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Iamb
A metrical foot consisting of an unaccented syllable followed by an accented syllable. The words “unite” and “provide” are both iambic. It is the most common meter of poetry in English (including all the plays and poems of William Shakespeare), as it is closest to the rhythms of English speech. In Robert Frost’s “After Apple Picking” the iamb is the vehicle for the “natural,” colloquial speech pattern:

       My long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
       Toward heaven still,
       And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
       Beside it, and there may be two or three
       Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.
       But I am done with apple-picking now.
       Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
       The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.

Imagism
An early 20th-century poetic movement that relied on the resonance of concrete images drawn in precise, colloquial language rather than traditional poetic diction and meter. T.E. Hulme, H.D., and William Carlos Williams were practitioners of the imagist principles as laid out by Ezra Pound in the March 1913 issue of Poetry (see A Retrospect” and “A Few Don'ts). Amy Lowell built a strain of imagism that used some of Pound's principles and rejected others in her Preface to the 1915 anthology, Some Imagist Poets. Browse more imagist poets.

Invocation
An address to a deity or muse that often takes the form of a request for help in composing the poem at hand. Invocations can occur at the beginning of the poem or start of a new canto; they are considered conventions of the epic form and are a type of apostrophe. See the opening of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. Alexander Pope mocked the convention in the first canto of “The Rape of the Lock.” A contemporary example is Denise Levertov’s poem “Invocation.”

Irony
As a literary device, irony implies a distance between what is said and what is meant. Based on the context, the reader is able to see the implied meaning in spite of the contradiction. When William Shakespeare relates in detail how his lover suffers in comparison with the beauty of nature in “My Mistress’ Eyes Are Nothing like the Sun,” it is understood that he is elevating her beyond these comparisons; considering her essence as a whole, and what she means to the speaker, she is more beautiful than nature.

Dramatic or situational irony involves a contrast between reality and a character’s intention or ideals. For example, in Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex, King Oedipus searches for his father’s murderer, not knowing that he himself is that man. In “The Convergence of the Twain,” Thomas Hardy contrasts the majesty and beauty of the ocean liner Titanic with its tragic fate and new ocean-bottom inhabitants:

             Over the mirrors meant
                          To glass the opulent
            The sea-worm crawls — grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.

Italian sonnet
See Sonnet.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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