Tag Archives: poetics

5 Strong Rhetorical Devices To Use In Your Poetry

My thanks to Desiree Villena for the below guest post.

Have you ever heard someone describe rhetorical devices as the salt and pepper of writing? What they mean is that a dash of alliteration or a sprinkle of repetition can add a whole lot of flavor to your words. However, it’s important to remember that rhetorical devices, like seasonings, are best in moderation. That’s why we’re only going to cover five of the strongest rhetorical devices to use in your poetry, paying particular attention to sound and rhythm — a poet’s bread and butter, if you’ll pardon all the metaphors!

1. Rhyme
Being the device most commonly associated with poetry, rhyme has earned itself a bit of a reputation for being elementary. But in my opinion it ain’t a crime to rhyme!

The strictest definition of rhyme is a repetition of sounds in the final stressed syllables and any following syllables of two or more words. It often appears at the end of the line, which gives humorous poems fantastic rhythm, but there are countless ways to dabble in rhyme! You might experiment with placement through internal rhyme (rhyme that occurs within a single line), or play loose and fast with the rules and try half rhyme (oil, foul) or near rhyme (poem, goin’).

If you like a challenge, take on a double or even triple rhyme scheme and you’re bound to get readers tapping their feet! Think Eminem’s Lose Yourself: “Palms are sweaty… arms are heavy / there’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti… calm and ready… ” There’s no way anyone would call him elementary!

2. Alliteration
Alliteration is the repetition of consonants across successive, stressed syllables… see what I did there? Usually, this means repeating consonants at the beginning of multiple words. If the repetition of consonants occurs anywhere else, the device is consonance.

In The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe uses both: “And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain.” “Silken” and “sad” are alliterative, but with the /s/ sound of “uncertain rustling,” Poe slips into consonance. In case that wasn’t enough, he’s thrown some assonance into the pot, repeating the same vowel sound across “purple curtain.”

Now might be the time to remind you about the danger of too much salt! Alliteration is a very obvious device, so unless you’re Edgar Allen Poe or you’re writing a limerick or cinquain, handle it with restraint!

3. Asyndeton
This one’s super easy. All you have to do is take out conjunctions like ‘or’, ‘and’ or ‘but’ and you’ll have a raging case of asyndeton! Lines of poetry that use this device can either be smooth and elegant, or can create a startling impact by speeding up the rhythm. Take this example from Shaekespeare’s Othello:

Call up her father.
Rouse him. Make after him, Poison his delight,
Proclaim him in the streets.

If you want the reverse effect, slow things down, with polysyndeton instead. This is essentially the opposite of asyndeton — the addition of extra conjunctions — and the steady rhythm it creates can emphasize the ideas in your poem in a number of different ways.

4. Repetition
Poets tend to be wary of repetition: is it lazy writing? Would my poem sound like a children’s book? While there’s good reason to be cautious, a splash of purposeful repetition can enchant readers and pull them into the depth of the poem.

There’s no shortage of examples from poetry, but the use of repetition in the “wild” demonstrates well why it’s so popular among writers. One of the most memorable speeches in history, King’s “I have a dream” speech, used a powerful form of repetition known as anadiplosis — the repetition of the word from the end of one sentence to the beginning of the next. In poetry it looks a little something like this:

I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

(An Irish Airman Foresees His Death by W. B. Yeats)

Chaining several instances of anadiplosis together in this way creates an irresistible flow that makes your words impossible for an audience, a judge, or a literary agent to forget!

5. Anthimeria
By now you’ve probably noticed how important sound and rhythm are in poetry, but it can be tricky to perfect them. If you have a line that you’re not satisfied with because it doesn’t quite fit the melody of your poem, or if you really want to use alliteration but you can’t find the right word, you could try a fun linguistic trick known as anthimeria. Simply swap in one part of speech for another — for instance, by using a noun as a verb.

When Millennials use words like “hashtag” a tweet or “Whatsapp” a friend, they’re practicing anthimeria in real time, and they’re in pretty good company. You can hardly read a page of Shakespeare without coming across some new verb hatched out of his brain. His King Lear, for example, complained that “the thunder would not peace” at his bidding!

Meaning Is In The Eye Of The Reader

In response to a comment by me on her post entitled “The infinity of Destinies”, Veronica comments as follows:

“If I told you my own vision, the mystery would be gone, don’t you agree?”. (see https://thewavesofpoetry.com/2020/07/12/the-infinity-of-destinies-dedicated-to-e/).

As a poet, I do indeed agree with Veronica. Every reader puts his or her own interpretation upon a poem or any other piece of writing. What the creator of art intended is, frequently not what the reader, the viewer of the painting Etc, interprets. And herein resides the joy and beauty of artistic creation.

In my poem “Raining”, I describe awaking to the sound of “rain drumming on my window pane”. On reading “Raining”, a friend’s teenage son commented that he thought the rain was “crying”. This is not something which I (the poet) had ever considered when penning the poem. I can, however understand why my friend’s son interprets “Raining” as he does, and I certainly do not dismiss his interpretation of the poem.

The truth of the matter is this. Once a poem, short story, novel or any other artistic creation is made available to the public, those exposed to it will, inevitably put their own interpretation upon that creation. And they have every right to do so. This is part of the joy of creativity – that it provokes differing interpretations.

