agendaangle-downangle-leftangleRightarrow-downarrowRightbarscalendarcaret-downcartchildrenhighlightlearningResourceslistmapMarkeropenBookp1pinpoetry-magazineprintquoteLeftquoteRightslideshowtagAudiotagVideoteenstrash-o
Skip to Content
or
Filter glossary terms by first letter
Showing 21 to 40 of 245 Terms

Ars Poetica

A poem that explains the “art of poetry,” or a meditation on poetry using the form and techniques of a poem. Horace’s Ars Poetica is an early example, and the foundation for the tradition. While Horace writes of the importance of delighting and instructing audiences, modernist ars poetica poets argue that poems should be written for their own sake, as art for the sake of art. Archibald MacLeish’s famous “Ars Poetica” sums up the argument: “A poem should not mean / But be.” See also Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Criticism,” William Wordsworth’s Prelude, and Wallace Stevens’s “Of Modern Poetry.”

Browse more Ars Poetica poems.

Assonance

The repetition of vowel sounds without repeating consonants; sometimes called vowel rhyme. See Amy Lowell’s “In a Garden” (“With its leaping, and deep, cool murmur”) or “The Taxi” (“And shout into the ridges of the wind”). Browse poems with assonance.

Aubade

A love poem or song welcoming or lamenting the arrival of the dawn. The form originated in medieval France. See John Donne’s “The Sun Rising” and Louise Bogan’s “Leave-Taking.” Browse more aubade poems.

Augustan Age

The first half of the 18th century, during which English poets such as Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift emulated Virgil, Ovid, and Horace—the great Latin poets of the reign of the Emperor Augustus (27 BCE to 14 CE). Like the classical poets who inspired them, the English Augustan writers engaged the political and philosophical ideas of their day through urbane, often satirical verse. Browse more Augustan poets.

Ballad

A popular narrative song passed down orally. In the English tradition, it usually follows a form of rhymed (abcb) quatrains alternating four-stress and three-stress lines. Folk (or traditional) ballads are anonymous and recount tragic, comic, or heroic stories with emphasis on a central dramatic event; examples include “Barbara Allen” and “John Henry.” Beginning in the Renaissance, poets have adapted the conventions of the folk ballad for their own original compositions. Examples of this “literary” ballad form include John Keats’s “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” Thomas Hardy’s “During Wind and Rain,” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee.” Browse more ballads.

Ballade

An Old French verse form that usually consists of three eight-line stanzas and a four-line envoy, with a rhyme scheme of ababbcbc bcbc. The last line of the first stanza is repeated at the end of subsequent stanzas and the envoy. See Hilaire Belloc’s Ballade of Modest Confession and Algernon Charles Swinburne’s translation of François Villon’s “Ballade des Pendus” (Ballade of the Hanged).

Beat poets

A national group of poets who emerged from San Francisco’s literary counterculture in the 1950s. Its ranks included Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, and Gary Snyder. Poet and essayist Kenneth Rexroth influenced the development of the “Beat” aesthetic, which rejected academic formalism and the materialism and conformity of the American middle class. Beat poetry is largely free verse, often surrealistic, and influenced by the cadences of jazz, as well by Zen and Native American spirituality. Browse more Beat poets.

Black Arts Movement

A cultural movement conceived of and promoted by Amiri Baraka in the mid-1960s. Its constellation of writers, performers, and artists included Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn BrooksHaki MadhubutiEtheridge Knight, and Sonia Sanchez. “We want a black poem. And / a Black World. / Let the world be a Black Poem,” writes Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) in his poem “Black Art,” which served as a de facto manifesto for the movement. Its practitioners were energized by a desire to confront white power structures and assert an African American cultural identity. Its aims were community-minded as well as artistic; during its heyday, hundreds of Afrocentric repertory theater companies, public art projects, and publishing ventures were organized throughout the United States.

