12 Literary Devices in Poetry: Identifying Poetic Devices

What do the words “anaphora,” “enjambment,” “consonance,” and “euphony” have in common? They are all literary devices in poetry—and important poetic devices, at that. Your poetry will be greatly enriched by mastery over the items in this poetic devices list, including mastery over the sound devices in poetry.

This article is specific to the literary devices in poetry. Before you read this article, make sure you also read our list of common literary devices across both poetry and prose, which discusses metaphor, juxtaposition, and other essential figures of speech.

We will be analyzing and identifying poetic devices in this article, using the poetry of Margaret Atwood, Louise Glück, Shakespeare, and others. We also examine sound devices in poetry as distinct yet essential components of the craft.

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Literary Devices in Poetry: Poetic Devices List

Let’s examine the essential literary devices in poetry, with examples. Try to include these poetic devices in your next finished poems!

1. Anaphora

Anaphora describes a poem that repeats the same phrase at the beginning of each line. Sometimes the anaphora is a central element of the poem’s construction; other times, poets only use anaphora in one or two stanzas, not the whole piece.

Consider “ The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee ” by N. Scott Momaday.

I am a feather on the bright sky I am the blue horse that runs in the plain I am the fish that rolls, shining, in the water I am the shadow that follows a child I am the evening light, the lustre of meadows I am an eagle playing with the wind I am a cluster of bright beads I am the farthest star I am the cold of dawn I am the roaring of the rain I am the glitter on the crust of the snow I am the long track of the moon in a lake I am a flame of four colors I am a deer standing away in the dusk I am a field of sumac and the pomme blanche I am an angle of geese in the winter sky I am the hunger of a young wolf I am the whole dream of these things

You see, I am alive, I am alive I stand in good relation to the earth I stand in good relation to the gods I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful I stand in good relation to the daughter of Tsen-tainte You see, I am alive, I am alive

This poem is an experiment in metaphor: how many ways can the self be reproduced after “I am”? The simple “I am” anaphora draws attention towards the poet’s increasing need to define himself, while also setting the poet up for a series of well-crafted poetic devices.

Anaphora describes a poem that repeats the same phrase at the beginning of each line.

The self shapes the core of Momaday’s poem, as emphasized by the anaphora. Still, our eye isn’t drawn to the column of I am’s, but rather to Momaday’s stunning metaphors for selfhood.

A conceit is, essentially, an extended metaphor. Which, when you think about it, it’s kind of stuck-up to have a fancy word for an extended metaphor, so a conceit is pretty conceited, don’t you think?

In order for a metaphor to be a conceit, it must run through the entire poem and be the poem’s central device. Consider the poem “ The Flea ” by John Donne. The speaker uses the flea as a conceit for physical relations, arguing that two bodies have already intermingled if they’ve shared the odious bed bug. With the flea as a conceit for intimacy, Donne presents a poem both humorous and strangely erotic.

A conceit must run through the entire poem as the poem’s central device.

The conceit ranks among the most powerful literary devices in poetry.In your own poetry, you can employ a conceit by exploring one metaphor in depth. For example, if you were to use matchsticks as a metaphor for love, you could explore love in all its intensity: love as a stroke of luck against a matchbox strip, love as wildfire, love as different matchbox designs, love as phillumeny, etc.

3. Apostrophe

Don’t confuse this with the punctuation mark for plural nouns—the literary device apostrophe is different. Apostrophe describes any instance when the speaker talks to a person or object that is absent from the poem. Poets employ apostrophe when they speak to the dead or to a long lost lover, but they also use apostrophe when writing an Ode to a Grecian Urn or an Ode to the Women in Long Island .

Apostrophe is often employed in admiration or longing, as we often talk about things far away in wistfulness or praise. Still, try using apostrophe to express other emotions: express joy, grief, fear, anger, despair, jealousy, or ecstasy, as this poetic device can prove very powerful for poetry writers.

4. Metonymy & Synecdoche

Metonymy and synecdoche are very similar poetic devices, so we’ll include them as one item. A metonymy is when the writer replaces “a part for a part,” choosing one noun to describe a different noun. For example, in the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword,” the pen is a metonymy for writing and the sword is a metonymy for fighting.

Metonymy: a part for a part.

In this sense, metonymy is very similar to symbolism, because the pen represents the idea of writing. The difference is, a pen is directly related to writing, whereas symbols are not always related to the concepts they represent. A dove might symbolize peace, but doves, in reality, have very little to do with peace.

Synecdoche is a form of metonymy, but instead of “a part for a part,” the writer substitutes “a part for a whole.” In other words, they represent an object with only a distinct part of the object. If I described your car as “a nice set of wheels,” then I’m using synecdoche to refer to your car. I’m also using synecdoche if I call your laptop an “overpriced sound system.”

Synecdoche: a part for a whole.

Since metonymy and synecdoche are forms of symbolism, they appear regularly in poetry both contemporary and classic. Take, for example, this passage from Shakespeare’s A Midsommar Night’s Dream :

Shakespeare makes it seem like the poet’s pen gives shape to airy wonderings, when in fact it’s the poet’s imagination. Thus, the pen becomes metonymous for the magic of poetry—quite a lofty comparison which only a bard like Shakespeare could say.

5. Enjambment & End-Stopped Lines

Poets have something at their disposal which prose writers don’t: the mighty line break. Line breaks and stanza breaks help guide the reader through the poem, and while these might not be hardline “literary devices in poetry,” they’re important to understanding the strategies of poetry writing.

Line breaks can be one of two things: enjambed or end-stopped. End-stopped lines are lines which end on a period or on a natural break in the sentence. Enjambment, by contrast, refers to a line break that interrupts the flow of a sentence: either the line usually doesn’t end with punctuation, and the thought continues on the next line.

Let’s see enjambed and end-stopped lines in action, using “ The Study ” by Hieu Minh Nguyen.

poetry writing devices

Most of the poem’s lines are enjambed, using very few end-stops, perhaps to mirror the endless weight of midsummer. Suddenly, the poem shifts to end-stops at the end, and the mood of the poem transitions: suddenly the poem is final, concrete in its horror, horrifying perhaps for its sincerity and surprising shift in tone.

Line breaks and stanza breaks help guide the reader through the poem.

Enjambment and end-stopping are ways of reflecting and refracting the poem’s mood. Spend time in your own poetry determining how the mood of your poems shift and transform, and consider using this poetry writing strategy to reflect that.

Zeugma (pronounced: zoyg-muh) is a fun little device you don’t see often in contemporary poetry—it was much more common in ancient Greek and Latin poetry, such as the poetry of Ovid. This might not be an “essential” device, but if you use it on your own poetry, you’ll stand out for your mastery of language and unique stylistic choices.

A zeugma occurs when one verb is used to mean two different things for two different objects. For example, I might say “He ate some pasta, and my heart out.” To eat pasta and eat someone’s heart out are two very different definitions for ate: one consumption is physical, the other is conceptual. The key here is to only use “ate” once in the sentence, as a zeugma should surprise the reader.

Now, take this excerpt from Ovid’s Heroides 7 :

Can you identify the zeugmas? “Bear” and “weigh” are both used literally and figuratively, bearing weight to the speaker’s laments.

Zeugmas are a largely classical device, because the constraints of ancient poetic meter were quite strict, and the economic nature of Latin encouraged the use of zeugma. Nonetheless, try using it in your own poetry—you might surprise yourself!

7. Repetition

Strategic repetition of certain phrases can reinforce the core of your poem.

Last but not least among the topliterary devices in poetry, repetition is key. We’ve already seen repetition in some of the aforementioned poetic devices, like anaphora and conceit. Still, repetition deserves its own special mention.

Strategic repetition of certain phrases can reinforce the core of your poem. In fact, some poetry forms require repetition, such as the villanelle . In a villanelle, the first line must be repeated in lines 6, 12, and 18; the third line must be repeated in lines 9, 15, and 19.

See this repetition in action in Sylvia Plath’s “ Mad Girl’s Love Song. ” Notice how the two repeated lines reinforce the subjects of both love and madness—perhaps finding them indistinguishable? Take note of this masterful repetition, and see where you can strategically repeat lines in your own poetry, too.

Sound Devices in Poetry

The other half of this article analyzes the different sound devices in poetry. These poetic sound devices are primarily concerned with the musicality of language, and they are powerful poetic devices for altering the poem’s mood and emotion—often in subtle, surprising ways.

What are sound devices in poetry, and how do you use them? Let’s explore these other literary devices in poetry, with examples.

8. Internal & End Rhyme

When you think about poetry, the first thing you probably think of is “rhyme.” Yes, many poems rhyme, especially poetry in antiquity. However, contemporary poetry largely looks down upon poetry with strict rhyme schemes, and you’re far more likely to see internal rhyming than end rhyming.

Internal rhyme is just what it sounds like: two rhyming words juxtaposed inside of the line, rather than at the end of the line. See internal rhyme in action Edgar Allan Poe’s famous “ The Raven ”:

poetry writing devices

Each of the rhymes have been assigned their own highlighted color. I’ve also highlighted examples of alliteration, which this article covers next.

Despite “The Raven’s” macabre, dreary undertones, the play with language in this poem is entertaining and, quite simply, fun. Not only does it draw readers into the poem, it makes the poem memorable—after all, poetry used to rhyme because rhyme schemes helped people remember the poetry, long before people had access to pen and paper.

Why does contemporary poetry frown at rhyme schemes? It’s not the rhyming itself that’s odious; rather, contemporary poetry is concerned with fresh, unique word choice, and rhyme schemes often limit the poet’s language, forcing them to use words which don’t quite fit.

contemporary poetry is concerned with fresh, unique word choice, and rhyme schemes often limit the poet’s language

If you can write a rhyming poem with precise, intelligent word choice, you’re an exception to the rule—and far more skilled at poetry than most. Perhaps you should have been born a bard in the 16th century, blessed with the king’s highest graces, splayed dramatically on a decadent chaise longue with maroon upholstery, dining on grapes and cheese.

9. Alliteration

Alliteration is a powerful, albeit subtle, means of controlling the poem’s mood.

One of the more defining sound devices in poetry, alliteration refers to the succession of words with similar sounds. For example: this sentence, so assiduously steeped in “s” sounds, was sculpted alliteratively.

Alliteration is a powerful, albeit subtle, means of controlling the poem’s mood. A series of s’es might make the poem sound sinister, sneaky, or sharp; by contrast, a series of b’s, d’s, and p’s will give the poem a heavy, percussive sound, like sticks against a drum.

Emily Dickenson puts alliteration to play in her brief poem “ Much Madness .” The poem is a cacophonous mix of s, m, and a sounds, and in this cacophony, the reader gets a glimpse into the mad array of the poet’s brain.

Alliteration can be further dissected; in fact, we could spend this entire article talking about alliteration if we wanted to. What’s most important is this: playing with alliterative sounds is a crucial aspect of poetry writing, helping readers experience the mood of your poetry.

10. Consonance & Assonance

Along with alliteration, consonance and assonance share the title for most important sound devices in poetry. Alliteration refers specifically to the sounds at the beginning: consonance and assonance refer to the sounds within words. Technically, alliteration is a form of consonance or assonance, and both can coexist powerfully on the same line.

Consonance refers to consonant sounds, whereas assonance refers to vowel sounds. You are much more likely to read examples of consonance, as there are many more consonants in the English alphabet, and these consonants are more highly defined than vowel sounds. Though assonance is a tougher poetic sound device, it still shows up routinely in contemporary poetry.

In fact, we’ve already seen examples of assonance in our section on internal rhyme! Internal rhymes often require assonance for the words to sound similar. To refer back to “The Raven,” the first line has assonance with the words “dreary,” “weak,” and “weary.” Additionally, the third line has consonance with “nodded, nearly napping.”

These poetic sound devices point towards one of two sounds: euphony or cacophony.

11. Euphony & Cacophony

Poems that master musicality will sound either euphonious or cacophonous. Euphony, from the Greek for “pleasant sounding,” refers to words or sentences which flow pleasantly and sound sweetly. Look towards any of the poems we’ve mentioned or the examples we’ve given, and euphony sings to you like the muses.

Cacophony is a bit harder to find in literature, though certainly not impossible. Cacophony is euphony’s antonym, “unpleasant sounding,” though the effect doesn’t have to be unpleasant to the reader. Usually, cacophony occurs when the poet uses harsh, staccato sounds repeatedly. Ks, Qus, Ls, and hard Gs can all generate cacophony, like they do in this line from “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” from Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

Reading this line might not be “pleasant” in the conventional sense, but it does prime the reader to hear the speaker’s cacophonous call. Who else might sing in cacophony than the emotive, sea-worn sailor?

What’s something you still remember from high school English? Personally, I’ll always remember that Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter. I’ll also remember that iambic pentameter resembles a heartbeat: “love is a smoke made with the fumes of sighs .” ba- dum , ba- dum , ba- dum .

