They Flee From Me”
    • Identify the type and number of feet
    • Note whether lines are primarily enjambedor end-stopped
    • Are there stanzas? If so, what type?
    • Identify the form and rhyme scheme
    • What imagery or metaphors do you see?
    • Does the structure of the poem seem to fit the message? Why or why not?