• Offbeat Poet

Poetry Glossary & Definitions

Updated: Jul 12, 2019

From poetry form and structure to tools and types, explore the parts of poetry and add these tools to your writing toolkit to improve your skills as both a writer and reader.


  • acrostic a poem, word puzzle, or other composition in which letters (typically the first) in each line form a word in another direction (i.e. a word is spelled vertically from the the stacked starting letters of the horizontal text)

  • alliteration repetition of the same consonant sounds in a stretch of language. Usually the initial sounds of words or of stressed syllables.

  • anapaest a three syllable metrical foot having the stress pattern di-di-DUM.

  • Ars Poetica (translated as The Art of Poetry) an explanation or lesson on poetry using the form and techniques of a poem made famous by Horace in 19 BC. His Ars Poetica or Letters to Piso epistle advises poets on the art of writing poetry and drama. Other notable Ars Poetica writers include: ARCHIBALD MACLEISH, ALEXANDER POPE, WILLIAM WORDSWORTH and, WALLACE STEVENS.

  • assonance repetition of the stressed vowel sounds but not the consonant sounds.

  • blackout poetry (a.k.a. redacted poetry) - is a form of found poetry characterized by the use of a marker (usually black marker) to redacts or "blacks out" from existing text (e.g. newspaper, magazine, book, etc.). The surviving words are then read in sequence, unless visually connect otherwise, as a poem. Learn more about blackout poetry by reading the Redacted Poetry Series by Offbeat Poet (also on Medium).

  • blank verse unrhymed iambic pentameter.

  • caesura a pause in a line of poetry which may correspond to a punctuation mark or be due simply to the natural organisation of the language.

  • centos a latin word derived from the greek meaning "patchwork," a cento (or collage poem) is a poetic form made up of lines from poems by other poets.

  • collage from the french word "coller" meaning "to paste," collage is visual arts technique identified by the juxtaposing of photographs, cuttings, newspapers, or other media on a surface. Its origins trace back to Pablo Picasso in the 20th Century. This art form is closely connected to (if not the inspiration of) the visual poetry form, known as cut-up poetry which was made famous by Dadists and Surrealists.

  • concrete poetry (a.k.a. shape poetry) - a form of verse poetry that emphasizes nonlinguistic elements in its meaning to create visual image of the topic. Though the term "concrete poetry" is relatively new, the concept of a "shaped" poem can be found in several decorative designs from 1510 by Erhart Falckener that consisted of spiraled text is carved on the front of one of a church pew. There is much debate on the relation of concrete or shape poetry to visual poetry. Its defining characteristic from visual poetry is that it leaves behind the old poetic function of orality. Notable examples of concrete poetry include: George Herbert’s “Easter Wings” and George Starbuck’s “Poem in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree.”

  • visual poetry a form of verse poetry that emphasizes nonlinguistic elements in its meaning to create visual image of the topic. Visual poetry, while similar to concrete, denoted by its deployment of typography. language is emphasized in this artform, thus the shape(s) created by the words are just as important as the message itself. Note: Literary theorists have determined visual poetry to be related to concrete poetry but with the characteristics of intermedia in which non-representational language and visual elements predominate (read more on Wikipedia). See the definition of concrete poetry above for a comparison of the two similar, yet different poetic artforms.

  • connotation The associated meanings of a word rather than its denotative meaning.

  • collage from the french word "coller" meaning "to paste," collage is visual arts technique identified by the juxtaposing of photographs, cuttings, newspapers, or other media on a surface. Its origins trace back to Pablo Picasso in the 20th Century. This art form is closely connected to (if not the inspiration of) the visual poetry form, known as cut-up poetry which was made famous by Dadists and Surrealists.

  • cut-up poetry (a.k.a. cutup or découpé - French) a mechanical method of juxtaposition created by William S. Burroughs who cut up passages of prose and randomly reconstructed or pasted them back together. Sometimes referred to as remix poetry. The origins of cut-up poetry stem from the visual artform, collage. Early examples of collage with written words can be found in these works; T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” Ezra Pound’s Cantos , Susan Howe’s My Emily Dickinson, and Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets.

  • dada poem invented by Tristan Tzara, a dada poem is created by randomly pulling out words that had been cut out from another publication and copy the words exactly as they appeared in their order of selection.

  • dactyl A metrical foot consisting of a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables: DUM-di-di.

  • denotation The defined, dictionary meaning of a word.

  • end-stopped Describes a line of poetry which ends with a natural grammatical pause, often indicated by a punctuation mark.

  • enjambment Describes a line of poetry which is not end-stopped, but where, instead, the sentence runs straight on to the following line. Even in enjambed lines where there is no grammatical need for a pause, it is common for the pitch of the voice to rise slightly and the final word of a line to carry a slight stress.

  • erasure a form of found poetry or found object art created by erasing words from an existing text and framing the result on the page as a poem. The results can be allowed to stand in situ or they can be arranged into lines and/or stanzas. Considered a relative of (if not the same as) redacted or blackout poetry.

  • eye-rhyme Two words which are spelled in such a way as to appear to rhyme although their pronunciation is different.

  • feminine rhyme Rhyme of multi-syllabic words where the rhyme occurs before the final syllable.

  • foot Each of the sets of weakly and strongly stressed syllables into which a line of poetry is divided. Iamb, trochee, anapaest and dactyl are the most common metrical feet in English poetry.

