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Poetry & Poetic Devices. 6 th Grade ELA Mr. Roe Room 19. A Poem. A poem is a portrait sketched in words. It is a synonym for the soul, a sermon From the stars. It is a song of mockingbirds Who mimic men; the fragrance of a forgotten Rose. It is the grammar of the soul

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Poetry &

Poetic Devices

6th Grade ELA

Mr. Roe

Room 19

A Poem

A poem is a portrait sketched in words.

It is a synonym for the soul, a sermon

From the stars. It is a song of mockingbirds

Who mimic men; the fragrance of a forgotten

Rose. It is the grammar of the soul

And the language of the heart. It is a dream

That comes to those who are awake; a stroll

Upon the boulevard of time; a scheme

To conquer death. It is the romance of France

In a triolet or it is the power of Rome

In a sonnet. It is a waltz for words, a dance

Of the pen to the time of a mental metronome.

A poem is a mental prayer and a breath

From the soul which says that life is more than death.

- Roger Bates Kronmann

how to carefully read a poem
How to (carefully!) Read a Poem

How do you define poetry?

  • Almost impossible to do.
  • As you grow older and are able to understand more words, poems take on entirely new dimensions.
how to carefully read a poem1
How to (carefully!) Read a Poem

What kind of language is used in poetry?

  • A poet seeks the most meaningful words
  • Poets use sounds deliberately to enhance the message of the poem
  • A poet uses words that are the most suggestive, expressive, and precise for the poet’s purpose
how to carefully read a poem2
How to (carefully!) Read a Poem

And what IS the poet’s purpose?

  • This is a hard question to answer.
  • Poetry communicates feelings and experiences rather than objective facts.
  • Poetry “says more and talks less” than other forms of expression.
  • It does this by using a number of language resources – “POETIC DEVICES”
how to carefully read a poem3
How to (carefully!) Read a Poem

How then, do you respond to a poem?

  • You need to understand and react to its special language and structure.
  • It is a good idea to read a poem several times and aloud at least once.
  • It is often helpful to write a prose paraphrase of a poem to help you clarify and simplify the author’s ideas and language.
guidelines for close reading of poetry
Guidelines for Close Reading of Poetry
  • Read the poem aloud at least once, following the punctuation for phrasing.
  • Commas, semicolons, periods, and other marks of punctuation tell you where to pause!
  • Poets do not expect the reader to pause at the end of each line!
guidelines for close reading of poetry1
Guidelines for Close Reading of Poetry
  • Respond thoughtfully to key words and references.
  • Many words have both denotative and connotative meanings.
  • Denotative meaning is the dictionary definition
  • Connotative meaning carries emotional associations.
guidelines for close reading of poetry2
Guidelines for Close Reading of Poetry
  • Write a paraphrase of any lines that need clarification or simplification.
  • A paraphrase helps a reader respond more fully to the poem and to understand imagery and figurative language.
  • It also puts inverted word order into normal word order.
guidelines for close reading of poetry3
Guidelines for Close Reading of Poetry
  • Using your own response to the poem, write a statement clarifying its central idea or meaning.
  • Try to state this idea in one or two sentences.
  • In this way you can use your own reactions as a means of exploring the poet’s message.
  • Words or phrases used to put the senses to work in an effort to create pictures (or images) in the reader’s mind. Imagery is chiefly visual, but images also help one hear something, smell something, taste something, or touch something.
  • The purpose of imagery is to help one re-create in the mind the situation the writer imagines, so that we can react as we would to the thing or experience itself.
  • Writers use imagery as a tool to achieve intensity in their work.

With words, the writer creates “visual” images that make the reader “see” what is being described with the mind’s eye.

Not just a moon…but…“The soft yellow glow of the moon peeked out behind the blanket of dark clouds.”


With words, the writer creates a clear and definite sound that the reader can relate to and “hear” with his or her imagination.

Not just a cricket’s sound…but…”The sharp, melodious trill of the chirping cricket on a hot summer’s night.”


With words, the writer describes a clear smell that the reader can relate and respond to with his or her imagination. (This is one of the strongest senses; yet, it is rarely used in writing).

Not just pie…but…”Opening Grandma’s kitchen door, I was warmly greeted by the cinnamon sweet aroma of her ‘just baked’ apple pie.”


With words, the writer creates a “taste” so clear and defined that the reader can actually taste what is being described by using one’s imagination.

Not just lemonade…but…”The unexpected tart of the freshly squeezed lemonade caused my lips to pucker as I drank it all down.”