Metrical considerations are often reserved for classic poetry. When you hear someone talking about a poem using anapestic hexameter or trochaic tetrameter, they’re probably talking about Ovid and Petrarch, not Atwood and Gluck.

Still, meter can affect how the reader moves and feels your poem, and some contemporary poets write in meter.

Before I offer any examples, let’s define meter. All syllables in the English language are either stressed or unstressed. We naturally emphasize certain syllables in English based on standards of pronunciation, so while we let words like “love,” “made,” and “the” dangle, we emphasize “smoke,” “fumes,” and “sighs.”

Depending on the context, some words can be stressed or unstressed, like “is.” Assembling words into metrical order can be tricky, but if the words flow without hesitation, you’ve conquered one of the trickiest sound devices in poetry.

Common metrical types include:

  • Iamb: repetitions of unstressed-stressed syllables
  • Anapest: repetitions of unstressed-unstressed-stressed syllables
  • Trochee: repetitions of stressed-unstressed syllables
  • Dactyl: repetitions of stressed-unstressed-unstressed syllables

Finding these prosodic considerations in contemporary poetry is challenging, but not impossible. Many poets in the earliest 20th century used meter, such as Edna St. Vincent Millay. Her poem, “ Renascence ,” built upon iambic tetrameter. Still, the contemporary landscape of poetry doesn’t have many poets using meter. Perhaps the next important metrical poet is you?

Mastering the Literary Devices in Poetry

Every element of this poetic devices list could take months to master, and each of the sound devices in poetry requires its own special class. Luckily, the instructors at Writers.com know just how to sculpt poetry from language, and they’re ready to teach you, too. Take a look at our upcoming poetry courses , and take the next step in mastering the literary devices in poetry.

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Sean Glatch


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Very interesting stuff! I’m looking forward to incorporating some of these devices in my future poetry.

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Incredible. Somes are new btw.

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Wow … learned alot with this…. thanks

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Well illustrated, simple language and easily understood. Thank you.

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While thinking of an appropriate inscription for my dad’s headstone, the following two thoughts came to mind:

“He served his country with honor and he honored his wife with love.”

Can the above be described as being an example of any particular kind of literary or poetic device?

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Hi Louis, good question! This is an example of polyptoton, a repetition device in which words from the same root are employed simultaneously. You can learn more about it at this article: writers.com/repetition-definition

You’re also close to using what’s called a syllepsis or zeugma. From the Greek for “a yoking,” a zeugma is when you use the same verb to mean two different things. An example: “He ate his feelings–and the cheesecake.” “Ate” is being used both figuratively and literally, “yoking” the two meanings together.

Your sentence uses honor as both a noun and a verb, which makes it a bit distinct from other zeugmas. Regardless, it’s a thoughtful sentiment and a lovely sentence. I hope this helps!

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It’s called a polyptoton. Repetition, in close proximity, of different grammatical forms of the same root word. Honor/noun Honored/ verb It’s not zeugma when the word which would be yoked, is instead repeated. I discovered this literary device one day, some years into my teaching career, by reading the literary dictionary with my students. We were very happy to find the term, after several students had inquired about a passage we were analyzing, and I had no answer (except a form of repetition). The class cheered when I read it out. I can’t imagine that happening today…

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Isn’t it alliteration… ‘h’ sound is repeated 🤔

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It is an alliteration, zeugma, assonance, consonance

It is called a polyptoton — a literary device of repetition involving the use, in close proximity, of more than one grammatical form of the same word. In this case honor (noun) and honored (verb). Famous example: “The Greeks are strong and skilful in their strength, Fierce to their skill, and to their fierceness valiant.” Strong/strength & skilful/skill & fierce/fierceness = adjective/noun forms — in very close proximity (within a single sentence).

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It’s a powerful dream of mine you just inspired me

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These are very helpful! I am a poet, and I did not know about half of these! Thank you.

We’re so glad this article was helpful! Happy writing 🙂

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I am definitely loving this article. I have learnt a lot.

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Thank you so much for this article. it is quite refreshing and enlightening.

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the article was helpful during my revisions

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As apostrophe is used to make a noun possessive case, not plural. (#3)

You’re correct when it comes to the grammatical apostrophe, but as a literary device, apostrophe is specifically an address to someone or something that isn’t present in the work itself. For some odd reason, they share the same name. 🙂

You can learn more about the apostrophe literary device here . I hope this makes sense!

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@Sean Glatch

I believe this comment was intended as a correction to the phrase ‘the punctuation mark for plural nouns’ used in the article. Plural nouns aren’t apostrophised, which makes that an error.

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Very knowledgeable to learn, I want to learn more……

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Very knowledgeable and detailed.

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I think that a cool literary device to add would be irony. Its my favorite 🙂

Thanks, Patricia! We have an article on irony at this link .

Happy writing!

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I am a student currently studying English Literature. Really appreciate the article and the effort put into it because its made some topics more clear to me. However, is there any place where I can find more examples of the devices Enjambement, metonymy, iambic pentameter, consonance & cacophony? Would appreciate it a bunch❤ Thank you again for the article

I’m so glad this article was helpful! We cover a few more topics in poetry writing at this article: https://writers.com/what-is-form-in-poetry

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in my high school in uganda, we study about these devices that’s if you offer literature as a subject

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Very helpful and relevant…

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I just came here to check out some poetic devices so that I can pass through my exam…but looking at these comments made me feel like…where am I? Is this the land of the angels? Thanks for the motivation, probably not a poet but I am writing stories now, made a good one already.

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Very precious knowledge . Thanks alot.

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Thank you, You have taught me a lot .

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Really needed this for my AP Lit class, thanks for making it so understandable!

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This article was extremely informative. I love the platform. Wonderful to find other individuals passionate about language. I absolutely enjoyed the discourse.

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 20 poetic devices you must know.

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General Education


Looking to spice up your writing? Poetic devices are the salt and pepper (and, if you get really into them, the saffron and caraway) of writing; when deployed effectively, they add flavor and texture to your work.

But what is a poetic device? Do they only work in poetry? In this article, we’ll cover what they are, when you can use them, and how to better understand their function in any literary form!

What Is a Poetic Device?

At its most basic, a poetic device is a deliberate use of words, phrases, sounds, and even shapes to convey meaning. That sounds so broad that it could basically encompass any form of written expression, but poetic devices are generally used to heighten the literal meaning of words by considering sound, form, and function.

There are a lot of poetic devices, just as there are a lot of literary and rhetorical devices. Anything that impacts the way a poem or other written work looks or sounds is a type of poetic device, including devices that are also classified as literary or rhetorical devices .

Consider your writing—whether it’s an essay, poem, or non-fiction article—as a meal you’re cooking. You use good ingredients and put a lot of care into the dish, so you know it’s going to taste good. But there are ways to make it taste even better, little additions that can bring out the taste of each ingredient to make it even tastier—a pinch of salt, a touch of cumin.

That’s what poetic devices do. Like the metaphor I used in the last paragraph, poetic devices infuse literal meanings (what words actually say) with figurative meanings (implications, unexpected connotations, and so on) . You might have gotten the point that poetic devices improve writing without me comparing them to spices, but that metaphor added flavor and enhanced the meaning that was already there.

But metaphors are only one method of enhancing your writing. A poem about a horse may use a hoofbeat rhythm (otherwise known as an anapest or dactyl, depending on which syllable is stressed— da-da-DUH  for the former and DUH-da-da for the latter) to really draw the reader in. The reader doesn’t have to notice the hoofbeat rhythm for it to be effective, either; often, a rhythm helps readers remember what they’ve read without them necessarily realizing it.

One important thing to remember is that literary devices, like spices, are great in moderation, but overpowering if overused. Nobody wants to eat a bowl of pepper, just like nobody wants to read something if its meaning is totally obscured by flowery language. You don’t have to hold back entirely—many wonderful poets, essayists, and authors can use flowery language to great effect—but do make sure that your poetic devices are enhancing rather than overshadowing your point.

Writers commonly use literary devices in poetry to help make their points memorable or their language more evocative. You’ve likely used poetic devices without thinking about it, but deliberate use can make your writing even stronger!


20 Top Poetic Devices to Remember

There are tons of poetic devices out there—it would be nearly impossible to list all of them. But to get you started, we've compiled some of the most common poetry terms, along with a few of the more interesting ones!

An allegory is a story, poem, or other written work that can be interpreted to have a secondary meaning.

Aesop’s Fables are examples of allegories, as they are ostensibly about one thing (such as “The Ant and the Grasshopper” ) but actually have a secondary meaning. Fables are particularly literal examples of allegories, but there are many others, as well, such as George Orwell’s Animal Farm or Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Fruit.”


Alliteration is the repetition of a sound or letter at the beginning of multiple words in a series.

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary…”  -  Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven”

Poe uses alliteration with the “wh,” sound at the beginning of multiple words. The repetition here mimics the sound of the wind (something you might hear on a dreary night), and also sounds a little soothing—something that’s interrupted in the next couple of lines by a different sound, just as Poe interrupts his soothing, round vowel sounds with repetition of the ‘p’ sound in “suddenly there came a tapping, / As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door….”

An allusion is an indirect reference to something.

“The Cunninghams are country folks, farmers, and the crash hit them hardest.”

- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Lee isn’t speaking of a literal crash—she’s referencing the stock market crash of the late 1920s, which left many people without money. Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird ’s narrator, references the stock market crash in a way that’s appropriate for her context, which readers can gather from the novel’s setting.

Using this allusion allows Lee to do some quick scene-setting. Not only does it establish the novel firmly within its setting, but it also shows that Scout herself is a clear part of that setting —she speaks to the audience in the way that a child of that era would speak, giving the story a greater sense of realism.

An apostrophe is a poetic device where the writer addresses a person or thing that isn’t present with an exclamation.

“O stranger of the future! O inconceivable being! whatever the shape of your house, no matter how strange and colorless the clothes you may wear, I bet nobody there likes a wet dog either. I bet everybody in your pub even the children, pushes her away.” - Billy Collins, “To A Stranger Born In Some Distant Country Hundreds Of Years From Now”

Though we know from the title that Collins is addressing a stranger from the future, in the final stanza of the poem he addresses that stranger directly. Apostrophe was particularly common in older forms of poetry, going all the way back to Ancient Greece —many works of Greek literature begin with an invocation of the Muses, typically by saying something like, “Sing in me, O Muse.” Because the narrator of Collins’ poem is calling out to someone in the future, he mimics the language of the past and situates this poem in a larger context.

Assonance is the repetition of vowel or diphthong sounds in one or more words found close together.

“ Hear the loud alarum bells—                  Brazen bells!/ What tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!        In the startled ear of night        How they scream out their affright!         Too much horrified to speak,          They can only shriek, shriek,                  Out of tune….” - Edgar Allen Poe, “The Bells”

When Poe talks about alarm bells, he uses sharp, high-pitch vowels to echo their sound: notice the repetition of long “e” and “i” sounds, both of which sound a bit like screams.

Blank Verse

Blank verse refers to poetry written without rhyme, especially if that poetry is written in iambic pentameter.

“But, woe is me, you are so sick of late, So far from cheer and from your former state, That I distrust you. Yet, though I distrust, Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must. …” - William Shakespeare, “Hamlet”

Many of Shakespeare’s plays are written in blank verse, including much of “Hamlet.” Here, the dialog is without rhymes, which makes it sound more realistic, but it still follows a strict meter—iambic pentameter. This lends it a sense of grandiosity beyond if Shakespeare had tried to mimic natural speech, and the deliberate space of stressed and unstressed syllables gives it a satisfying sense of rhythm.

Consonance is the repetition of specific consonant sounds in close proximity.

“Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” - William Blake, “The Tyger”

Black repeatedly uses multiple sounds in the first stanza of this famous poem. One of the most prominent is ‘r,’ which shows up in every line of the first stanza, and almost every line of the poem as a whole. As Blake is writing about the tiger, he’s musing on its fearsome nature and where it comes from, with the repeated ‘r’ sound mimicking the tiger’s growl like a small, subtle threat in the poem’s background.

An enjambment is the continuation of a sentence beyond a line break, couplet, or stanza without an expected pause.

“What happens to a dream deferred?        Does it dry up       like a raisin in the sun?       Or fester like a sore—       And then run?       Does it stink like rotten meat?       Or crust and sugar over—       like a syrupy sweet?        Maybe it just sags       like a heavy load.         Or does it explode? ” - Langston Hughes, “Harlem”

Hughes plays with multiple methods of ending lines in this poem, including enjambment. The first two lines of the second stanza and the second-to-last stanza are examples of enjambment, as the thought continues from one line to the next without any punctuation. Notice the way these lines feel in comparison to the others, especially the second example, isolated in its own stanza. The way it’s written mimics the exhaustion of carrying a heavy load, as you can’t pause for breath the way that you do with the lines ended with punctuation.