As always, I would be interested in the views of my readers.

Kevin

Editors “hate rhyming poetry”

“Editors hate rhyming poetry. Or do they? Rhyme has become something of a sore subject in the world of contemporary poetry, but to many poetry editors, there’s good reason for the shift. A number of writers who work in rhyme have yet to distinguish between the nursery rhymes of childhood and more adult types of verse. Recollections of the fun, frilly words that cheered and delighted us as children may be the reason editors tend to avoid rhyming poems”. (See https://writersrelief.com/2010/07/12/rhyming-poetry-dos-donts-and-definitions/).

The above is an interesting article. Whilst I agree that some modern rhyming poetry is child-like in nature, I have also seen free verse poetry of which the same could be said. Also, it should be pointed out that there is nothing wrong with child-like rhyming poetry, indeed both Edward Lear and Louis Carroll wrote some wonderful poems aimed at children, which are very much enjoyed by youngsters and adults alike to this day.

Much of my own work (for example that contained in my “Selected Poems”, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07WW8WXPP/) rhymes.

I have, however, always been of the view that just as one should not put a size 10 foot into a size 9 shoe, (as to do so risks mangling the foot), that to compel a rhyme where no rhyme should properly be is to mangle poetry.

You can find an example of my own rhyming poetry, a poem entitled “Raining” below. As always I would be interested in the views of my readers on this post and the above linked to article.

Raining:

I awoke to the rain

Drumming on my window pane.

Opening my lattice, I let it in:

The purifying water that washes away sin.

The hypnotic sound

Of rain falling all around.

All my life, I have listened to the rain.

The same drumming

Of water coming

From the sky

Falling on you and I.

The rain has no end;

But you and I, my friend,

May listen for a while,

Smile,

Then pass on by.

Disdain for Rhyme

A couple of days ago, I was sitting at my desk trying to compose a poem in rhyme. My rhyming muse had deserted me, consequently I experimented with free verse. My muse still refused to play so, in frustration I turned off my computer and went to bed.

My inability to compose in either rhyme or free verse may have stemmed, in part at least from my need for sleep. However, come the morning my rhyming muse perched upon my shoulder and I was able to pen a rhyming poem with which I was happy.

As those of you who read my poetry on a regular basis will know, my preference is for rhyme. This is both because I find rhyme intrinsically beautiful, and due to rhyme coming naturally to me whilst, generally speaking, free verse does not. There is much great poetry written in free verse, its simply that, on the whole I prefer reading and writing rhyming poetry.

My muse refusing to play reminded me of the following response I received from a reviewer when I contacted them asking whether they would be interested in reviewing one of my books:

“I took a quick look at your site and at the reviews your book has on Goodreads. You’ve got a talent for rhyming. Unfortunately, I prefer to read free verse
and if I were you review your collection, my disdain for constant rhyming would bias my review”.

I was grateful for the response (as not all reviewers do respond to requests for reviews). In addition, I appreciated the honesty of the reply. We all have our preferences, mine is for rhyming poetry, whilst the reviewer’s is for free verse. As to whether my poems utilise constant rhyming, as the poet, I am probably not the best person to answer that question. However what I will say is this, I believe that whilst the best rhyming poetry is intrinsically beautiful, there is no point in marring a good composition by forcing a rhyme where no rhyme should properly be. It is not wise to force a size 10 foot into a size 9 shoe. One can do so however the foot risks being mangled as does the poem. Sometimes its right that parts of a poem rhyme whilst other sections do not. I am by no means a purist in such matters.

I have heard the view expressed that rhyming is somehow lazy as its easier to compose in rhyme than it is to use free or blank verse. I beg to differ. Whilst the best free verse poetry is a pleasure to read, the worst reads like prose of the most prosaic kind. Whilst there is, undoubtedly bad rhyming poetry, the subtlety of good rhyming poems is a real pleasure to peruse. The use of unusual (but highly effective) rhyming is a real skill which takes time to develop (and is only developed by some). As for the “disdain” for “constant rhyming”, whilst I can understand why this can become tedious, surely it depends on how the constant rhyming is done? “The cat ate my hat. I chased him with a bat, crying this was my hat!”, can quickly lead to tedium on the part of the reader, but much rhyming poetry is not like that!

In conclusion, I understand the views of those who dislike rhyming poetry, however I do not share them. Both rhyme and other forms of poetry possess their merits but I, personally prefer rhyme for the reasons set out above.

As always I would be interested in the views of you my readers.

Kevin

Rhyme Or Verse Free

I spend much of my time
Composing in rhyme,
But do not therefore curse
Free verse,
For sometimes that shoe
Will do
Very well,
While to force a rhyme
(where no rhyme should be)
Is to mangle poetry.

Andrew Motion’s Top 10 Tips For Being A Successful Poet

A very good piece by Sir Andrew Motion, former UK Poet Laureate, in which he gives his top 10 tips for being a successful poet. I particularly agree with his view that poets should not cut themselves off from the world or, as he puts it “live in an ivory tower”. I also agree with Motion that its important to read lots. For the article please visit https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-29538180.

Why I Hate and Love poetry – Is it the goat in me?

“Why I hate and love poetry – Is it the goat in me?”, is a long but rewarding read, https://sevencircumstances.com/poetry-and-lyrics/why-i-hate-poetry/