POETRY TERMS

ACROSTIC - A poem in which the first letter of each line spells out a word, name, or phrase when read vertically.

ALLITERATION - The repetition of initial stressed, consonant sounds in a series of words in a phrase or verse line. Alliteration need not reuse all initial consonants.

ANAPEST - A metrical foot of three syllables, two short (unstressed) followed by one long (or stressed), as in "seventeen" and "to the moon." Anapest is the reverse of dactyl.

ANAPHORA - The repetition of a word or words at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or lines to create a sonic effect.

ASSONANCE - The repetition of vowel sounds without repeating consonants (also called vowel rhyme)

BEAT POETS - A national group of poets who emerged from San Francisco's literary countercoulture in the 1950's. The group included Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gregory Corso, and Gary Snyder. Poet and essayist, Kenneth Rexroth influenced the development of the "Beat" asthetic, which rejected academic formalism and the materialism and the comformity 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.

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, Gwendolynn Brooks, Haki Madhubuti, Etheridge Knight, and Sonia Sanchez.

BLACK MOUNTAIN POETS - A group of progressive poets who, in the 1940s and 1950s, were associated with the 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 natural patterns of breath and utterance.

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.

CACOPHONY - Harsh or discordant sounds, often the result of repetition and combination of consonants within a group of words.

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

CAESURA - A natural pause or break in a line of poetry, often marked by punctuation or by a grammatical boundary, such as a phrase or clause. There is a caesura right after the question mark in the first line of this sonnet by Elisabeth Barrette Browning: "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways."

CONSONANCE - The repetition of similar consonant sounds, especially at the ends of words, as in "lost and past" or "confess and dismiss."

DACTYL - A metrical foot of three syllables, one long (or stressed) followed by two short (or unstressed) as in happily. Dactly is the reverse of anapest.

ELISION - The omission of unstressed syllables, usually to fit a metrical scheme (e.g., "ere" for "ever" and "tother" for "the other")

ELLIPSIS - In poetry, the omission of words whose absence does not impede the reader's ability to understand the expression. In the phrase "I will away", it is understood the missing verb is "go."

EPIGRAM - A pithy, often witty, poem.

EPIGRAPH - A quotation from another literary work that is placed beneath the title at the beginning of a poem or section of a poem. For example, Grace Schulman's "American Solitude" opens with a quote from an essay by Marianne Moore. Lines from Phillis Wheatley's "On Being Brought from Africa to America" preface Alfred Corn's "Sugar Cane."