What are the characteristics of poetry? 

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David Wisar eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The “characteristics” of poetry are what separate it as a medium of writing from other forms. Specifically, what does poetry use as part of its forms and functions that different types of writing and expression do not? Poetry tends to have three main characteristics that set it apart from other forms of writing.

The first characteristic of poetry that is not found in many other types of writing is the use of rhyme. Rhyme is one of the most recognizable parts of poetry. When something rhymes, it typically has two words that have similar end sounds. Poetry uses rhyme in many different ways, usually called forms, because it brings closure to lines that are satisfying to the ear and can make it so different ideas are closely related.

The second characteristic of poetry is the use of stanza. Stanzas are particular to poetry as a means of separating different ideas or sections within a poem. A stanza lets the reader know that a specific set of images or lines are connected and that those lines or images should be read together to make meaning from the text.

The third characteristic of poetry is the use of different forms or patterns. Poems have a distinct flavor through the use of various forms like Sonnet, Villanelle, Limerick, or Sestina. Every form of poetry offers different patterns of rhyme and meter, the use of repetition of different lines or words, and a distinct conglomeration of images and ideas to help the listener or reader make sense of them.

While meter and lines are used in poems, they are also used in other media, like plays—therefore, I would not count those as characteristics of poetry but characteristic of literature.

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The elements of poetry include meter, rhyme, form, sound, and rhythm (timing).

Different poets use these elements in many different ways. Some poets do not use rhyme at all. Some use couplets, while others may rhyme the second and fourth lines only...in a stanza.

Some use stanzas (form), which are often lines of four, grouped together—but poems can also be broken into sections consisting of eight lines or eleven. It depends on the author. In Shakespeare's Sonnet 29, for instance, the first and third lines rhyme, as do the second and forth—he uses three four-line...

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