With words, the writer describes a “touch” so clear that the reader can actually “feel” what is being described by using one’s imagination. (Touch can be both texture and temperature).

Not just sand…but…”The wet gritty sand squished between my toes as I walked along the beach.”

Imagery Discussion

(discuss the use of imagery in the following lines of poetry)

#1 By…Samuel Hazo

“I threw and threw until my shirtback clung

adhesively and cold against my spine.

It was no more a case of having fun.

I swore I would keep throwing till I won.”

#2 By…Thomas J. Lyon

“Little lady of wrinkled potato skin

Clutching a five and dime shopping bag

I try to stop to take your hand

To tell you you are there.”

#3 By…William Wordsworth

“A violet by a mossy stone

Half hidden from the eye!

- Fair as a star when only one

Is shining in the sky.”

Imagery Practice

(work on creative imagery one-liners for the following…)


Take a moment to write about a favorite place. Focus on the sights and sounds found there.

As you read the following poems, pay careful attention to the sight and sound imagery. After completing the reading, we will share your findings and discuss your reactions to the speaker’s fantasy.

  • Language that is used to describe one thing in terms of something else; language that is not intended to be taken literally. Figures of speech are not literally true, but they can help one to see the similarities between things that seem to be completely different; therefore, figurative language depends upon a comparison that is made between two or more things that are basically unlike.
  • Figurative language is very common in everyday conversation as well as in the written word. It contains such forms as simile, metaphor, personification, and symbol.
  • A simile is a type of “figurative language” (…language that shows one way of saying something while meaning something else. To understand it, we cannot take it literally; we must interpret it.)
  • A simile is a direct comparison made between two unlike things, using a word of comparison such as like, as, than, such as, or resembles. Similes are one of the most frequently used figures of speech. Ex: “My Luve’s like a red, red, rose.”
  • Similes are similar to metaphors in their comparison of two essentially unlike things. The main difference lies in their degree of directness. Similes use specific comparative words to denote the comparison. While similes are sometimes rather direct, they can also be quite subtle.
Simile Practice
  • Discuss the effectiveness of the similes in the poems to follow.
  • By…Amy Lowell
    • “When I go away from you
    • The world beats dead
    • Like a slackened drum.”
By…Samuel Hazo
  • My Sealed Aquarium
    • Seatbelted for the worst,
    • I slither into traffic like a trout.
    • Downstream, down
    • sluicing ramps, down
    • capillary boulevards, down
    • freeways, Mississippis,
    • I ogle from my sealed
    • aquarium and swim with schools
    • in the current
    • Fish-eyed
    • in glass, I minnow sideways
    • to the blink of go and stop.
    • I race the passing gills.
    • I trail the leadering fish.
  • A metaphor is another type of “figurative language” (see simile).
  • A comparison made between two things which are basicallydissimilar, with the intent of giving added meaning to one of them. Metaphor is one of the most common forms of figurative language. A metaphor eliminates the specific word of comparison that the simile uses and directly identifies the comparison. Ex: “All the world is a stage.”
An (B) EXTENDED METAPHOR is a metaphor that is extended throughout a majority of the poem or throughout the entire poem. (The Poison Tree)
  • Metaphors are effective because they often help to put a specific picture/image in our minds. They often arouse strong emotional feelings, for the reader can then relate to the author’s/speaker’s words.
Metaphor Practice

Exercise A: Shakespeare once wrote…

“All the world’s a stage

And all the men and women merely players.”

Expand this metaphor by continuing these lines and composing some of your own comparisons of elements of acting to aspects of our lives.

Exercise B: Write a paragraph/poem (at least 6 lines) expanding a metaphor (as you did for the previous exercise). Try to make as many logical and creative relationships as possible. Begin with at least two of the following metaphors, and then create two of your own.

1) Life is a football game.

2) My little brother is a grasshopper.

3) School is a carnival.

4) Getting into college is a marathon.

5) Shopping for new clothes is a battle.


If time allows, discuss the (type of) metaphor on the following slide.

  • The repetition of consonant sounds in a group of words close together. Most often, alliteration comes at the beginning of words, although it can appear in the middle and at the end of words as well. Ex: “a dime a dozen,” “bigger and better,” and “jump for joy.”
  • One important function of alliteration is to give special emphasis to the words alliterated. Our ear hears them as having special value. This is why, although alliteration is most often used in poetry, it is also used in advertising and political speeches.
Alliteration is often used to reinforce meaning or to create mood.
  • The most powerful alliterations are those with three or more words alliterated.
  • Ex: Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
  • A figure of speech in which something nonhuman (a creature, idea, or object) is given human characteristics or feelings. Ex: “The moon smiled at me.”
  • When discussing poetry and identifying personification, try to identify WHAT is being personified, as well as HOW the poem personifies it. Ex: “The moon smiled at me.”
Personification Practice

Discuss the personification in the following poems and discuss the “effect” it creates.

