Poetry gets a bad rap, especially when it is considered a "school" thing. But poetry can be many different things for many different people. For instance, take the ever-elusive haiku. Whenever I consider giving up on one of these types of poems, I think of this this inspirational haiku:

Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don't make sense

Get excited about poetry. On this page you will find resources on peom types and terms that we will use in class.

Poem Terms/Devices

Free verse – a poem that does not follow any set pattern or rules

Rhyme scheme – the patter of end rhymes in a poem (i.e. ABAB)

Couplet – a two-lined poem that rhymes

Meter – the pattern of syllables in a line of verse

Alliteration – the repetition of the starting syllables in a group of words.

Onomatopoeia – sound words

Symbolism – use of an object to represent something else; usually something intangible

Imagery – the use images to set mood/tone

Metaphor – an implied comparison between two unlike objects

Simile – a comparison between two unlike objects using “like” or “as.”

Personification – giving human characteristics to something that isn’t human.

Hyperbole – an extremely unbelievable exaggeration

Poem Types

Haiku - Three-lined poem usually about nature. It follows a strict pattern of 5-syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables, respectively, for each of its lines. This poem does not rhyme.

Example - Worker bees can leave
                   Even drones can fly away
                   The queen is their slave

Cinquain - A five-lined poem about a particular object. Its form is as follows:

Object (1 word)
Description (2 words)
Action (3 words)
Emotional Response (4 words)
Object or synonymous word (1 word)

Example - Train
              Swiftly Flies
           Over the bridge
            It roars; I gasp

Couplet - A two-lined, rhymed poem. It can exist by itself or with other couplets

Example - The rain is falling all around; it falls on field and tree.
                  It rains on the umbrellas here, and on the ships at see.
                                                                  - Robert Louis Stevenson

Acrostic - a poem in which the first letter of each line spells out the poem's subject.

Example -

So nice and blue
Keep on looking at it
You should look

Limerick - an often humorous poem consisting of 5 lines (rhyme scheme AABBA). The 3rd and 4th lines will be shorter than the others to keep the rhythm of the poem.

There was an Old Man in a tree,
Who was horribly bored by a Bee;
When they said, 'Does it buzz?'
He replied, 'Yes, it does!'
'It's a regular brute of a Bee!'

Analyzing Poetry

As is the case with many things in my class, analyzing poetry is great because there is never a wrong answer. The only "wrong" answers are unsupported answers. The trouble with that is this will force you to actually think about the poem and bring in your own perspective and experiences to discover the message in the poem's text. The following seven steps will guide you by showing you where to begin. Don't worry, we will practice these in class.

1. Read and THINK about the title - what can you already tell about the poem based on the title? What can you infer the poem will be about? What questions does the title already raise?

2. Read the poem aloud - read it once without thinking much about it. You are just getting familiar with its structure, rhythm, and general idea.

3. Write down intial reactions and questions - based on what you just read, what sticks out in your head. Even if it is something that is little, what jumped out at you that you remember? What was puzzling or needs more clarification? The more questions you ask, the better.

4. Read again line-by-line - with pencil in hand, carefully reread each line. You are looking for important words, imagery, symbols, answers to your questions, more questions, and sometimes just translating into plain ol' English so you can understand it. Do not underestimate this step.

5. Answer questions from earlier and ask more if applicable. Not all questions will ever have an answer that will come from the text. In some cases there can never be an answer at all.

6. Hypothesize the meaning - use your notes and own perspective to discover what the overall message or meaning of the poem is. I call this the "so what?" factor. Why did the poet write this? What is he/she trying to say that can't be said in any other way but a poem?

7. Read the poem through - read one last time. Think of this as the "check your work" phase of a math problem. You are looking to see that what you are saying about the poem makes sense. Ever see something new or different every time you rewatch a movie? Well, the same thing applies - sometimes more so - for poetry.