Irony has a few different meanings. The most common is the use of tone or exaggeration to convey a meaning opposite to what's being literally said. A second form of irony is situational irony, in which a situation or event contradicts expectations, usually in a humorous fashion. A third form is dramatic irony, where the audience of a play, movie, or other piece of art is aware of something that the characters are not.

Basic irony, where what someone says doesn't match what they mean, might look something like this:

"Yeah, I  love dogs," she said dryly, holding the miniature poodle at arm's length as hives sprang up along her arms.

Situational irony would include things like a police station getting robbed or a marriage counselor getting a divorce—we would expect police to be able to resist getting robbed and a marriage counselor to be able to save their own marriage, so the fact that these unexpected things occur is darkly funny. 

One of the most famous examples of dramatic irony is in  Romeo and Juliet . The audience knows that Juliet isn't dead when Romeo comes to find her in the tomb, but obviously can't stop Romeo from killing himself to be with her. Unlike other forms of irony, dramatic irony often isn't funny—it heightens tension and increases audience investment, but doesn't necessarily have to make people laugh.

A metaphor is when a writer compares one thing to another.

“An emotional rollercoaster” is a common example of a metaphor—so common, in fact, that it’s become cliche. Experiencing multiple emotions in a short period of time can feel a lot like riding a roller coaster, as you have a series of extreme highs and lows.

Meter refers to the rhythm of a poem or other written work as it’s expressed through the number and length of the feet in each line.

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief…” - William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare famously wrote frequently in iambic pentameter ,  a specific type of meter containing five iambic feet. Iambs are a foot—a unit of rhythm—consisting of one unstressed and one stressed syllable. In the first line of this passage, you have five iambs, which produces a sort of heartbeat-esque rhythm.

“But soft / what light / through yon- / -der win- / -dow breaks ?”

Meter like this gives readers expectations about how each line will go, which can be very useful if you want to subvert them, such as how Shakespeare does in Hamlet :

“To be / or not / to be / that is / the ques- / -ion.”

Because we expect iambic pentameter, the rule-breaking here clues us in that something isn’t right with Hamlet.

An ode is a short lyrical poem, often in praise of something.

“Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,        Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, Sylvan historian, who canst thus express        A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: What leaf-fring'd legend haunts about thy shape        Of deities or mortals, or of both,                In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?        What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?                What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?” - John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”

Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” covers all the required bases of the ode—it’s short at just five stanzas, it’s lyrical (the language is clearly elevated above regular speech), and it’s written in praise of a scene on an imagined Grecian urn, which preserves the beauty of several scenes for eternity.

Though Keats’ ode here may be in earnest, the deliberate use of language far outside our normal method of speaking often makes the form ripe for satire. In this case, Keats is using this language to discuss beauty and truth, two rather lofty themes that work in tandem with the lofty language.

A pun is a play on words, using multiple meanings or similar sounds to make a joke.

"Mine is a long and a sad tale!" said the Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighing.  "It is a long tail, certainly," said Alice, looking down with wonder at the Mouse's tail; "but why do you call it sad?" And she kept on puzzling about it while the Mouse was speaking...." - Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Here, Alice clearly misunderstands what the mouse is saying—he says ‘tale,’ referring to his long and sad story, and she hears ‘tail,’ referring to his literal tail. The result is a misunderstanding between the two that ends with Alice looking rude and uncaring.

Though it makes Alice look bad, it’s quite entertaining for the reader. The world of Wonderland is full of strangeness, so it’s not really a surprise that Alice wouldn’t understand what’s happening. However, in this case it’s a legitimate misunderstanding, heightening the comedy as Alice’s worldview is once again shaken.

Repetition is fairly self-explanatory—it’s the process of repeating certain words or phrases.

“Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night.” - Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”

Throughout this poem, Thomas repeats the lines, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” and “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” The two lines don’t appear together until the final couplet of the poem, cementing their importance in relation to one another. But before that, the repetition of each line clues you in to their importance. No matter what else is said, the repetition tells you that it all comes back to those two lines.

Rhetorical Question

A rhetorical question is a question asked to make a point rather than in expectation of an answer.

“Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?” - Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman?”

Sojourner Truth’s question to the Women’s Convention of 1981 in Akron, Ohio isn’t a question that needs an answer. Of course she’s a woman—she, as well as everybody else in the audience, knew that perfectly well. However, Sojourner Truth was a black woman in the time of slavery. Many white women wouldn’t have considered her to be part of the women’s rights movement despite her gender.

By asking the question, Sojourner Truth is raising the point that she is a woman, and therefore should be part of the conversation about women’s rights. “Ain’t I a woman?” isn’t a question of gender, but a question of race—if it’s a conference about women’s rights, why weren’t black women included? By asking a question about an undeniable truth, Sojourner Truth was in fact pointing out the hypocrisy of the conference.

A rhyme is a repetition of syllables at the end of words, often at the end of a line of poetry, but there are many unique kinds of rhymes .

“It was many and many a year ago,    In a kingdom by the sea, That a maiden there lived whom you may know    By the name of Annabel Lee; And this maiden she lived with no other thought    Than to love and be loved by me.” - Edgar Allen Poe, “Annabel Lee”

Poe’s poem starts off with a fairly typical ABAB rhyme scheme—the first line rhymes with the third, the second with the fourth. However, in line five, we get a jarring line that does not rhyme, which is carried through the rest of the poem. The rhyming sounds hearken back to classic songs and stories, but is undone by something that doesn’t sound right, just as the classic love story of the narrator and Annabel Lee is undone by tragedy.

Rhythm refers to the pattern of long, short, stressed, and unstressed syllables in writing.

“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble. Fillet of a fenny snake, In the caldron boil and bake…” - William Shakespeare, Macbeth

In this scene from Macbeth, the witches are positioned as being strange and unnatural, and the rhyme scheme Shakespeare uses is also unnatural. It lends the passage a sing-song quality that isn’t present in other parts of the play, which is easy to get stuck in your head. This is important, because their prophecies also get stuck in Macbeth’s head, leading him to commit his horrible crimes.

A sonnet is a fourteen-line poem with a strict rhyme scheme, often written in iambic pentameter.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace. I love thee to the level of every day’s Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love thee freely, as men strive for right; I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. I love thee with the passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.” - Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “How Do I Love Thee”

Sonnets were a standard poetry format for a long time—Shakespeare famously wrote sonnets, as did poets like Browning. As with blank verse, sonnets are often written in iambic pentameter, which gives the writing a sense of realism, as it’s not quite as affected as other rhythms, but also makes it feel purposeful and different from natural speech.

Because sonnets have a rhyme scheme, they feel removed again from realistic speech. But that works in form’s favor— the rigid structure encourages unconventional word use (hence the memorability of “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”) and marks poems in this style as having a kind of heightened reality. Because blank and free verse arose later, writing sonnets in modern times gives poems a classic or even intentionally antiquated feeling, which can work in the poet’s favor.


How to Identify and Analyze Poetic Devices

It’s nearly impossible to remember every poetic device, but teaching yourself to identify and analyze them is a great way to increase your vocabulary and writing ability. To learn more about them, you can:

Reading widely in a variety of literary forms—poetry, prose, essays, non-fiction, and so on—is one of the best ways to learn more poetic devices. You may not notice them all, but challenge yourself to find one example of a poetic device every time you read. Remember, there are lots of kinds of poetic devices; they don’t always have to be things you’d only find in poetry.

The more you read, the more exposed you are to different kinds of writing styles. If you read widely, you’ll see more people using language creatively—when you see something interesting, make note of it and see if it’s a poetic device you can use in your own writing!

Use Them In Your Own Writing

Identifying them is great, but to really understand poetic devices, try using them. Not every device is right for every situation, but playing a little with your language can reveal to you exactly how these devices work. Challenge yourself to use new devices to get a better appreciation for how they can elevate your writing.

Question Poetic Devices

When you come upon a poetic device in something you’re reading, ask yourself what the author is doing with it. What purpose does alliteration serve in a specific context? Why did I choose to use that spices metaphor earlier in this article? Was it effective or confusing?

The more you think about these devices, the more you’ll get a feel for how they work and why writers use them. Understanding the different ways they can be used will help you discover how to use them better, so don’t be afraid to start questioning how and why professionals do it!

Key Tips for Literary Devices in Poetry

Enhancing your writing with poetic devices is great, but there are a few things to keep in mind to be sure you’re doing it right.

First, don’t overuse them. Poetic devices can be great for making your writing sound more interesting or to deliver information in a more impactful manner, but too much really stands out. Alliteration is great, but an alliterative sonnet that’s an allusion to Greek literature can feel a little gimmicky. Even too much alliteration can quickly feel hackneyed if it’s not done with a purpose. Ask yourself why you’re using these devices and trim them if you can’t think of a reason—restraint is as much a part of good writing as the skillful use of a poetic device.

Don’t forget that poetic devices are good for more than just poetry. A well-written essay can use a great metaphor. A sonnet can be written in plain English for a great effect. An article for your school newspaper might be improved with a little alliteration. Feel free to experiment with how and when these devices are used—adding in an unexpected poetic device is a great way to elevate your writing.

What’s Next?

Poetic devices are just one of the many kinds of tools you can use to enhance your writing. Check out this list of rhetorical devices for even more things you can do to liven up your work!

Want even more poetic devices? Check out this article on personification , which covers examples of this device in both poetry and literature!

Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," is a great example of repetition, but there's a lot more to it than that! This article will give you some in-depth information on the meaning of Dylan Thomas' poem , including how to analyze it!

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Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.

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26 Of The Most Popular Literary Devices In Poetry

In 2019, Book Riot contributor Laura Marie called literary devices “strategies or techniques that a writer can use.” Most of these literary devices are used in both prose and poetry, but some appear more often in poetry. Poets often use several literary devices in the same poem, so identifying each one can seem tricky or ambiguous. Here’s your guide to the most common literary devices in poetry along with examples, whether you’re a student or lifelong learner when it comes to poetry.

26 Common Literary Devices In Poetry

In poetry, accent refers to the syllables or words that are stressed or emphasized. Words with more than one syllable have some syllables that are louder than others. Accent can shape the rhythm and meter of a poem. Readers and actors can also choose to accent important words.

An allegory is a story or poem with a hidden meaning: often a moral, religious, or political one. It’s not a poem, but the first allegory I read as a child was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe , a children’s fantasy novel by C.S. Lewis. Animal Farm by George Orwell is another allegorical novel.


Alliteration is two or more words in a row beginning with the same letter. “The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew, the furrow followed free.” This line from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge alliterates words starting with B and then with F.

This is an indirect reference, often to another work. In western countries, many poets use allusions to Greek mythology or to the Bible. The speaker of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock ” by T.S. Eliot says: “To say: ‘I am Lazarus, come from the dead…’” Lazarus was Jesus’s friend whom he raised from the dead in The Gospel of John.

Anaphora is repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of lines or verses. Layli Long Soldier’s poem “Whereas” begins each stanza with the word “whereas” — a word used in treaties and other colonial documents in the U.S.

Apostrophe in poetry means addressing a person who is absent, or an inanimate object. John Keats’s poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn ” is a classic example.

In poetry, this is an extended metaphor. In Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death,” Death is personified. The conceit, or central metaphor, is a carriage ride with Death. The ride represents the event of dying, followed by burial.

Consonance is repeated consonant sounds. ( Assonance means repeated vowel sounds.)“Jabberwocky,” Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem about a monster, uses both assonance and consonance . “’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves” is consonant because of the repeating T and S sounds. In this example, Carroll’s nonsense words create an eerie tone through sound alone, not meaning. Unlike alliteration, assonance and consonance do not need to be at the beginning of a word.

In poetry and prose, diction is word choice. Poets are often very intentional about diction, picking particular words over synonyms for their sound, imagery, or secondary meanings. A related concept is syntax , or the order of words.

An elegy is a poem that laments a person’s death or the end of something. Alfred, Lord Tennyson wrote several elegies with the words “In Memoriam” (Latin for “in memory”) in the titles.

An end stop is a sentence or thought that finishes at the end of a line. This is common in traditional, rhyming poetry, with several examples here .

This is the opposite of an end stop. Enjambment is continuing a thought from one line or stanza onto the next. It often changes the meaning of the lines or creates double meanings or pauses. It can also enable longer, more prose-like thoughts or phrases. Jericho Brown’s poem “ Inaugural ” uses enjambment repeatedly.

Figurative Language

This is any expression that is not meant to be taken literally. It often conveys abstract ideas. Examples of figurative language include metaphors, personification, and similes. Puns and other wordplay can also be forms of figurative language.

Imagery is any detail that appeals to the senses. “ Dover Beach ” by Matthew Arnold begins by describing the sight, sound, feel, smell, and taste of the sea and air. 

