Top 10 Terms for Discussing Poetry

Although poetry and prose share plenty of literary devices, there are some that are more common to poetry, and it can be hard to discuss poetry without them. Here’s a few of the most important ones:

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a group of lines. It’s the paragraph of the poem, and different stanza types are named by the number of lines contained in the stanza (a couplet, for instance, has 2 lines).
  2. Verse: This term either refers to poetry as a whole or a single line of poetry.
  3. Meter: This is the rhythm pattern of the poem. If you ever learned to read music, it’s the same idea only using words. It’s generally measured in stressed (/) and unstressed syllables (u) since the way words are pronounced is what creates the rhythm pattern.
  4. Perfect Rhyme: A perfect rhyme is when two words sound exactly the same except for the starting sound (Wait, freight, and late, for instance).
  5. Rhyme Scheme: A rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyming words at the ends of the lines, so a rhyme scheme of ABA means that the word at the end of the first line rhymes with the word at the end of the third line (but not the second).
  6. Assonance: This is when words have matching vowel sounds (such as “meet” and “unity” – note that the spelling doesn’t matter).
  7. Consonance: This is when words have matching consonant sounds in the middle or end of the words (i.e., “little” and “bent“).
  8. Slant Rhyme: This is cheating at rhyme. It’s not perfect. Either only the suffix rhymes perfectly, or there’s a vowel/consonant sound off at some point in the series.
  9. Internal Rhyme: Internal rhyme is when words inside the line rhyme.
  10. Alliteration: Two words have alliteration when they both start with the same consonant sound (who and have).

These are only the tip of the iceberg: Meter and stanza types alone could add another 10 at the very least (and without breaking a sweat). These 10, however, make a good start.


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