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Poetry Techniques

Shalu Bhatti Feb 27, 2020
If you are an aspiring poet or love the art of poetry, then this post will help you know more about the poetry techniques used to enhance the feel of the words.
"Poetry surrounds us everywhere, but putting it on paper is, alas, not so easy as looking at it." ~ Vincent Van Gogh
Most of us have come across poetry, that has touched our soul from deep within! For people who are just confined to reading and admiring the mixture of words and the in-depth meaning that they bring out, they have a belief that it's the natural talent of the creative and intellectual poets that lead to these wonderful masterpieces in writing!
Undoubtedly, poetry is an art, but with certain poetry techniques, anyone who has the flair for expressive writing, can learn this art and master the art of writing different kinds of poetry. So, do you want to know what the poetry techniques are? Read further...

Essential Poetry Techniques and Styles

Having a good voice doesn't mean that one can sing in the right rhythm. Similarly, having the flair for words doesn't mean that you can touch the soul of the reader and be able to deliver the meaning as intended. Here are some poetry techniques and examples that will help you understand and learn the art of poetry in detail; with practice, of course!

Usage of Simile

A simile is a technique of comparing two things or more. You might have come across many poems which have sentences with words like, "as" or "like". An example would be the classic poem by William Wordsworth; "I wandered lonely as a cloud." The poet has used "as", which is a simile that compares the wandering of the poet with that of a cloud.

Usage of Metaphor

Most of the people get confused between a simile and a metaphor. While a simile is represented using words such as "as" and "like", in metaphors the lines are just written without using these words, and the reader should be able to perceive its comparison.
For example, if "I wandered lonely as a cloud" is a simile, then the metaphor is something like "I am a cloud wandering in loneliness." So, a metaphor is an implied comparison which the reader needs to perceive in the right manner. Therefore, it becomes very important for the writer to use simple and easy to understand metaphors.

Usage of Personification

The poetry technique of personification is used to personify or portray an object, or a mere quality as if it were a living being... a person with emotions and feelings. This type of poetry technique example would be the classic poem by Emily Dickinson, The Train wherein she has personified the train so beautifully.
Just go through these lines,

"I like to see it lap the miles,
And lick the valleys up,
And stop to feed itself at tanks;
And then, prodigious, step."

A non living object like a train can't do things like lap, lick, feed. But the usage of the personification techniques has just brought a human feel to this poetry style.

Using Apostrophe

This poetry technique is used to address a particular person, quality, or a thing in such a way so that it is present in front of you and can hear and perceive all that you are saying. Take this extract for example,
"O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, That I am meek and gentle with these butchers! Thou art the ruins of the noblest man, that ever lived in the tide of times." ~ Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 1 by William Shakespeare.

In this extract, the poet has used apostrophe to address earth and is conveying his pardon to her.

Usage of Hyperbole

An hyperbole is a technique that exaggerates a quality, a person, or a thing; deliberately to emphasize more on the emotional impact. By definition, a hyperbole is a figure of speech where statements are exaggerated or extravagant to show the emotional intensity of the thing/person referred to. An example of hyperbole in a poem would be,
"An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast;
But thirty thousand to the rest...
" ~ To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell
In the earlier mentioned extract, the poet is describing the beauty of this woman. In order to show how immensely beautiful this woman is, he says that it would take hundred years only to praise her eyes. This exaggeration is only to convey to the readers how beautiful she is.

Usage of Alliteration

Alliteration is when the poetry has usage of repetitive consonant sounds at the beginning of the words, or, when two or more than two words begin with the same sound or letters with the same sound in a poem. An example of this poetry technique would be;
"I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street.
" ~ Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost

In this extract, the highlighted set of words like stood and still; stopped and sound start with the same consonant sounds. This is known as alliteration.

Using Assonance

Assonance is the repetition of vowels that sound similar. The emphasis is only on the Vowel sounds, although, the consonants can be different. Similar vowel sounds are repeated in the words of a poem. An example for the same would be,
"And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride.
~ Edgar Allan Poe, "Annabel Lee"

This example clearly shows the use of similar vowel ('i') sounds which can be found in the words like night, tide, lie, side, life and bride.