Inversions reverse the typical order of words. In poetry, this can sound more dramatic or old-fashioned or fit the rhyme scheme of the poem. In English, adjectives usually come before nouns. “My fair lady” is standard word order; “my lady fair” is an inversion.

A metaphor is related to a simile. Instead of overtly making a comparison, though, a metaphor says that one thing is another. 

Meter is a structured rhythm in poetry. William Shakespeare wrote most of his plays and sonnets in the meter of iambic pentameter. In iambic pentameter, each line has ten syllables, divided into five two-syllable iambs. The first syllable of each iamb is unstressed, while the second is stressed or accented. Antonio in The Merchant of Venice says: “In sooth, I know not why I am so sad.” This line is in iambic pentameter, as reading it aloud or clapping the beat can show.


Onomatopoeia is any word that imitates sounds. The nursery rhyme “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” teaches children a different animal noise onomatopoeia in each verse: quack, moo, and so on. Less obvious examples are words like buzz, crack, pop, hiss, and tap.


Personification is giving human qualities to animals and objects. For example, if a poem says, “The wind whispered,” that’s personification. Pathetic fallacy is a more specific form of personification that attributes human emotions to objects. At the end of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet , the Prince says: “The sun for sorrow will not show his head.” This is an example of pathetic fallacy.

Many poetic devices use repetition. Maya Angelou’s poem “ Still I Rise ” repeats phrases like “you may” and “I rise.” This creates a powerful rhythm and fits the poem’s theme of resilience.

Rhymes are similar ending sounds in two or more words. Not all poetry rhymes. Here are some common types of rhyme in poetry:

End rhyme is a rhyme at the end of a line. The first two lines of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “ The Lady of Shalott ” use an end rhyme: “lie” and “rye.”

Half rhyme or slant rhyme : These are words with some shared end sounds, but not all. “Fine” and “time” half-rhyme because of the long I sounds with different end consonants. Many songs use slant rhymes.

Internal rhyme is a word anywhere in the middle of a line rhyming with a word at the line’s beginning or end. An example is the opening line of “ The Raven ” by Edgar Allan Poe: “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary …” 

Rhythm is the beat or flow of a poem. It’s a more loose term than meter.

This is a comparison using “like” or “as.” William Wordsworth uses a simile in this line : “I wandered lonely as a cloud.”

Symbolism is when one word or object represents another. Often the symbolic meaning is abstract and open to interpretation. This poem by Dylan Thomas uses “night” to symbolize death. Many poetic devices include symbolism.

A poem’s theme is its underlying message or idea, often not directly stated. Love, death, morality, and nature are common themes in poems. 

Verse is poetry, as opposed to prose. Verse can also mean a metrical line, stanza, or other distinct section of a poem, or the form in which it’s written. Two popular types of verse are blank verse and free verse.

Blank verse is unrhymed poetry with a strict meter. Many speeches in Shakespeare’s plays are blank verse in iambic pentameter. John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost is also in blank verse.

Free verse is an open-ended form of poetry with no particular meter and usually no end rhyme. Contemporary poets who write in free verse include Rupi Kaur, Nikita Gill, and Nayyirah Waheed.

There are many more poetic literary devices , and some of these meanings overlap. Once you understand how common literary devices in poetry work, it becomes easier to recognize and interpret them or use them in your own writing. Reading poetry is fascinating and enjoyable on multiple levels. 

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The 27 Poetic Devices You Need to Know

Alex Simmonds

Alex Simmonds

Freelance Copywriter

Poetic Devices, A complete guide with examples

The term "poetic device" refers to anything used by a poet—including sounds, shapes, rhythms, phrases, and words—to enhance the literal meaning of their poem. This could mean using rhythm and sound to pull the reader into the world of the poem, or adding figurative meaning to their literal words.

How Many Poetic Devices Are There?

Poetic devices—form, poetic devices—diction, poetic devices—punctuation, how to identify poetic devices.

There are hundreds, possibly even thousands, of different literary devices open to poets, some of them very obscure having not been used for centuries, and so this article will divide them into categories— Poetic Form , Poetic Diction , and Poetic Punctuation —and concentrate on the most used poetic devices, with examples, in each category.

First, we’ll look at poetic devices relating to form. Poetic form refers to how the poem is structured using stanzas, line length, rhyme, and rhythm. Clever use of poetic form can enhance the meaning or emotion the poet is trying to achieve.

What Are the Basic Poetic Devices of Form?

Again, there are a huge variety of formal choices open to a poet, but for the purposes of this article we can divide them into three categories: fixed verse , blank verse and free verse .

#1: Fixed Verse

Fixed verse poems follow traditional forms, based on formal rhyme schemes and specific patterns of stanza, refrain, and meter.

Types of fixed verse include limerick , haiku , ballad , villanelle , sestina , and rondeau . The most used, however, are odes and sonnets .

Odes are short, lyrical poems that are used to express emotions and praise. The Ode originated in ancient Greece as a way of praising an athletic victory, but later was adopted by the Romantics to convey emotion through intense or lofty language.

Odes vary in style and form but are nearly always formally structured. One of the most famous examples is Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind which is a poem written in iambic pentameter (combining an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable in groups of five.) The poem praises the quality of the wind and is a strong invocation of the poet as bringer of political change:

Ode to the West Wing by Percy Shelley

Perhaps the most famous type of fixed verse, the sonnet uses iambic pentameter in a fourteen-line poem, with a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg .

This fixed rhyme scheme can prompt unconventional phrasing, and gives the sonnet a sense of superiority over conventional speech, whilst at the same time the rhythm of the iambic pentameter keeps it feeling natural.

The sonnet has traditionally been used as a way of declaring love, most famously by Shakespeare in his 154-sonnet sequence that dramatized love, beauty, and the passing of time.

Whilst the most famous of these is Sonnet 18 ( "Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?" ) Sonnet 60, which examines the nature of passing time and its effect on human life, is worth looking at:

Sonnet 60 by William Shakespeare

#2: Blank verse

Blank verse poems comprise unrhymed lines that use a regular meter—basically, a non-rhyming iambic pentameter.

Blank verse is the most influential of all English poetical forms and has regularly been used by all the great poets throughout the centuries.

Christopher Marlowe used blank verse first, but once again it was Shakespeare who made the form his own. The most famous example in Shakespeare’s work is the "to be, or not to be" soliloquy from Hamlet (although in this speech, he doesn’t stick religiously to the ten syllables of iambic pentameter).

Notice how the rhythm accentuates the feeling of grandness as all of life and death are considered:

To be or not to be soliloquy

#3: Free Verse

Free verse poems remove the need for both formal rhyme and formal metric rhythm schemes. This allows the poem to be shaped completely by the poet. Removing this formality often allows the poet a far greater canvas on which to play.

A fantastic example of free verse poetry is the short, imagist poem This Is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams.

This is just to say by William Carlos Williams

Next, we’ll look at devices of poetic diction. "Poetic diction" means the sounds , meanings , and rhythms that make up the language or "operating system" of poetry. These types of devices are what the poet uses to establish the feel and atmosphere of the poem.

Poetic Devices of Sound

These are poetic devices that use specific sonic effects to evoke emotions or thoughts, in the readers of the poem. The following examples represent some of the most common sonic literary devices in poetry:

#4. Alliteration

Alliteration is when two or more words start with the same consonant sound are used to emphasize an idea or action and create an emotional response.

A snake, slithering slyly , for example, enhances the sense of the snake’s deviousness and danger. Whereas if a poet uses p’s , d’s or b’s in a row, it gives their poem a strong, booming, drumbeat like sound:

Bore up his branching head: scarce from his mould Behemoth , biggest born of earth, upheaved His vastness Paradise Lost: The Seventh Book —John Milton

#5. Assonance

Whereas alliteration repeats the same consonant sounds at the start of words, assonance is repetition of vowel sounds (anywhere within the word) on the same or following lines of a poem to give a musical, internal rhyme. The sound will be a vowel sound, but doesn’t have to use a vowel, meaning you could rhyme some and mud , for example.

William Blake is well known for his use of assonance, such as the repeating “i” and “y” sounds in The Tyger :

The Tyger by William Blake

#6: Consonance

Consonance is a similar device to alliteration and assonance in that it involves repetition of sounds. But consonance consists of repeating consonant sounds at the end (and sometimes middle) rather than beginning of words.

Once again, we can look at The Tyger above, but this time considering the repeated “r” sounds in burning , bright , and forests . Similarly, the “t” sound is also repeated throughout, in night , bright , Tyger .

#7: Cacophony

Cacophony involves the use of unpleasant, nasty, or harsh sounds (mainly consonants) to give the impression of chaos, disorder or dread, as in Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky :

Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!

#8: Euphony

On the other hand, euphony is the repetition of harmonious, musical sounds that are pleasant to read or hear. This is achieved through the use of soft consonant sounds such as m , n , w , r , f , and h and through vibrating consonants such as s , sh , and th .

#9: Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is a literary and poetic device wherein words are employed to imitate sounds associated with what they describe. Examples include smash , crack , ripple , jangling .

Examples of Onomatopoeia's

Poetic Devices of Meaning

Poets also have several poetic devices available which allow them to tease out the intended meaning of the poem without having to be too literal.

#10: Allusion

Allusion is an indirect reference to a person, place, thing, history, mythology, or work of art, that the poet wants to acknowledge as relevant to the poem’s meaning.

TS Eliot’s The Waste Land begins with an allusion (indeed the whole poem is packed with them), announcing "April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land" which alludes to and contrasts the opening of The Canterbury Tales in which the coming of April is a joyous occasion.

#11: Conceit

Conceit is an elaborate metaphor that runs throughout the entire poem to compare two things that do not really belong together. In contrast to simple metaphors though, a conceit will be something far more fanciful and unlikely.

In To the Harbormaster by Frank O’Hara, for example, the lover is the harbormaster and the narrator a metaphysical seafarer, trying to reach his lover.

Irony in poetry refers mainly to ‘dramatic irony’, in which the reader has important knowledge that the characters do not. The most famous example of this is in Romeo and Juliet , in which (spoiler alert), the audience knows Juliet isn’t dead, but can’t do anything about Romeo committing suicide.

#13: Metaphor

Metaphor is used in poetry to directly compare people, objects or ideas. Whereas similes compare using "like" or "as," metaphors declare that a thing "is" something else— he is the apple of my eye , for example—in order to to reach for a deeper understanding of the comparison.

In Hope Is the Thing with Feathers , Emily Dickinson compares hope to a bird:

Hope is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson

#14: Paradox

As a poetic device, paradox refers to a phrase that is self-contradictory but reveals a larger truth. In Julius Caesar , for example, Shakespeare wrote that "Cowards die many times before their deaths / The valiant never taste of death but once."

#15: Personification

Personification is when an inanimate object, animal or idea is given human characteristics; for example, "the wind whispered through the trees." Thus in Mirror , Silvia Plath writes from the perspective of the mirror:

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. Whatever I see I swallow immediately.

#16: Rhetorical Question

In poetry and literature, a rhetorical question is a question that is not looking for an answer, rather is being asked to make a point. In the poem cited earlier, Ode to the West Wind , Shelley asks in the final line:

O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

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#17: Simile

The simile, like the metaphor, offers another device for comparison. However, a simile is much more blatant and uses like or as to draw the comparison. Robert Frost uses simile in his poem Design :

Design by Robert Frost

#18: Symbolism

Poets use symbolism to convey hidden meanings. Places, objects, and actions can all be symbols, with many layers of meaning tied to them. Symbolism adds depth to the literal meaning of the poem.

Thus, in The Pasture , by Robert Frost, "to clean the pasture spring" is to push sin away and "wait to watch the water clear" is to wait until the heart is sin-free:

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring; I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away (And wait to watch the water clear, I may): I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too. The Pasture —Robert Frost

Poetic Devices of Rhythm

Devices of rhythm are those that give the poem a rhythmic effect and in doing so allow the poet to stress certain elements of meaning and emotion.

#19: Caesura

Caesura means a break or pause in the verse to allow one phrase to finish and another to begin. This can be used both to allow a natural flow to the poem, or alternatively, to add dramatic pauses, show contrast and create drama and tension.

For example, Emily Dickinson’s poem I’m Nobody! Who Are You? uses caesura in the following places:

I’m nobody! || Who are you? Are you nobody too? Then there’s a pair of us || Don’t tell! They’d banish us, || – you know!

#20: Enjambment

Enjambment is the continuation of a phrase or sentence beyond the poetic line break and sometimes beyond the couplet or stanza, without the pause that you would expect from a full stop or other punctuation.

