Glossary Terms

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V

Vers libre
A French phrase meaning “free verse.”

Verse
As a mass noun, poetry in general; as a regular noun, a line of poetry. Typically used to refer to poetry that possesses more formal qualities.

Verse paragraph
A group of verse lines that make up a single rhetorical unit. In longer poems, the first line is often indented, like a paragraph in prose. The long narrative passages of John Milton’s Paradise Lost are verse paragraphs. The titled sections of Robert Pinsky’s “Essay on Psychiatrists” demarcate shifts in focus and argument much as prose paragraphs would. A shorter lyric poem, even when broken into stanzas, could be considered a single verse paragraph, insofar as it expresses a unified mood or thought; see Gail Mazur’s “Evening.”

Victorian
Poetry written in England during the reign of Queen Victoria (from 1837 to 1901) may be referred to as Victorian poetry. The most prolific and well-regarded poets of the age included Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Matthew Arnold, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Oscar Wilde. Browse more Victorian poets.

Villanelle
A French verse form consisting of five three-line stanzas and a final quatrain, with the first and third lines of the first stanza repeating alternately in the following stanzas. These two refrain lines form the final couplet in the quatrain. See “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas, Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art,”  and Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “The House on the Hill.”

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Volta
Italian word for “turn.” In a sonnet, the volta is the turn of thought or argument: in Petrarchan or Italian sonnets it occurs between the octave and the sestet, and in Shakespearean or English before the final couplet. See Thomas Wyatt’s “Whoso List to Hunt, I Know Where Is an Hind” and William Shakespeare's Sonnet CXXIX, “Th’expense of spirit in a waste of shame” for examples of voltas of each type.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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