Black Mountain poets

A group of progressive poets who, in the 1940s and 1950s, were associated with the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina. These poets, including Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, and Robert Duncan, promoted a nontraditional poetics described by Olson in 1950 as “projective verse.” Olson advocated an improvisational, open-form approach to poetic composition, driven by the natural patterns of breath and utterance. Browse more Black Mountain poets.

Blank verse

Unrhyming iambic pentameter, also called heroic verse. This 10-syllable line is the predominant rhythm of traditional English dramatic and epic poetry, as it is considered the closest to English speech patterns. Poems such as John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Robert Browning’s dramatic monologues, and Wallace Stevens’s “Sunday Morning,” are written predominantly in blank verse. Browse more blank verse poems.

Blazon

Blazon: French for “coat-of-arms” or “shield.” A literary blazon (or blason) catalogues the physical attributes of a subject, usually female. The device was made popular by Petrarch and used extensively by Elizabethan poets. Spenser’s “Epithalamion” includes examples of blazon: “Her goodly eyes like sapphires shining bright, / Her forehead ivory white …” Blazon compares parts of the female body to jewels, celestial bodies, natural phenomenon, and other beautiful or rare objects. See for example Thomas Campion’s “There Is a Garden in Her Face.” Contreblazon inverts the convention, describing “wrong” parts of the female body or negating them completely as in Shakespeare’s famous sonnet “My mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun.” For a contemporary example, see “My Boyfriend” by Camille Guthrie. 

Bucolic

See pastoral poetry.

Cacophony

Harsh or discordant sounds, often the result of repetition and combination of consonants within a group of words. The opposite of euphony. Writers frequently use cacophony to express energy or mimic mood. See also dissonance.

Cadence

The patterning of rhythm in natural speech, or in poetry without a distinct meter (i.e., free verse).

Caesura

A stop or pause in a metrical line, often marked by punctuation or by a grammatical boundary, such as a phrase or clause. A medial caesura splits the line in equal parts, as is common in Old English poetry (see Beowulf). Medial caesurae (plural of caesura) can be found throughout contemporary poet Derek Walcott’s “The Bounty.” When the pause occurs toward the beginning or end of the line, it is termed, respectively, initial or terminal. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Mother and Poet” contains both initial (“Dead! One of them shot by sea in the east”) and terminal caesurae (“No voice says ‘My mother’ again to me. What?”)

Canon

A list of authors or works considered to be central to the identity of a given literary tradition or culture. This secular use of the word is derived from its original meaning as a listing of all authorized books in the Bible. William Shakespeare, John Milton, and William Blake are frequently found on lists of canonical literature in English.

Canto

A long subsection of an epic or long narrative poem, such as Dante Alighieri’s Commedia (The Divine Comedy), first employed in English by Edmund Spenser in The Faerie Queene. Other examples include Lord Byron’s Don Juan and Ezra Pound’s Cantos.

Canzone

Literally “song” in Italian, the canzone is a lyric poem originating in medieval Italy and France and usually consisting of hendecasyllabic lines with end-rhyme. Early versions include Petrarch’s five to six-line stanzas plus an envoi, as well as Dante’s modification: five twelve-line stanzas with repeated end words, finished by a five-line envoi. The canzone influenced the development of the sonnet and later writers such as James Merrill, W.H. Auden, and Ezra Pound took up the form. See Daryl Hine’s “Canzone” and “About the Canzone,” by John Hollander.

Carol

A hymn or poem often sung by a group, with an individual taking the changing stanzas and the group taking the burden or refrain. See Robert Southwell’s “The Burning Babe”. Many traditional Christmas songs are carols, such as “I Saw Three Ships” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Carpe diem

In Latin, “Seize the day.” The fleeting nature of life and the need to embrace its pleasures constitute a frequent theme of love poems; examples include Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” and Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.”
  1. Previous Page
    1. 1
    2. 2
    3. 3
    4. 4
    5. 5
  2. Next Page
Looking to learn about poetry?
  • Check out our Learn area, where we have separate offerings for children, teens, adults, and educators.