1) By…Walter de la Mare


Slowly, silently, now the moon

Walks the night in her silver shoon;

This way, and that, she peers, and sees

Silver fruit upon silver trees;

One by one the casements catch

Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;

Couched in his kennel, like a log,

With paws of silver sleeps the dog;

From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep

Of doves in a silver-feathered sleep;

A harvest mouse goes scampering by,

With silver claws and a silver eye;

And moveless fish in the water gleam,

By silver reeds in a silver stream.

By…Kathleen Spivack
  • March 1st
  • Coming out of the house on a fresh March morning,
  • I saw February still meandering around
  • like laundry caught in a Bendix. Stray shreds
  • of cloud, like pillow slips, were rent from
  • her large endlessness. Outdated,
  • her decrepit body garlanded itself dis-
  • gracefully with powder. She luxuriated in old age.
  • Even her graying sheets were still there,
  • tattered, heaped carelessly on the street,
  • bearing the indentation of someone’s huge body
  • and furred with a fine fringe of soot.
  • She had been plump, she had been heavy, sitting
  • on top of us since January. Winter, you
  • old clothes hamper, what mildew
  • still molders inside you before March
  • dribbles a bit, dries up, and is done for?
  • The use of a word whose sound imitates or reinforces its meaning. In everyday speech, words such as whoosh, tick-tock, zoom, purr, popcorn, and buzz are onomatopoetic.

Onomatopoeia Practice

Discuss the “effect” created by the examples of onomatopoeia given above.

  • A figure of speech that uses exaggeration or overstatement for effect. Ex: “I could beat you with one arm tied behind my back.” Or, Robert Burns’ poem, A Red, Red Rose. “As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, / So deep in luve am I; /And I will luve thee still, my dear, / Till a’ the seas gang dry.”

Hyperbole Practice

Create 4 sentences: 2 sentences containing non-original hyperboles and 2 sentences containing original hyperboles.

  • The speaker of the poem is the voice in the poem. The voice in a poem can possibly be that of the poet, but more likely it is the voice of an invented character (person, animal, or thing) created by the poet. Some poems even have multiple speakers.
  • One of the first things to do when you read a poem is to look for clues that identify its speaker. Even when the poet begins the poem with “I,” we cannot assume and should not assume the speaker is the poet. It is always best to assume the speaker is invented like any other literary character.
Speaker Practice

(Read the following short poem and decipher the speaker).


“I try to have patience;

but it’s too much to expect from me.

I want my needs met now;

I need to rest…to nap…to plan.

The window is the place where all my needs are met.

Sun beams help me think…help me sleep.

Who is at my window? Little wren…not so wise.

Licking my lips, I creep closer,

a full belly helps me think as well.

Look at you fluttering your wings;

you tempt; you delight.

I slowly gaze at the clock;

dinner is not until ten,

but a “not-so-wise” winged wren will do fine until then.”

  • A common form of repetition in which one or more words, phrases, or lines that are repeated regularly in a poem, usually at the end of each stanza. Refrains are especially common in ballads, which are story poems that are meant to be sung.
  • Refrains are used to aid memory and emphasize an idea.
Refrain Practice

Think of your favorite songs’ refrains. Now focus on one song that has a particularly effective and memorable refrain. What is the refrain? What is it about that particular refrain that makes it effective and memorable?

refrain practice
Refrain Practice

Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moonOr asked the grinning bobcat why he grinnedCan you sing with all the voices of the mountainCan you paint with all the colors of the wind?Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?

  • The attitude a writer takes toward the subject or the reader of a work of literature. Two writers can write on the same subject and convey a completely different tone.
  • An adjective is usually used to describe the tone of a work of literature: straightforward, serious, humorous, angry, lighthearted, cynical, affectionate, bitter, scornful, compassionate, detached, etc.
It is important to think about the tone of a piece of writing, for if you misinterpret tone, you can misread the entire story or poem.
  • To interpret tone, you should look at how the writer describes the characters, what point of view he has chosen, and what he tells about the characters’ feelings for each other.
  • You should also look at the writer’s description of setting and the mood or atmosphere the words evoke.
  • Tone can also be conveyed by the arrangement of words, by rhythm, sound (volume, inflection, and pitch), images, and figures of speech.
Tone Practice

Describe the tone in the following popular sonnet (Sonnet 130)

Tone = _______________

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,

Coral is far more red than her lips’ red.