Usage of Consonance

Unlike assonance, where the focus was on similar vowel sounds, in consonance, there is repetitive nature of consonant sounds anywhere throughout the poem and not just the beginning. An example would be,
"The sun came up upon the left, Out of the sea came he! And he shone bright, and on the right Went down into the sea." ~ The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In the above extract, the 'S' sound is the consonance.

The End Rhyme

As the term sounds, this technique is to use rhyming words towards the ending lines of the poetry! A classic example for this would be,
"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.
" ~ Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

The above extract clearly highlights in bold the usage of the end rhymed poetry technique.

The Internal Rhyme Scheme

Again, it is self-explanatory that internal rhyme technique in poetry is when rhyming words are included within the lines of the poetry. An example for this would be,
"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
" ~ Edgar Allan Poe's, "The Raven."
You see, in the earlier mentioned example, the rhyming words like dreary and weary, mapping and tapping, are used in the middle as well as the end of the line. This is a perfect example of the internal rhyme scheme.

Usage of Onomatopoeia

This poetry technique is used when the usage of words that sound just, or somewhat like the noise they create. Onomatopoeia can be used by a poet in 2 ways, the direct way and the indirect way.
The direct way is where an onomatopoeic word is directly used to get the reader into the atmosphere. The indirect way is the less obvious way where the poet uses words or some parts of words to create an onomatopoeic atmosphere while writing poetry.
An example for the same would be,

"While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
" ~ Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven".
The usage of words like rapping and tapping create an onomatopoeic feel to get the reader into the very same atmosphere. Another example would be sentences like, "Swish those skirts, snap those fingers." The words swish and snap create the same noise as they mean.

The Repetitive Technique

The repetitive technique in poetry is when a word or a phrase is repeated again and again in such a way that it draws the reader's attention to it. It is among the very popular poetry techniques for kids. A classy example highlighting the repetitive technique in poetry would be the following extract,
"The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep
" ~ Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
The poet has repeated the line, "and miles to go before I sleep" twice with an intention to emphasize on the fact that he has miles to go before he sleeps, which in literal sense means, that he has a lot to accomplish before he dies.

Write in Rhythm

By rhythm, one means that the flow of the poem from one thought to the next should be well connected and relevant. It is very important for all poetry and poems to be in proper rhythm. An example for a poetry with a good display of rhythm in the way it is written would be,
"One of them scampers down the curtain
And up to my motionless feet -
I have the feeling watching that
Representatives of two powerful races
Are meeting here calmly as equals -
But the mouse will not be damn fool enough
To go away and write a poem -
" ~ Mice In the House by Al Purdy

Using Meter In Poetry

Usage of meter in a poetry helps in creating a rhythm. This is done by repetition of the same sound patterns in a line, but then the patterns might change throughout the different lines of the poem. Robert Frost was known to always use this technique in his writing. There is hardly any poem of his, which has not used the meter technique.
Meter generally emphasizes on the accent placement and the length of the line where it has been used. In poetry, a meter is determined by the number of syllables in a line. This greatly affects the rhythm and the flow of the poem. The types of meters can be summarized into the following 5 categories;
  • Iambic: This is a 2 syllable meter wherein the first part is unaccented and the second is accented. This can be symbolized as (-!).
  • Trochee: It is again a 2 syllable meter wherein the first part is accented and the second is unaccented, symbolized as (!-).
  • Spondee: This is a 2 syllable meter wherein both the syllables are accented and symbolized as (!!).
  • Anapest: This is a 3 syllable meter wherein the first and second part is unaccented, and the third part is accented. This is symbolized as (- -!).
  • Dactyl: A 3 syllable meter wherein the first syllable is accented and the second and third is unaccented. (!- -).
Example for these would be,

"TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
" ~ The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Usage of the Imagery Technique

Imagery technique in poetry is using of a language that involves our senses. Such technique is mostly used in poems about dreams and fantasies. When a poet uses the imagery technique in a poem, he writes in such a way that allows our imagination to see, feel, smell, hear, and engross in the matter in a powerful way, although being aware of your own world.
An example for the same would be,

"Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster shells.
" ~ J. Alfred Prufrock
We hope these poetry techniques and the examples given, helped you understand the various techniques in poetry in detail. These basic elements of poetry enhance the feel and enable the reader to understand the poetry the same way as the poet wishes to convey it, eliminating room for misinterpretation.