It encourages the reader to keep reading, whilst controlling the rhythm and flow of their reading. This is best exemplified in Between Walls by William Carlos Williams, in which the whole poem consists of a single sentence split into 10 enjambed lines:

Between Walls by William Carlos Williams

Meter is the rhythm of the poem itself, measured in the length and number of ‘feet’ in each line. The most widely recognized of these is the iambic pentameter—which we discussed in the section on sonnet—a form that replicates and amplifies the rhythm of natural speech and gives a regular, heartbeat like feel to the verse.

The pattern of iambic pentameter—five feet, each containing a stressed and unstressed syllable—goes like this:

Shall I |comp ARE |thee TO | a SUM | mers DAY ?

As well as the iamb , other meters include the anapest (unstressed, unstressed, stressed), the trochee (stressed, unstressed) and the dactyl (stressed, unstressed, unstressed).

Rhyme is the most obvious of poetic devices, using repeating patterns of similar sounds, to create musicality and rhythm and give the poem symmetry. One of the most common rhymes is the couplet, which is two lines that rhyme together.

The following example is a simple two-line poem called The Cow by Ogden Nash:

The cow is of the bovine ilk; One end is moo, the other, milk.

Whilst this end rhyme form is the most well-known, many poets also utilize internal rhymes. So, in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner , Coleridge writes:

In mist or cloud , on mast or shroud Whiles all the night through fog-smoke white

#23: Repetition

The repetition of certain words or phrases is a method of indirectly stressing emotions or ideas and reinforcing the central point of the poem. Repetition can be used with words, phrases, lines, and even full verses.

One of the most famous poems of the 20th century, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas, repeats two lines throughout the poem. Here it is within ProWritingAid’s Echoes report

Do not go gentle into that good night in ProWritingAid's Echoes Report

Whereas in normal writing, punctuation has a utilitarian purpose, in poetry it can be used as a tool of expression or artistic choice.

#24: Apostrophe

In poetry, the term apostrophe doesn't refer to the same type of punctuation as you would expect, rather it is a poetic device to show that the speaker is addressing someone who is not present in the poem.

Apostrophe is usually invoked using the letter O as a punctuation mark, indicating someone is being addressed. Thus in To Morning , Blake addresses the morning star, as the huntress Diana:

O holy virgin! clad in purest white, Unlock heav’n’s golden gates, and issue forth.

In poetry, commas show a pause and a separation of elements as well as allowing you to remove "and" from a line. In In Memoriam A. H. H. OBIIT MDCCCXXXIII Tennyson uses commas in multiple ways:

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky, The flying cloud, the frosty light: The year is dying in the night; Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

#26: Exclamation Mark

Poets use exclamation marks to express exhilaration, excitement, joy, surprise, or to add emphasis.

As an example, Emily Dickinson’s use of exclamation marks, along with dashes , was essential to her style—that of a young, energetic poet, brimming with life:

Wild nights- Wild nights! by Emily Dickinson

#27: Question Mark

As discussed in the section on rhetorical questions above, question marks are often used by poets to suggest a brief contemplative moment in the poem to consider the question being posed.

In this article we have looked at the main types and examples of literary devices in poetry, but there are hundreds more we couldn’t cover, such as anaphora , epistrophe , litotes , and zeugma , to name but a few. As with all things, the more poetry that you read (and write) and the more you take an interest, the quicker you will recognize the creative use of poetic devices. Continually ask yourself, "what are the poetic devices in the poem I am reading?"

Then, as you begin to use them in your own poetry, the first and most important lesson is- don’t overuse them. Less is often more with poetry, so avoid alliterative odes to mum’s favorite vase, full of symbolism and packed with caesura and exclamation marks!

If you’re unsure that you’re getting the balance right, you can use the Alliteration Report (or the Clichés and Redundancies Report ) in ProWritingAid to keep your poetry natural and free flowing.

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5 Common Types of Poetic Device and their Uses

poetry writing devices

English Tutor and HSC all-rounder, Jodie Lee, takes us through 5 common types of Poetic Devices and their Uses, to help you through your HSC English journey.

We cover five types of common poetic devices and their uses to help you through your HSC:


Caesura and enjambment

Juxtaposition and oxymoron

Writing an analysis of poetry without knowing poetic devices is like solving a Rubik’s cube with no hands: you just wouldn’t do it. Memorising them is one thing but understanding their effect on the audience is harder still. But if you believe learning the techniques to be a lost cause, think again. Here are five useful types of poetic devices to help you get started on your HSC English journey.

Alliteration comes from the Latin phrase littera, meaning “letter of the alphabet”. It‘s the repeated sound at the beginning of a string of words. Think of Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme. You’re more likely to remember them, which only recalls your fantasised image of those delicious jam doughnuts.

In the same way, poetry can become more musical and memorable as the repeating sound is often pleasurable to hear out loud.

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary.” —Edgar Allen Poe, “The Raven”

Caesura is the Latin word, literally meaning “a cutting”. This is as if someone were to say, “Stop!” in the middle of their sentence. By disrupting the rhythm of the poem, you pay the line more attention due to the dramatic, staccato effect.

“Nuts, bolts, nails, car-keys. A fount of broken type.” —Ciaran Carson, “Belfast Confetti”

Enjambment is of French origin and means “to stride over”. It means to continue sentences beyond the end of one line. Think of the way we text. If the sender breaks up their complete sentences, the receiver might sit there, eyes glued to the phone, and wait in anticipation for the coming texts.

It causes your eyes to follow onto the next line to get closure while still holding onto the idea expressed.

“April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.” —T.S. Elliot, “The Waste Land”

Imagery literally means language that produces images. I could tell you that it’s raining outside, or instead, describe heavy rain hitting the metal rooftop and the smell of damp earth. Not only does this create a more striking image of the scene, but it also evokes certain emotions attached to what your senses imagine.

“Blue! ‘Tis the life of waters–ocean

And all its vassal streams: pools numberless

May rage, and foam, and fret, but never can

Subside if not to dark-blue nativeness.” —John Keats, “Blue! ‘Tis the Light of Heaven”

Juxtaposition comes from the Latin “iuxta” which means to be beside or very near. Like its namesake, it’s when two contrasting ideas are placed closely together, such as light and darkness, life and death, or savoury ketchup and sweet vanilla ice cream.

It creates tension and contrast, and can also be a powerful way to express an idea as you can compare it to something else.

“Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” —Dylan Thomas, “Good Night”

Oxymoron is a type of juxtaposition, and it’s really more of a direct, paradoxical comparison. This makes sense when you consider its Greek origin, “oxumōron”, which means “pointedly foolish”. Some oxymorons include the living dead and deafening silence.

It’s provocative and engaging in that we seek to understand what the oxymoron could possibly mean.

“Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!

O anything, of nothing first create!

O heavy lightness! Serious vanity!” —William Shakespeare, “Romeo and Juliet”

Personification and pathetic fallacy

Personification is what it sounds like: a figurative language tool that gives ideas, objects or animals human characteristics. Death is often personified as a malevolent and destructive force, especially with the Grim Reaper. It adds a human element, communicates ideas more vividly, and connects us to things we can’t normally relate to.

“Because I could not stop for Death – 

He kindly stopped for me – 

The Carriage held but just Ourselves – 

And Immortality.” —Emily Dickinson, “Because I could not stop for Death”

Pathetic fallacy was coined to originally mean “emotional falseness”. In fact, it is a type of personification where nature is given human attributes, such as leaves “dancing” in the wind. It’s usually done to evoke emotions from the audience or project the emotions of the speaker. Imagine stormy clouds on a bad day—you might describe them as “sullen” to reflect your mood.

“The sullen wind was soon awake,

It tore the elm-tops down for spite,

and did its worst to vex the lake.” —Robert Browning, “Porphyria’s Lover”

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Poetic Devices

Beginning from the 5th century, the lingua franca – English Language has undergone many changes. The history of English has seen continuous modifications and alterations owing to the multiple cultures and various people who influenced it. Among these changes, many literary terms and grammatical concepts were introduced to ease communication and form various compositions. Poems are one of the forms of expressions that use different “Poetic Devices” to create a narrative, to deliver a message, or exhibit emotions, feelings in a rhythmic and aesthetic form. In this blog, we will see the various forms of 50+ poetic devices in English Literature with examples and meanings!

Poems are defined as “the clarification and magnification of being” – Hirshfield (1997)

This Blog Includes:

What are poetic devices, commonly used poetic devices, english poetic devices used to create rhythm/sound, english poetic devices used to change the meaning of words, english poetic devices for arranging the words, english poetic devices for adding imagery, poetic devices in fire and ice, why are poetic devices used.

Poetic devices can be simply referred to as a form of literary devices which are used in poetry. They are used as different elements in a poem just like above in verbal, visual, structural, rhythmic, metrical, grammatical elements, and so on. These poetic devices are tools used by poets to augment the meaning of a poem, make it rhythmic pleasing, or intensify the core emotion, mood, or feeling represented in the poem.

Here are the most commonly used and interesting poetic devices in English literature you must know about:

poetry writing devices

50 Poetic Devices with Examples

There are different types of Poetic Devices which can be incorporated in a poem to make it more meaningful and filled with imagery. The major forms of poetic devices are based on:

Now, let’s take a look at the list of 50 poetic devices of each of these purposes:

Examples: Splash, Murmur, Bang, Fwoosh, Buzz

2 . Alliteration : One of the most used poetic devices, Alliteration is a phonetic structure and repeated usage of sound or letter used in the first syllable of a word. It is considered as the oldest poetic tool that is generally used for two or more words in a poem. Most of the poets take alliteration into account while framing a particular poem as it adds charm and effectiveness. Sometimes, a lliteration perfectly fits in tongue twisters. 

Examples: “She sells seashells by the sea-shore.”

3 . Rhyme : Being the most important poetic devices, these are widely used while framing poems. They play a decisive role in adding more charm and mood in the poem. It is a tool that brings music to the poem in a proper rhythmic structure.

Examples: Night-Bright, Skin-Grin, Frog-Log

4. Assonance : In a literary landscape, when two or more words that are close to each other repeats the same vowel sounds then such English poetic devices are known as Assonance. However, they commence with different consonant sounds.

Examples : “The crumbling thunder of seas” (Robert Louis Stevenson); “Strips of tinfoil winking like people” (Sylvia Plath)

5 . Consonance : Falling under the list of poetic devices, Consonance is used in both prose and poetry. It can be understood as the repetition of sounds that are produced by the consonants in a phrase or a sentence. It is quite contrary to assonance’s repetition of vowel sounds. Sometimes, the usage of this word gives a rhythmic mood in a writeup.

Examples: Toss the glass, boss; Dawn goes down; Don’t creep and beep while grandpa falls asleep

6 . Euphony : Euphony is the repetitive use of mellow, melodic tones that are enjoyable to read or listen to. Soft consonant sounds like m, n, w, r, and f as well as consonants that vibrate, such s, sh, and th, are used to create this.

Examples: “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” (Shakespeare)

7 . Repetition: In order to put extreme emphasis on our writing style, we use the repetition technique. Through such poetic devices in English, the words or phrases are repeated in sentences. It is used in poetry as well as the prose sections.

Examples: Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening “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.”

8 . Cacophony : Cacophony is the use of unappealing, repulsive, or harsh noises (mostly consonants) to evoke chaos, disorder, or dread.

Examples: “Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! The frumious Bandersnatch!” (Lewis Carroll)

9 . Rhythm : The flow of words throughout each meter and stanza creates rhythm and highlights particular elements of the poem.

Examples : “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (Shakespeare)

10 . Allusion : By this term, we can understand it is a phrase or a word that is meant to call something without mentioning it clearly. Allusion, which is yet another popularly used poetic device in English, is an ambiguous statement or phrase that leaves a reader in oblivion. 

Examples: Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. (Robert Frost)

Examples: Stevie Smith’s Not Waving But Drowning “Nobody heard him, the dead man, But still he lay moaning: I was much further out than you thought And not waving but drowning.”

12 . Allegory : An allegory is a narrative or description in which certain abstractions or concepts are represented by certain events, behaviours, characters, locations, or objects.

Examples : The Tortoise and the Hare – Aesop’s Fables

13 . Euphemism : Euphemism is the act of replacing a term that can offend or imply something unpleasant with one that is less hurtful or pleasing. These kind of phrases are known as euphemisms. In writing or speaking, euphemisms are frequently employed in place of harsher or more direct language.

Examples : “If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm, When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn, One may say, “He strove that such innocent creatures should come to no harm, But he could do little for them; and now he is gone. – Thomas Hardy

14 . Ambiguity : Ambiguity happens when a statement’s structure or substance leaves room for alternative interpretations and obscures its intended meaning.

Examples : “O Rose thou art sick. The invisible worm, That flies in the night In the howling storm: Has found out thy bed Of crimson joy; And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy” (William Blake’s The Rose)

Example: She sweeps with many-colored brooms, And leaves the shreds behind; Oh, housewife in the evening west, Come back, and dust the pond! (Emily Dickinson)

16 . Analogy : An analogy is a literary device that establishes a relationship between two concepts based on similarities or connections. Establishing this connection makes the new topic simpler to understand by introducing it through a relatable contrast.