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks.

And in some perfumes is there more delight

Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak, yet well I know

That music hath a far more pleasing sound.

I grant I never saw a goddess go,

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare.

-by…William Shakespeare

  • The reversal of the usual order of words in a sentence. Sometimes poetic inversion is used to stress a particular word, for emphasis, and other times it is used to create rhythm or for technical reasons such as to create an end rhyme. Ex. “From heaven sent was he.”
  • Anything written using the device of poetic inversion should be able to be written in “normal” speech. All words in the inverted sentence should be used in the “normal” sentence. (“From heaven sent was he” to “He was sent from heaven”)
  • In poetry, a rhyme that occurs in the last syllables of verses
  • One of the chief functions of rhyme is to insure the unity of the poem. The repetition of rhyming sounds emphasizes the relationship of certain lines. Another function of rhyme is to build our anticipation, which can either be satisfied or frustrated. Rhyme is often used also to produce humor.
  • End rhyme is the most common form of rhyme. This places the rhyme sound at the end of a line of verse. The effect is one of closure, rest, and a sense of completion and fulfillment of expectation.
from robert frost s stopping by woods on a snowy evening
from Robert Frost's “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

Whose woods these are I think I know,

His house is in the village, though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

  • End rhyme is the most common type of rhyme in English poetry.
  • Rhyme between a word within a line and another word either at the end of the same line or within another line
  • One of the chief functions of rhyme is to insure the unity of the poem. The repetition of rhyming sounds emphasizes the relationship of certain lines. Another function of rhyme is to build our anticipation, which can either be satisfied or frustrated. Rhyme is often used also to produce humor.
  • Internal rhyme repeats sound within a single line of the verse. Ex: “Nibbling like a mouse, someone’s nibbling at my house.”
from percy bysshe shelley s the cloud
from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “The Cloud”

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,

And the nursling of the Sky;

I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;

I change, but I cannot die.

RHYME SCHEME: The pattern of rhymes in a stanza or poem. A rhyme scheme is usually indicated by using small letters to stand for each rhyme, starting with a for the first rhyme sound, b for the second rhyme sound, and so on. When analyzing a poem, be sure to give the same rhyme sound the same letter, even if it appears in a different position in subsequent stanzas. Rhyme scheme is based on end end rhyme (this is also part of scansion - see example on next slide).
  • It is important to note that spelling has nothing to do with rhyme; rather, it is the sound that counts.
Rhyme Scheme Practice

The Purple Cow

Reflections on a Mythic Beast,

Who’s Quite Remarkable, at Least.

I never saw a Purple Cow;

I never Hope to See One;

But I can Tell you, Anyhow,

I’d rather See than Be One.

- by…Gelett Burgess








Identifying Stressed

and Unstressed Syllables

  • To begin the process, divide each of the following words and phrases into syllables (by dashes), and mark each syllable as either stressed (/) or unstressed (x).
  • Word List:
  • single 6) poem
  • radio 7) on the table
  • rehearse 8) safely
  • celebrate 9) bacon
  • remember 10) playing the piano
  • Example: single = sing - le

/ x

  • A group of related lines that forms a division of a poem or song. Stanzas are usually used to mark divisions of thought in a poem, and so they function somewhat as paragraphs do. In some poems, each stanza has the same pattern; in others, each stanza is different.
  • Some of the best known of the regular stanza patterns are the couplet (2 lines/stanza), the quatrain (4 lines/stanza), the sestet (6 lines/stanza), and the octave (8 lines/stanza).
  • Paraphrasing is one way to make sure that you understand a difficult poem. Paraphrasing means to restate the words that you have heard or read in your own words (you explain what is happening in the poem in your own words).
  • Something, such as an object, person, situation, or action, in a literary work which maintains its own meaning while at the same time standing for something broader than itself. When a symbol is used in writing, its “double nature” can make it very complex and sometimes difficult to recognize.
  • There are many symbols that are used over and over again. the rose = love

seasons = human “seasons” of birth

(such as youth, maturity, and old age)

spring = rebirth

dove = peace

flag = patriotism

  • A reference to a work of literature or to a well-known historical event, person, or place. The purpose of an allusion is to recognize and respond to something after the allusion gives us a fuller understanding of one thing by helping us to see it in comparison with something else we may know better.
  • An allusion can call to the reader’s mind a whole series of associations and feelings.
  • Frequently, allusions are made to the Bible, Shakespeare, and historical events.
  • Ex. “Oh, I see you have Hitler for English.”