  • form (of poetry) refers to a type of poem that follows a particular set of rules, (e.g. number of lines, the length or number of stanzas, rhyme scheme, subject matter, etc.). Some examples of poetry forms include: Villanelle, Sestina, Ballad, Blank Verse, Pastoral, Ode, Ottava Rima, Epic, Ghazal, Haiku, Prose Poem.

  • formal verse A term sometimes used to include all the traditional poetry forms such as sonnets, villanelles, rondels, sestinas, decimas, etc and to distinguish them from free verse.

  • found poetry a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry (essentially a literary collage). By making changes in spacing, lines, and lines, adding or deleting text, the final found poetry work bears an entirely new meaning; not related to nor plagiarizing the original text

  • free verse poetry that does not have a regular pattern of meter or line length. Free verse may still contain patches of regularity, and makes use of enjambment, half-rhyme, and phonic patterning.

  • haiku a Japanese form of three line poem with the lines having 5-7-5 syllables. Traditional haiku are usually nature poems, contain a ‘kigo’ or season word and do not use rhyme; they do not have titles, and punctuation is minimal. The skill consists in juxtaposing two images and causing a moment of realisation or recognition in the reader. Since English and Japanese are such different languages, the word haiku (or sometimes simply ‘ku) is now often used to describe any short nature poem and the imagery is considered more important than the syllable count. Spin-off and traditional forms include scifai’ku, Senryu, Tanka, and Hai’bun.

  • half-rhyme An imperfect rhyme which helps create a phonic pattern - and, thus, coherence - in a poem without the potential heavy chiming of full rhyme.

  • iamb The most common metrical foot in English poetry: a weak stress followed by a strong stress: di-DUM.

  • imagery Figurative language.

  • IP Iambic pentameter. Five iambic feet to a line.

  • juxtaposition instance of placing two or more things side by side to create an interesting effect through contrast or comparison

  • Make it R.A.I.N. Redacted Poetry a method or framework to create blackout poetry or redacted poetry developed by Offbeat Poet and published in Redacted Poetry Journal: Create Blackout Poetry by Destroying the Classics. The R.A.I.N. method consists of 4 major components or steps: Read, Anchor, Inventory, Nix. In addition to the 4 R.A.I.N. steps, creators may further enhance their poem by adding the suffix, "-E.D."; collectively known as "R.A.I.N.E.D." These additional steps incorporate the following artistic elements: "-E" for "Emphasize" and "-D" for "Decorate" to the R.A.I.N.

  • masculine rhyme Monosyllabic rhyme on the final syllable of lines of poetry.

  • metaphor Describing of one thing as another.

  • metre The regular pattern of stresses and non-stressed syllables which distinguish poetry from prose.

  • pentameter A line with five feet.

  • poetry collectively known as a genre of literature, poetry is (singular work: poem) a literary work with emphasis on expression of feelings and ideas through distinctive style, metaphors, and rhythm.

  • quatrain A four-line stanza.

  • R.A.I.N. (see Make it R.A.I.N. Redacted Poetry) A methodical process to creating redacted poetry or blackout poetry invented by Offbeat Poet. R.A.I.N. is an acronym for the four steps of the redacted poetry process: Read, Anchor, Inventory, Nix. The subsequent steps, "Emphasize" and "Decorate",sumed as "-E.D." can be added to "R.A.I.N." forming the acronym, "R.A.I.N.E.D." representing the complete redacted poetry process that produces a poetic work of art with a unique visual identity.

  • redacted poetry (a.k.a Blackout Poetry) - is a form of found poetry characterized by the use of a marker (usually black marker) to redacts or "blacks out" from existing text (e.g. newspaper, magazine, book, etc.). The surviving words are then read in sequence, unless visually connect otherwise, as a poem. Learn more about blackout poetry by reading the Redacted Poetry Series by Offbeat Poet (also on Medium).

  • schwa The sound which occurs in the unstressed syllables of the word America. The schwa does not correspond to any single letter or combination of letters and can occur in any position of the word.

  • silent stress Omission of the final syllable of a line (e.g. trochaic metre).

  • simile Comparison of one thing with another.

  • sonnet A traditional form of 14 lines of IP following a set rhyme scheme, often divided into an octet and a sestet where there is a “turn” between the two sections - a twist in the argument or mood. There are various accepted rhyme schemes and, more recently, unrhymed sonnets with different metrical patterns are also common.

  • sound poetry places emphasis on phonetics and the sounds of syllables rather than the meaning of the words themselves. Kurt Schwitters and Raoul Hausmann were among the pioneers of the genre.

  • spondee A metrical foot of two strong stresses DUM-DUM.

  • stanza A unit of a poem set off by blank lines. Often characterised by a fixed number of lines and a set pattern of rhyme or metre.

  • stress In English, any multisyllabic word has a recognisable stress pattern where one syllable may be stronger than the others. Note how the stress pattern can differentiate between meanings. Single syllable words may or may not be stressed, depending on their function in a phrase. Occasionally stress shifts in the same word depending on context.

  • syllable Sounds uttered in a single effort of articulation. Note that this reflects how a word is pronounced, not how it is written.

  • tercet a set of three lines that rhyme together or are connected by rhyme with an adjacent tercet.

  • trochee A metrical foot with a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable: DUM-di.

  • villanelle (a.k.a. villanesque, French) A nineteen-line poetic form consisting of five tercets followed by a quatrain. There are two refrains and two repeating rhymes, with the first and third line of the first tercet repeated alternately until the last stanza, which includes both repeated lines.



Sources & Further Reading:


© 2019 by Offbeat Poet

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