Example: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet. So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called” (William Shakespeare)

17 . Denotation : The denotation of a term refers to its neutral, objective meaning. No matter the language or aspect of speech, every word that has a definition in a dictionary also has a denotation.

Example : “ When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. ” (William Wordsworth)

18 . Cliche : A scenario or term that is overused to the extent that it is deemed unoriginal is referred to as a cliché (klee-SHAY). Any element of a literary story, including a specific phrase, scene, genre, or character, might be considered a cliché. The word carries a bad reputation since sloppy writing is frequently connected with clichés.

Example : A heart full of sorrow

19 . Connotation : Connotation is the use of a word to imply an unique association from its denotative, or literal, meaning.

Example : “ She’s all states, and all princes, I” (John Donne)

20 . Contrast : A writer will often use contrast as a rhetorical tactic to highlight the contrasts between two persons, places, or objects. The simplest definition of contrast is the antithesis of two things, highlighting and clarifying their differences.

Example : “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips’ red; If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.” (William Shakespeare)

21 . Apostrophe : It addresses the subject that is not present in the work. In this case, the object is absent or inanimate. Here are some of the examples of apostrophes. 

Example : “Busy old fool, unruly Sun, Why dost thou thus, Through windows, and through curtains, call on us?” (John Donne)

22 . Metaphor : As a figure of speech is a poetic device, a metaphor is used in order to draw a comparison between unrelated things in an implicit or hidden way. Or, this is used when a poet tries to resemble two opposite things or objects on the basis of some common characteristics. 

Example : “An elephant, a ponderous house A melon strolling on two tendrils.” (Sylvia Plath)

23 . Pun : Puns are among the most frequently used figures of speech in daily conversation. They may be great conversation starters since they make you sound clever and occasionally even humorous.

Example : “Apocalypse soon Coming our way Ground zero at noon Halve a nice day.” (Edmund Conti)

24 . Hyperbole : A hyperbole is a figure of speech that consists of an exaggeration. It is the usage of exaggerated terms in order to emphasise or heighten the effect of something. 

Example : “And I will love thee still, my dear, Till a’ the seas gang dry. Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear, And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:” (Robert Burns)

25 . Simile : A simile is a figure of speech that compares two things that are different from each other but have similar qualities. These are generally formed through the usage of the words ‘as’ or ‘like’.

Example : “Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn.” (Shakespeare)

26 . Metonymy : Metonymy is a figure of speech when one term or phrase is used in place of another with which it is closely related. It is also a rhetorical technique used to describe something indirectly by making references to objects around. 

27 . Oxymoron : This figure of speech, which should not be confused with ironies and paradoxes, links two opposing ideas at once. This indicates that two opposing concepts are utilised inside a single sentence to create levity in an oxymoron figure of speech.

Example : “Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health, Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is! This love feel I, that feel no love in this.” (Shakespeare)

28 . Paradox : These figures of speech, like ironies, emphasise something by discussing the exact opposite of it. A paradox, on the other hand, differs from an irony in that it does not make the contrast as evident. 


Example : “To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.” (Oscar Wilde)

29 . Synecdoche : Synecdoche is defined in English as a literary device where a term for a minor aspect of anything may be used to represent the main idea or vice versa. The likelihood is that you frequently employ synecdoche in your daily life, despite the fact that it may seem perplexing.

Example : “‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark Is by a forged process of my death Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth, The serpent that did sting thy father’s life Now wears his crown.” (Shakespeare)

30 . Symbolism : Poets employ symbolism to communicate underlying ideas. There are several levels of meaning associated with symbols, including places, things, and actions. The literal meaning of the poem is deepened by symbolism.

Example : I am of one element, Levity my matter, Like enough a withered leaf For the winds to scatter. (The Archepoet)

31 . Rhyme Scheme: The sequence of sounds that repeats at the conclusion of a line or stanza is known as a rhyme scheme. Line by line, stanza by stanza, or throughout the entire poem, rhyme schemes might alter.

Example : “The sun is shining bright This is a lovely sight”

32 . Stanza : A stanza is a method of splitting and grouping lines in a poem, separating one group of lines from other groups of lines by line spacing or indentation.

Example : As I behold the beautiful sunrise It is like seeing a lovely surprise.

34 . Kenning : A two-word sentence that uses metaphors to describe an item is known as a kenning. A riddle made up of a few lines of kennings that describe someone or something in perplexing detail is known as a kenning poem. It is sometimes referred to as a “compressed metaphor,” which refers to meanings expressed in a limited number of words.

Example : a two-word phrase “whale-road” represents the sea.

35 . Verse Line : Writing technique Single-line poetry is referred to as verse. A stanza or other poetic components may also be mentioned while using this phrase.

Example : I’ll buy you a diamond ring my friend if it makes you feel alright I’ll get you anything my friend if it makes you feel alright Cos I don’t care too much for money, and money can’t buy me love

36 . Blank Verse & Free Verse : Blank verse is written in strict iambic pentameter, but has no rhyme scheme and Free verse contains no rhyme and no meter.

Example : This Is Just to Say  by William Carlos Williams.

37 . Snippet : A snippet is a brief segment of anything.

Example : where you only hear a short amount of information is example of snippet.

38 . Ballad: A ballad is a type of narrative poem written in a sequence of four-line stanzas as a literary device.

Example :   La Belle Dame sans Merci  by John Keats

39 . Epitaph : An epitaph is described as an inscription or written remembrance of a person on a gravestone or in a work of literature.

Example : “The Best Is Yet To Come.”—Frank Sinatra

40 . Haiku : Japanese poetry known as haiku is composed of only a few brief, unrhymed lines. These lines can be expressed in a variety of short poems. The most typical haiku structure, however, consists of three lines of five, seven, and five syllables each. A haiku poetry often focuses on a single, intense feeling or picture.

Example : “The Old Pond” by Matsuo Bashō 

41 . Limerick : limerick, a common kind of quick, funny poem that is usually inappropriate and nonsensical. It is composed of five lines that rhyme with each other in the pattern aabba. The primary metre is anapestic, with two metrical feet in the third and fourth lines and three feet in the other lines.

Example : There was a young woman named Bright, Whose speed was much faster than light. She set out one day, In a relative way, And returned on the previous night.

42 . Ode : An ode is a brief, lyrical poetry that frequently praises something.

Example : “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats 

43 . Rondeau : The rondeau, so named because it uses the term “round” in French, is distinguished by its two rhyme sounds and rentrement, or refrain, which repeats throughout.

Example : Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Now welcome, summer” at the close of The Parlement of Fowls

44 . Sestina : A poem composed in a highly particular, intricate form is called a sestina. The poem is in the French sestina style, with six stanzas of six lines each and a final triplet of three lines.

Example : Elizabeth Bishop’s “A Miracle for Breakfast” was published in 1972.

45 . Triolet : The first line of Triolet is repeated as the fourth and seventh lines, while the second line is repeated as the eighth line. Triolet has just two rhymes.

Example : Hardy’s poem, “How Great My Grief,”

46 . Villanelle : The first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated alternately in the subsequent stanzas of this French poetic form, which has five three-line stanzas and a concluding quatrain.

Example : Dylan Thomas’s poem “Do not go gentle into that good night”.

Example : “The silence was as thick as a forest.”

49. Imagery : In a literary or poetic context, imagery refers to the author’s use of vivid language and description to enhance the reader’s comprehension of the work by appealing to their senses.

Example : The autumn leaves are a blanket on the ground.

50. Tone or Mood : The basic definition for “tone” is created by the reader’s perception of the cumulative moods and mental or emotional states of the narrator, characters, and writer. This is the technical definition of “tone”: The general mood that a work of literature radiates.

“Shall I compare thee to a

Summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and

More temperate.”

50 Common Difficult Idioms with Examples

Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate To say that for destruction ice Is also great And would suffice. – Fire and Ice by Robert Frost

Poetic devices are important literary tools that are used to intensify an emotion, add rhythm or make a poem more meaningful. A poetic device plays a significant role in putting a poem in all its beauty by intensifies its meaning, enhancing the emotional feeling and leaving the reader mesmerized! Here are the top reasons why poetic devices are used:

Juxtaposition and oxymoron, alliteration, caesura and enjambment, are some of the main poetic devices.

Some of the literary devices used in the poem are as follows: Metaphor Antithesis Personification Assonance Refrain Asyndeton Rhyme

The most used poetic device is Alliteration.

Certainly, the expansion of the English language is unmissable, so is the poetic or literary landscape which has managed to produce wonderful and prolific poets of times. Do you want to take your zest for literature to new heights but are not sure of where to pursue such programs? Don’t worry! Reach out to our experts at Leverage Edu who will help you choose a university and complete the documentation process hassle-free! Call us immediately at 1800 57 2000 for a free 30-minute counselling session.

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Poetic Devices List: 27 Main Poetic Devices with Examples

poetry writing devices

by Fija Callaghan

Updated Sep 16, 2021

Emerging poets tend to fall into one of two camps.

The first are those who seek to embrace any and all poetic devices they can find and pile them one on top of the other, creating an architectural marvel not entirely dissimilar to a literary jenga puzzle—also known as Art.

The second are those who sit down at a desk/café table/riverside and throw up a beautiful storm of emotions onto the page, creating something so full of shadow and light and color that it could easily be mistaken for a post-impressionist painting or the remnants of a small child’s lunch. This, they assure us, is also Art.

The truth is, most poetry will fall somewhere in the middle. Many poets will begin learning about the technical literary devices used in poetry, read other poets who have used poetic devices successfully, and practice them in their own work until they become a part of their poet’s voice. Then they’ll allow them to surface naturally as they put their emotions down onto the page.

If you read any poetry at all (and if you haven’t, stop reading this, go do that, and come back), you’re probably well on your way. Many of the things we’re going to show you in this list of poetic devices are things you’ll probably recognize from other poems and stories you’ve read in the past.

What are poetic devices?

Poetic devices are the interlocking puzzle pieces that make up all poetry, from snappy haikus to Greek epics. These poetic devices work on the basic levels of line and rhythm, which make your poetry engaging and memorable, and they work on the deeper, thematic level, which makes your poetry matter to the reader.

Poetic devices the literary techniques that give your poetry shape, brightness, and contrast.

Effective poetic devices are a writer’s secret weapon.

Some of these poetic literary devices you probably already use instinctively. All poetry comes from a place within ourselves that recognizes the power of story and song, and writers have formed these devices in poetry over time as a way for us to communicate that with each other.

While you’re reading about these elements of poetry, see if you can look back at your own work and find where these poetic devices are already beginning to shine through naturally. Then you’ll be able to refine them even more to make your poetry the best it can be.

27 poetic devices used in poetry

Here are some of the literary devices you’ll be able to add to your poet’s toolkit:

1. Alliteration

Hearkening back to the days when poetry was mostly sung or read out loud, this literary device uses repeating opening sounds at the start of a series of successive words, giving them a lovely musical quality. The “Wicked Witch of the West” is an example of alliteration. So are “political power play” and “false friends.”

“Cold cider” is not an example of alliteration, because even though the words begin with the same letter, they don’t have the same sound. A ”sinking circus,” on the other hand, kicks off each word with the same sound even though they look different on the page.

2. Allusion

Allusion is where the poet makes an indirect reference to something outside of the poem, whether that’s a real person, a well-known mythological cycle, or a struggle that’s happening in the world we know. Sometimes this is simply to draw a parallel that the reader will easily understand, but often allusions are used to hint at something that it would be insensitive, or even dangerous, to directly acknowledge.

In Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven , the bird in question is described as “perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door.” Some of the poem’s readers may recognize Pallas as a reference to Pallas Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom. This allusion shows that the narrator has a high respect for learning.

3. Anaphora

Anaphora is the act of beginning a series of successive sentences or clauses (sentence fragments) with the same phrase. It’s an older literary device that many writers instinctively still use today, knowing that it lends a unique emphasis and rhythm even if they don’t know the specific term for it. You may have even used it yourself without realizing it!

One of the most famous uses of anaphora in English literature comes from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities : “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness.”

It goes on like this for a while, and the audience falls into not only a comfortable rhythm but a sense of audience participation; they begin to anticipate the words as they come, giving them a feeling of singing along to a song they’ve never heard. The repetition at the beginning of each line also draws attention to the contrasting ideas that Dickens is introducing.

This can be particularly effective in a narrative poem, or a poetic form that acts like a short story.

