Poetic techniques

You do not need to understand the techniques that poets use in order to enjoy and appreciate poetry. These techniques are simply employed by poets to spark our imaginations. They are the poet’s tools, just as a gardener has tools to make the most beautiful garden vista, the sculptor has implements for crafting in stone and the painter has bushes and paints for creating exquisite art.

But if you want to write poetry or write about poetry it is important to grasp these tools. In many ways the work of a poet is an art form, just like the gardener, the sculptor and the painter.

Let me begin by listing some types of poems that poets might write, that you might write.


1.Ballad and narrative—poems that tell a story or tale and are often in the form of rhyme.
2.Descriptive—Poems that focus on a place or person and use descriptive language to create a mood.
3.Lyric—Poetry that reflects the feelings and thoughts of the poet quite directly
4.Blank verse—poetry that is unrhymed and reflects the rhythms of ordinary speech
5.Free verse—poetry that may contain both rhymed and unrhymed verse but not in any regular pattern
6.Elegy—a sad and thoughtful poem reflecting on loss or death

Of course, many poems would be a combination of or take elements from these types of poems.


Common techniques (or the tools) used by poets

1.Simile—comparing one thing with another as in ‘like’ or ‘as’

2.Metaphor—using an image or object to understand a concept, feeling or attitude

3.Imagery—the use of sensory images or impressions to evoke imagination

4.Personification—giving objects human-like qualities

5.Mood—the feelings that are conveyed to the reader of the poem

6.Theme—the subject matter or content on which a poem focuses

7.Symbolism—a specific object or thing that comes to represent or is a sign for a feeling, impression or idea

8.Ambiguity—where words have two or more meanings or contain complexity

9.Repetition—repeating words or images for effect or to emphasise a theme or idea

10.Sound qualities–that bring both emphasis and rhythm to poetry
Alliteration–the repetition of the same letter at the beginning of a series of words.
Assonance—the repetition of vowel sounds

11. Voice–the sense of the presence of the writer in the writing, including the writer’s thoughts, feeling and impressions

12. Rhythm–the flow or fluidity of a poem as it is read. This is not necessarily rhyme.

These tools assist the poet in creating meaning and in conveying an impression to the reader.

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