“I have a date with Aphrodite tonight!”

  • A contrast or discrepancy between what is stated and what is really meant (reality and appearance), or between what is expected to happen and what actually does happen. There are three kinds of irony:

(1) verbal irony

(2) dramatic irony

(3) irony of situation

  • Verbal Irony: In which a writer or speaker says one thing and means something entirely different. (Ex. With a record of 0 – 16, the coach tells another coach, “We are having a great season!”)
Writers usually let us know through some context when they wish us to interpret something as a symbol. Once a symbol is recognized, its further meanings seem to radiate outward in our imagination.
  • Symbolism is an extraordinarily rich fictional device. It also places a large responsibility on the reader.
Dramatic Irony: In which a reader or an audience perceives something that a character in the story or play does not know. The character is completely unaware of something that the reader is aware of. (Ex: As an audience, we all know that Romeo should not kill himself because Juliet is only sleeping.)
  • Irony of Situation: In which the writer shows a discrepancy between expected result of some action or situation and its actual result. (Ex: “The Gift of the Magi.” This story was ironic because the characters’ actions bring about results that are the opposite of what they expected.)
  • Irony itself is a very important element in fiction because it drives home the truth that human life is unpredictable. In fiction, just as in life, our words and our actions do not always have the meanings or results we expect them to have.
  • Poetry that does not have a fixed line length, stanza form, rhyme scheme, or meter. Although it does not use fixed rhymes or fixed rhythms, free verse may make use of rhyme and rhythm, as well as other poetic techniques such as alliteration, figurative language, and onomatopoeia. Free verse often relies on the natural pauses of conversational speech for correct interpretation.
  • Narrative poetry is poetry that tells a story. A narrative poem can be as long as an…
  • EPIC: a long poem celebrating the deeds of a society’s hero, that is, several thousand lines…

or it can be as short as a popular…

  • BALLAD: a short poem meant to be sung that depends on regular verse patterns and strong rhymes for its effect. It is important to note that ballads frequently use dialogue to heighten effect and they give out information little by little to build suspense.
  • Poetry in which one or more characters speak usually to each other, but sometimes to themselves or directly to the reader. A dramatic poem has many of the characteristics of a play: a definite setting, a dramatic situation, emotional conflict, vigorous speech, and natural language rhythms.
  • Dramatic poetry allows the writer to reveal character directly through dialogue, just as a playwright does. One example of dramatic poetry would be the…
  • DRAMATIC MONOLOGUE, where only one speaker, in a moment of great personal crisis, reveals his or her deepest thoughts and feelings.
  • Verse, usually brief, which focuses on the emotions or thoughts of the speaker.
  • Poets use this form when the principal aim is not to tell a story, but to express their personal thoughts or emotions about the serenity of an autumn day, for example, or perhaps the remorse that follows the death of a loved one. Lyric poetry can express any emotion from joy to anguish.
  • Fact: The word lyric is derived from the ancient Greek word Lyrikos, a short poem that was sung with the accompaniment of a lyre, a stringed instrument.
  • The main/controlling idea expressed in a literary work; the central insight that the work gives us about human life. If the work is relatively brief, such as a short story or lyric poem, it will probably have only one theme. If it is a longer work, such as a novel, play, or epic poem, it will probably have several themes, which may work together.
  • Remember: Theme is different from plot and from subject.
  • While a writer may state the theme directly, more often theme is only suggested and requires analysis and thought to be brought out. The theme of a work sometimes is a statement about life, but it often simply is the raising of an important question for which the writer gives no ready answers.
Theme does not by any means have to be a moral or lesson, giving a prescription for behavior; rather, theme is an exploration of important ideas about human life. Theme is often compared to a piece of colored thread being woven into a tapestry; it appears, disappears, reappears, perhaps in a different guise, until the final pattern emerges at the end of the work.
  • There is no single “right” way to state the theme of a story or poem; although some themes are certainly more logical and stronger than others. Mainly, one should be sure that his/her statement of theme truly expresses the story’s underlying idea and that one can defend his/her stance.
  • It is also important to note that a statement of theme is not necessarily very exciting. A statement of theme merely sums up to the conscious mind what the story makes one deeply feel.

Now start writing poetry!