4. Assonance

Also called “vowel rhyme,” assonance is a poetic device that repeats vowel sounds in a word or phrase to create rhythm ( we’ll talk about rhythm a little more later on ). “Go slow down that lonely road” is an example of well-balanced assonance: we hear similar sounds in the “oh,” “go,” and “slow,” and then later in “lonely” and “road” (there’s also a bit of a clever eye rhyme in “slow down”—you’ll learn about eye rhymes when we talk about rhyme down below ). Don’t the deep, repetitive vowels just make you want to snuggle down into them?

You’ll probably find yourself using repeating vowel sounds in your poetry already, because the words just seem to naturally settle in together. As you progress, you’ll be able to see where those balanced vowels are beginning to shine through and then emphasize them even more.

5. Blank Verse

Blank verse is poetry that’s written in a regular meter, but with unrhymed line. It falls somewhere between formal and free verse poetry. While blank verse never has a formal rhyme scheme, it does have a formal meter (you’ll read more about meter a bit further on ).

Most blank verse is written in iambic pentameter, which was popularized by Shakespeare in his plays. “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?” is a famous example—it doesn’t rhyme, but it follows a pattern of a ten syllable line with alternating unstressed and stressed syllables. Try reading it out loud.

Some blank verse uses internal rhyme, or words that rhyme within a line rather than at the end. Blank verse is a great way to add a poetic levity to writing that would otherwise read like prose.

6. Chiasmus

A chiasmus (a word that brings to mind the word “chimera”, coincidentally enough) is a stylized literary device that plays with the reversal of words or ideas.

Sometimes the words might be used together in a different way—“Never let a Fool Kiss You, or a Kiss Fool You”—or sometimes it may be the concepts of the idea that are presented in reflection—“My heart burned with anguish, and chilled was my body when I heard of his death”—with “heart” and “body” as parallels bookending the contrasting ideas of “burned” and “chilled.”

Like anaphora , chiasmus can draw attention to a contrasting idea and make a memorable impression on the reader.

7. Consonance

Compared to assonance , consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in a word or phrase. Repeated consonants can occur at the beginning, middle, or ending of a word. You may recognize this from classic children’s tongue twisters like “Betty Botter bought some butter but she said the butter’s bitter”… the repeated B’s and T’s add a jig-and-reel quality to the speech.

You can also use this technique to add musicality and tone to the names of characters, such as the soft consonant sounds of Holly Golightly’s gentle L’s or the Dread Pirate Roberts’ guttural R’s.

In poetry, repeating consonant sounds often cause the reader to stop and linger over the phrase a little longer, teasing out both its music and its meaning (notice the consonance in “linger, little, longer” and “music” and “meaning”?).

Assonance, consonance, and alliteration are devices in poetry that create rhythm with repeated sounds.

8. Enjambment

Enjambment, from a Middle French word meaning “to step over,” is a poetic device in which a thought or an idea in a poem carries over from one line to another without pause. For example, T. S, Eliot’s The Waste Land says, “April is the cruelest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire.”

Instead of ending his lines on the comma, where we would normally think to pause in our speech, he includes the verb in the line before moving into the next one. This gives the poem a very different rhythm and complexity than it otherwise would have had.

Enjambment can also be used to create tension and surprise as the story you’re telling through your poem twists and turns.

9. Epistrophe

Unlike to anaphora , epistrophe is a literary device in which successive sentences or sentence fragments end with the same phrase. Our ears naturally attune to the landing point of any given word grouping, and so writers and speakers can use this tool to draw particular attention to a word or idea.

One famous example is Abraham Lincoln’s speech, “A government of the people, by the people, for the people”. We hear this word grouping “the people” landing three consecutive times. This same technique can be used to instill a mood in your poem by landing on evocative words such as “dark,” “gone,” or “again.”

10. Imagery

Imagery one of the most important poetic devices—it’s how you make the big ideas in your poem, as well as the poem’s meaning, come alive for the reader.

Poets will make the most of their limited space by using strong visual, auditory, olfactory, and even tactile sensations to give the reader a sense of time and place. It’s popular in both poetry and prose fiction.

In T. S. Eliot’s Preludes , he says, “… the burnt-out ends of smoky days. And now a gusty shower wraps the grimy scraps of withered leaves about your feet.” This little excerpt is brimming with an intense vision of the scene that plays with all five of the senses. It makes us feel like we’re there.

11. Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition is contrast—comparing dark with light, heroes with villains, night with day, beauty with cruelty. “All’s fair in love and war” is a famous example of juxtaposition—the idea puts two normally conflicting concepts side by side to make us reconsider the relationship they have to each other.

Juxtaposition as a literary device can be lighthearted, such as a friendship between a lion and a mouse, or it can give power and emotional resonance to a scene, such as young soldiers leaving for grim battle on a perfectly beautiful summer’s day. Effective use of juxtaposition can change the tone of an entire poem.

12. Metaphor

Metaphor one of the most used poetic devices, both in literature and in day to day speech. It presents one thing as another completely different thing so as to draw a powerful comparison of images.

“Love is a battlefield” is a metaphor that equates a broad, thematic idea (love) with something we all have at least a basic understanding of (a battlefield). It shows us that there are aspects in each that are also present in the other.

Metaphors can also be implied, when the poet uses a colorful image to suggest something about a character or an action; for instance, “the article sparked a new conversation,” giving the article a quality akin to a flame struck in the darkness.

Rather than stating its literal meaning, a metaphor makes the meaning of the entire poem even stronger.

Metaphors use non-literal meaning to communicate powerful truths.

Meter is the way in which rhythm is measured in a poem. It’s a pattern that functions on two basic premises: the number of syllables in a line of poetry, and how each syllable is either stressed (given emphasis, such as the first syllable of “nature”) or unstressed.

We express the type of meter the poem follows also in two parts: the structure of stressed and unstressed syllables, and how many of them there are in a single line.

There are many kinds of formal meter. Perhaps the most famous one is iambic pentameter, made famous by the sonnets Shakespeare wrote—a fourteen line poem in which the iamb (one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable, like “toNIGHT,” “beLONG,” “beCOME”) is repeated five times in a line.

But there can be many other kinds of meter, depending on how many metrical feet (like an iamb) appear per line. For example, iambic tetrameter uses the same structure as iambic pentameter but with only eight syllables instead of ten.

14. Metonym

Similar to a metaphor , a metonym is a poetic device which uses an image or idea to stand in place of something.

This can be visual, such as in road signs or computer icons, where a downwards arrow stands in place of the concept for “download,” or it can be literary.

To say “the White House is in discussion” usually refers to a group of elected government officials, rather than an actual constructed house that has been painted white.

A “mother tongue” is a native language, and “the press” is often used as a broad metonym for journalists. Some metonyms are no longer in use, and can be worked into poems to show setting and context—for instance, “hot ice” to mean stolen diamonds.

A motif is a symbol or idea that appears repeatedly to help support what the poet is trying to communicate. In poetry, motifs are often things with which we already have a cultural relationship—bodies of water to represent purity, sunrises to represent new beginnings, storm clouds to represent dramatic change.

When these ideas are used once in your poem, they’re a poetic device called symbolism . To be a motif, they’d need to be used in repetition, with each interval creating stronger and stronger links between the themes of the poem and the reader’s understanding of the world.

Myths and legends are perhaps the greatest reservoir of creativity the poet has at their disposal. Though often used interchangeably, myths are stories that tell of how something came to be—for example Noah’s ark, or the story behind the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. Legends are stories that blur the lines of myth and history, for instance the Greek heroes in the saga of Troy.

It’s worth looking to the stories from your own region and cultural background for inspiration. Contrary to what some might say, there’s also nothing wrong with embracing the stories of other cultures so long as they are done with reverence and respect.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an American poet of European descent, wrote beautifully about Native American myths in his Song of Hiawatha .

17. Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia are great poetic devices for adding rhythm and sensory presence to your work. Onomatopoeia are words that, when spoken out loud, imitate sounds like what they’re intended to mean.

“Buzzing,” for instance, is a verb that relates to the action of a traveling bee, but spoken aloud it sounds like the actual sound bees make. “Murmuring,” “humming,” and “smacking” all sound like the actions that they refer to. In poetry, you can have a lot of fun experimenting with onomatopoeia to make your reader feel like they’re in the poem alongside you.

18. Personification

Personification is a poetic device that gives a non-human entity—whether that’s an animal, a plant, or a cantankerous dancing candlestick—human characteristics, actions, and feelings. Sometimes this might be so extreme as to create an entirely human character with a nonhuman shape. Many, many Disney movies follow this pattern.

In poetry, very often the personification is more subtle; “the waves stretching their white fingers up towards the sun,” or “shadows leering down accusingly” are both examples of more subtle personification. These fanciful images come from the narrator’s relationship to the moment in time and their environment.

19. Repetition

Repetition is used both as a poetic device and as an aspect of story structure, particularly when dealing in motifs . In poetry, using the same word or phrase repeatedly allows the reader or listener to settle into a comfortable rhythm, offering them a sense of familiarity even if they’ve never heard that particular piece before.

It can also be used to bring seemingly unrelated lines and stanzas back to the same idea. You can write poems with repeating words or phrases, or you can repeat broader ideas that you come back to again and again as the poem progresses.

Anaphora, epistrophe, meter, and motif are all poetic devices that utilise repeating patterns.

When most people think of rhyming words they tend to think of what’s called a “perfect rhyme,” in which the final consonants, final vowels, and the number of syllables in an ending word match completely. These are rhymes like “table” and “fable”, or “sound” and “ground.”

But there are many different kinds of rhymes. Other types include slant rhymes (in which some of the consonants or the vowels match, but not all—for example, “black” and “blank”), internal rhymes (perfect rhymes that are used for rhythmic effect inside a line of poetry, for instance “double, double, toil and trouble)”, and eye rhymes (words that look like they should rhyme only when read and not heard aloud, like “date” and “temperate,” or “love” and “move”).

The rhyme scheme, or pattern of rhyming lines, a poem uses can have a big impact on the poem’s mood and language.

The true purpose of a rhyme scheme is to give your poetry rhythm , which is the shape and pattern a poem takes. What it comes down to is getting your words inside the reader’s bones. Rhyme is one way to do this, and meter is another. So are line-level poetic devices like assonance , consonance , and alliteration .

The length of your lines and your style of language will also play a part; quick, short words in quick, short lines of poetry give the poem a snappy feel, while longer, more indulgent lines will slow down the rhythm. The rhythm of the poem should match the story that it’s telling.

It’s a good idea to experiment with different kinds of rhythm in your poetry, though many poets develop a comfortable rhythmic place in which their poetry feels most at home.

Similes often get lumped together with metaphors as poetic devices that express the similarities between two seemingly unrelated ideas. They serve a very similar purpose in poetry, but are approached slightly differently. Where a metaphor uses one idea to stand in place for another, a simile simply draws a comparison between these two things.

Examples of similes are Shakespeare’s “Her hair, like golden threads, play’d with her breath” and Langston Hughes’ “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” The word “like” in these examples is the hint that we’re looking at a simile, and not a metaphor.

Using similes is a great way to impart sensory imagery and to get your readers to think about something in a new way.

23. Symbolism

We looked at motifs earlier as recurring symbols in a poem. Not all symbolism is recurring, but all of it should support what the poet is trying to say as a larger whole.

Symbols in poetry might be sensory images, they might be metaphors for a real life issue, or they might be cultural icons with which we already have deeply-ingrained associations.

Examples could be a skull to represent death, a dove to represent peace, or the sun and the moon to represent masculine and feminine polarities. By tapping into this pre-existing cultural consciousness, the poet has an entirely new language with which to communicate.

24. Synecdoche

Synecdoche is similar to a metonym , in that it takes a small part of something to represent something bigger. But rather than looking at something symbolically representative of a whole, synecdoche is a poetic device that looks at a physical part of that whole. To say “give me a hand”, for instance, means “give me assistance” (which may or may not involve an actual hand), or “all hands on deck” to mean “all bodies, hands and feet included.”

It can sometimes be used in the opposite way too, using a larger picture to represent a smaller part. For example, to say “New York is up against Chicago” probably doesn’t refer to an actual civil war between two warring cities—most likely you’re just talking about a smaller part of a whole, like a sports team.

Tmesis, apart from being a word that kind of looks like a sneeze, is another dialectal poetic device. It comes from a Greek word meaning “to cut,” and involves cutting a word in half for emphasis. Sometimes this is colloquial, like “abso-bloody-lutely” or “fan-bloody-tastic” (really, any time an irate British person sticks “bloody” into a perfectly serviceable word).

It’s also used in poetry and poetic prose to add emphasis to the idea. In Romeo and Juliet , Romeo says, “This is not Romeo, he’s some other where”, interjecting “other” into “somewhere” for emphasis. Tmesis is a fun poetic device to play around with, that allows you to begin looking at words in a different way.

