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A Quick Overview of Literary Devices


It is, I think, a rare poet that does not have, at the very least, a few favourite literary devices they infuse their work with. Also, if you decide to blog your work (more on this in another essay) and link it to poetry forums, you will be expected to comment on the work of others, as a courtesy, if they leave a comment on your work. Thus, you will need a passing knowledge of the most often used, contemporary literary devices.

Literary Devices and Terms (https://literarydevices.net/) is an excellent resource for this. As you will see, there are a lot of them, though some of them have fallen out of use.

What I have decided to do here (as there is a ton of excellent information out there - just a few key strokes away) is to concentrate on those terms that I have seen referred to and used the most, as I have made my way around the poetry blogosphere.

Number 1 has got to be the METAPHOR - the implied comparison of two things that are unrelated, but serve to add to what is being expressed by virtue of the nuances of one thing to the other. A simile does the same thing, but, by making use of the words 'like' or 'as', the comparison is more direct - some might say: less ethereal.


The second more popular comments, I would say, refer to the CADENCE or rhythm of a poem. Though the majority of poems no longer rhyme, that doesn't mean that they are devoid of tempo or pulse. This 'beat' is achieved in a variety of ways. As I mentioned in a previous essay, many poets employ what I have come to refer to as a slip-and-slide rhyme, where, for example, a word at the end of a previous line is rhymed by the second or third word in the next line (not at the end of that line). Alliteration (where a number of words, having the same first consonant sound, follow each other) can add to the cadence of a piece. The number of meters in lines that follow each other is another method, I have often seen used - and, in fact, have used myself.

Lastly, REPETITION continues on with great popularity. In poetry, repetition can be a word, a phrase, or a full sentence, LITERARY DEVICES lists 11 ways (in terms of placement) in which repetition can appear in poetry – most of them with lovely exotic names. As well as listing the various types of repetition, LITERARY DEVICES, provides explanations and examples.

Repetition can identify a theme and/or add emphasis, It can create cadence and rhythm and structure. It can add irony and/or juxtaposition and even, at times, humour. It can be stirring or haunting – melodic or hypnotic.

Many (in some cases, centuries old) classical poetry forms, are constructed using repetition as a central literary device.

And, as I mentioned previously, throughout the 20th century to current day, repetition continues to be an important creative vehicle for poets.

Examples of this are:

Dylan Thomas's 'Do not go Gentle into that Good Night' (1947) which, as a Villanelle, uses a lot of repetition.

Robert Frost's 'Stopping by Wood on a Snowy Evening (1922), is a Rubaiyat. It uses repetition sparingly, repeating an indelible line a mere two times, at the close of the piece. And yet, what a haunting echo – ' And miles to go before I sleep' – lingers with all who read those words.

In Maya Angelou's brilliant poem, 'Still I Rise' (1978) repetition is used to stunning effect. The repetition of 'I rise' feels much like a mantra; an invocation that regardless of oppression, prejudice and hate – we will succeed.

Of course, I have just scratched the surface on the plethora of literary devices that are out there. If you are not very familiar with them - as I mentioned previously - there are excellent resources to check out ... but really, I think you will find, that you will learn-as-you-go, as you begin visiting other poets blogs.

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