Tone is the not-entirely-quantifiable mood, or atmosphere, of your piece. Some poets are great at crafting dark, haunting poetry; others write poems full of soft sunshine that make you think of a languid summer morning in the grass.

You may find that different themes and messages require different moods, but very likely you’ll find yourself settling into one signature atmosphere as you develop your poet’s voice.

The best way to do this is to read poems of all different tones and styles to see which resonate best with you. You could also try making “mood banks” of words to play around with in your poetry, either as lists or as little bits of paper á la “magnetic poetry.”

Words like “night,” “silence,” and “howl” conjure up one idea; words like “sunday,” “popcorn,” and “sparrow” conjure up something very different.

A zeugma, as well as being your new secret weapon in Scrabble, is a poetic device that was used quite a lot in old Greek poetry but isn’t seen as much these days—largely because it’s difficult to do well. It’s when a poet uses a word in one sentence to mean two different things, often meaning a literal one, and one meaning a figurative one.

For example, “he lost his passport and his temper” or “I left my heart and my favorite scarf in Santa Fé” are two instances where the verb is used in both literal and figurative ways.

How to use poetic devices

Seeing the range of word-level tools available to you as a writer can be both exciting and a little overwhelming. As you can see, the twenty-six unassuming little letters of the English language carry within them a world of possibility—the poet just needs to know how to make them dance.

There are two ways to begin working with poetic devices, both of them essential: the first is to read. Read classic poetry, modern poetry, free verse, blank verse, poetry written by men and women of all walks of life. Look at ways other artists have used these poetic devices effectively, and see which moments in their work resonate with you the most. Then ask yourself why and what you can do to bring that light into your own poetry.

The second is to write. The poet and novelist Margaret Atwood famously said, “You become a writer by writing. There is no other way.” Reading poetry and reading about poetry is an important part of understanding technique, but the only real way to get these poetic devices in your bones and blood is to begin.

The only true way to master literary devices in poetry is to try them out for yourself!

If you’ve started writing your own poetry already, go back and look at some of your earlier work. Can you spot any of the poetic devices from this list?

Many of these literary devices work because they resonate with our innate human instincts for rhythm and storytelling. You probably already use some of them without realizing it. See where you can pick out these little seeds and bring them to life even more.

As you progress, your awareness of technical literary devices in poetry such as assonance, epistrophe, metonymy, and poetic form will become as natural as a musician who no longer needs to look at the keys—they simply form a part of your poet’s voice.

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9 Common Techniques Used in Poetry

Techniques Used in Poetry

Students and teachers take time not only to study famous poets and poems, but also various types of poems and techniques used by poets. Here are 9 Common Techniques Used in Poetry.

April is National Poetry Month !

Rhyming is the most obvious poetic technique used. It helps to make poems flow.

Poems do not have to rhyme, however; there are many poems that are free verse—a style that allows poets the flexibility to write their thoughts and ideas without the constraint of following a particular rhyming pattern.

There are several different rhyming patterns and schemes. Which one a poet uses will depend on the topic, style, and theme of the poem.

#2 Repetition

Repetition involves repeating a line or a word several times in a poem.

Poets use this to emphasize a point, to bring attention to a particular item or theme, to achieve a particular effect, or to provoke an emotional reaction from the reader.

#3 Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is not an easy word to say or spell, but it is one of the most fun and common techniques used in poetry.

Onomatopoeia is simply the use of a word that imitates a sound, like bam, crash, boom, splash .

Words like these appeal to the reader’s senses and bring the reader into the poem.

#4 Alliteration

Alliteration involves the use of two or more words that begin with the same sound.

For example, “The drizzling, drippy drain drove me crazy.” Alliteration is a great way to grab the reader’s attention at a particular moment in the poem.

It also provides the poet an opportunity to describe things in a creative way that is memorable to the reader.

#5 Assonance

Assonance is when vowel sounds are repeated in two or more words that are close to each other in the poem and have different consonants.

An example of this would be “The octopus flopped on the cot – kerplop!” Several words in the example contain the short “o” sound, but the words contain different consonants.

Similes are a type of figurative language that compare an object, person, or event to something else.

They help readers to better understand the characteristics of something by showing a relationship between the two things.

Similes use the words “like” or “as” in the comparison, such as “The dog ran as fast as a race car.” Or “His words cut through my heart like a knife.”

#7 Metaphor

Like similes, metaphors show the relationship or commonality between two objects or actions.

Unlike similes, however, metaphors do not contain the words “like” or “as” in the comparison.

In addition, metaphors describe the object or action in a non-literal way.

In other words, metaphors equate two objects or actions just for the sake of comparing, even though the two things are not literally the same.

Some examples of metaphors would be “The shark’s teeth were daggers ripping through flesh.” Or “Her hair was a winding path of intrigue.”

#8 Hyperbole

Among other techniques used in poetry, Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration in a text. This can be used for emphasis or humor, such as “He practiced for a million hours.”

#9 Symbolism

Symbolism is when a poet uses objects, colors, sounds, or places to represent something else.

For instance, snakes are often associated with evil, while white doves are related to peace.

These are only a few of the techniques that have been used by poets past and present.

They provide a wide variety of options for a poet to develop a unique style while expressing his or her thoughts and ideas to readers.

The next time you read a poem, see how many techniques you can identify!

Read also: Best Practices for Remote Assessment

By Angela Padrón

[…] 9 Common Techniques Used in Poetry […]


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poetry writing devices

2) Allusion: A reference or suggestion to a historical or well known person, place or thing. Examples of Allusion are as follows –

“Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn The living record of your memory.” Mars is the Greek god of war. (Reference of well known person, here god)

“So till the judgement that yourself arise, You live in this, and dwell in lover’s eyes.” Judgement is referred to the judgement day which is an important day in the Christian religion. They believe that god will judge the deeds of all dead people on this day.

3) Anaphora: The repeated use of word at the start of two or more consecutive lines. Examples of Anaphora are as follows – 1. Class 10 poem- The Frog and the nightingale Said the frog:” I tried to teach her, But she was a stupid creature- Far too nervous, far too tense. Far too prone to influence. The word ‘Far’ is used in the beginning of two consecutive lines. 2. Class 9 poem- The Brook “I wind about, and in and out, With here a blossom sailing, And here and there a lusty trout, And here and there a grayling Use of ‘And’ in the beginning of two consecutive lines

4) Antithesis: Use of opposite words in close placement Examples of Antithesis are as follows – 1. Class 10 poem- The Frog and the nightingale “Every night from dusk to dawn”

Meaning of dusk is sunrise and dawn is sunset. So the two opposite words are in close placement.

2. Class 9 poem- Song of the Rain

“The voice of thunder declares my arrival; The rainbow announces my departure.”

Meaning of arrival is to come and departure means to go. So the two opposite words are in close placement.

5) Assonance: The repetition of a vowel sound within a sentence. Examples of Assonance are as follows –

“All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and entrances”

Use of sound ‘e’ (men, women, merely, players, exits and entrances)

“Good gracious! How you hop! Over the fields and the water too:

Use of sound ‘o’ (Good, you, hop, too)

6) Asyndeton: A writing style in which conjunctions are omitted between words, phrases or clauses. Examples of Asyndeton are as follows –

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance

There are no conjunctions used between the four words.

7) Consonance: The repetition of a consonant sound in a sentence. It can be at the beginning, middle or end of the word.

Examples of Consonance are as follows –

Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time The use of consonant sound ‘s’ and ‘t’ in the beginning, middle and end of the words.

“Still treads the shadow of his foe” The use of consonant sound ‘s’ and ‘t’ in the beginning, middle and end of the words.

“I met a traveler from and antique land who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone”

Use of sound ‘t’, ‘l’, ‘d’ in the beginning, middle and end of the words.

8) Enjambment: When a sentence continues into two or more lines in a poem Examples of Enjambment are as follows –

“They tell them a curious story I don’t believe ‘tis true; And yet you may learn a lesson If I tell the tale to you.” The sentence continues in the last two lines (And yet…… tale to you)

“Once upon a time a frog Croaked away in Bingle Bog Every night from dusk to dawn He croaked awn and awn and awn

The sentence continues from first to last line

9) Hyperbole: It is a Greek word meaning “overcasting”. The use of exaggeration to lay emphasis. Examples of Hyperbole are as follows – Class 10 poem- Ozymandias “My name is Ozymandias, King of kings” Here they have used hyperbole because Ozymandias refers himself as king of the kings.

10) Imagery : The creation of any sensory effect like visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, tactile, kinesthetic, organic.( to create scenes in the poem) Examples of imagery are as follows –

“But one night a nightingale In the moonlight cold and pale Perched upon the sumac tree Casting forth her melody” Here we can imagine a scene of night that is cold and nightingale is singing melodiously on a branch of sumac tree

“Ducks had swum and herons waded To her as she serenaded And a solitary loon Wept, beneath the summer moon

Here the poet has presented a kinesthetic imagery; this means he has described certain movements by ducks and herons that are trying to reach to the sumac tree to hear nightingale’s voice.

11) Inversion: It is also known as “anastrophe” the normal order of words is reversed, in order to achieve a particular effect of emphasis. (Generally the form is changed from active to passive) Examples of inversion are as follows –

“His horsemen hard behind us ride” The correct form of sentence was (his horsemen riding behind us hard)

“The sun came up upon the left, out of the sea came he!” The correct form of sentence was (he came out of the sea)

“On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat, To drink there.” The correct form of sentence is (I had gone to drink there in my pyjamas because of heat)

12) Metaphor: It is indirect comparison by highlighting a particular quality of two things. Examples of metaphor are as follows –

“You are Mozart in disguise” Here the nightingale compares frog’s singing ability with that of great musician Mozart

“The field and cloud are lovers” Here the poet is comparing field and cloud with lovers.

“All the world’s a stage” Here the poet has compared world with stage.

13) Onomatopoeia: It is the usage of sound words to create a dramatic effect.

Examples of onomatopoeia are as follows –

“Once upon a time a frog Croaked away in Bingle bog” So, here the poet used the word ‘croaked’ which is a sound made by the frog

“I chatter over stony ways, In little sharps and trebles, I bubble into eddying bays, I babble on the pebbles. The words ‘chatter’, ‘trebles’, ‘bubble’ and ‘babble’ are used to show flowing water of a spring

14) Oxymoron: It is when apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction. (here the words are not opposite to each other like it is in antithesis but their meaning is opposite) Examples of oxymoron are as follows –

“Why, then, o brawling love! O loving hate!

Here the word brawling and love are used together. Meaning of brawl is to fight and love is to have affection for other person.

“O heavy lightness! Serious vanity!

Here also both heavy and lightness are written together though they are opposite of each other. Heavy means which has more weight and light means which has less weight.

15) Personification : It means to give human quality to an object or a non living thing. Examples of personification are as follows –

“I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. Whatever I see I swallow immediately”

Here the poet has personified a mirror because the mirror is describing itself.

“I am dotted silver threads dropped from heaven By the gods. Nature then takes me, to adorn Her fields and valleys.”

The poet has personified rain that describes itself as dotted silver threads from heaven

16) Refrain: A verse, a line, a set, or a group of lines that repeats, at regular intervals, in different stanzas. Examples of refrain are as follows – Poem- The duck and the Kangaroo “Said the duck to the Kangaroo” In this poem the sentence “Said the duck to the Kangaroo” was repeated a regular intervals. It is different from repetition because here the repetition is being done at regular intervals.

17) Rhyme : The usage of words in a way to create musical effect. It can be internal rhyme or end rhyme.

Examples of rhyme are as follows –

“The guests are met, the feast is set: May’st hear the merry din Here the rhyming words are met and set

“The ship was cheered, the harbour cleared, Merrily did we drop Below the Kirk, below the hill, Below the lighthouse top

Here the rhyming words are cheered-cleared and drop-top

Related – Adjective, Definition, Example

18) Repetition : It is the repeated use of a word of line to lay emphasis Examples of repetition are as follows –

“Remember” word is repeated 5 times.

“Pulled out” word is used or repeated 3 times.

19) Simile : It is the comparison between two things or persons by using like or as. Examples of simile are as follows –

“The bride hath paced into the hall, Red as a rose is she”

Here the bride is compared with rose by using ‘as’

“He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do”

Here the snake is compared with cattle by using ‘as’

20) Synecdoche: It is a word or phrase in which a part of something is used to refer to the whole of it.

Examples of synecdoche are as follows –

“The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed” Here the word hand is used to refer to the sculptor who made the statue of Ozymandias and heart is used to refer to King Ozymandias who gave the right expression for the statue.

Related – Active and Passive Voices

21) Transferred epithet: It is an adjective used with a noun refers to another noun.

“Pursuing stick”

Here it is not the stick that pursues, rather the person who carries it is pursuing

“Strange- scented shade”

Here ‘scented’ is used with shade but it is the tree that has the fragrance or the scent and not the shade.

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