What is the meaning of "style" in poetry?

The meaning of "style" in poetry refers to all the choices that are made to create the poem's meaning. Style can include technical choices, such as using short or long lines, varying or omitting punctuation, or using a set rhythm or rhyme scheme. Style can also include poetic choices such as diction, form, and subject matter. All these things contribute to a reader's overall experience reading a poem, and they make up its style.

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To examine a poem's style, let's first consider two poems with quite different styles. First, these are the opening lines of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven":

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

For comparison, consider the opening lines of E.E. Cummings's poem "I Have Found What You Are Like":

i have found what you are like
the rain,

(Who feathers frightened fields
with the superior dust-of-sleep. wields

easily the pale club of the wind
and swirled justly souls of flower strike

the air in utterable coolness

deeds of green thrilling light
with thinned

newfragile yellows

lurch and.press

It's easy to recognize the differences in style just by the placement of the words on the page, in this case—visually. While Poe relies on a traditional format, with lines placed typically on the page, Cummings scatters his words in an atypical way. Lines may begin on the left, and they may be indented far beyond what is typical. Cummings does not use predictable rhythm or rhyme patterns, while Poe maintains a strict trochaic octameter, with the final line of each stanza becoming a refrain which continues through the poem. Poe's style is careful and tightly constructed, while Cummings's style is open and free to defy and redefine expectations. Cummings is also known for inventing new usages of grammar, so you will notice rather odd placements of periods, non-standard capitalization, and invented words.

All of these choices relate to a poet's style. A poet may vary their style from poem to poem, but generally speaking, style is fairly consistent within a poet's overall body of work. Style is determined in part by rhythm and cadence—or the lack of it. It is also determined by the poem's rhyme pattern and whether the author, like Poe, relies on internal rhyme to deliver the poem's message. A poem's length factors into the poem's style, as does its use of punctuation and grammar. The poem's use of figurative language helps determine its style too. The poet conveys a message by utilizing these various aspects of style to best capture their intended meaning.

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Style refers to the many choices a poet makes about the language and structure of their poetry and the resulting linguistic and structural features of the poems. Let's look at a few of the elements of poetic style.

A poet must first select an overall structure for a poem. This is an important stylistic choice because it often dictates, or at least sets limits upon, other elements of style. Poets have a wide range of options here, everything from sonnets to lyrics to ballads to narratives. A poet might even decide not to follow a specific structure and create blank or free verse instead. According to the chosen structure, the poet then decides on the number of lines and stanzas in the poem, its rhyme scheme, and its rhythmic or metrical patterns. The opportunities here are endless, but they are all elements of style.

The poet must also decide on the tone of their poem as well as its voice. Perhaps the poem will be bright and cheerful or dark and brooding or sarcastic and satirical. Maybe it will be told in the first-person or by a third-person omniscient narrator. These, too, are stylistic choices.

The poet will also pay close attention to his or her linguistic selections. Poetic diction (or word choice) is critical here, for the poet must select each word with care according to the poem's content and tone. The poet must also arrange those words into a fitting syntax. Further, the poet incorporates figurative language, including similes, metaphors, imagery, personification, alliteration, assonance, and symbolism as needed. All of these contribute to the poem's style.

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This is a broad question. It will certainly elicit many different responses. Style in poetry can refers to almost anything. It can refer to the way an authors uses meter. For example, if an author always uses dactylic hexameter, then it might be his style. The same can be said if a poet uses literary devices such as personification, alliteration, assonance. Style can also be non-technical. It can refer to content. If an author always uses imageries from nature, then it can be his or her style. In short, style can refer to almost any aspect of poetry as long as the author tends to do it often.

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Style in poetry involves the method which a poet uses to convey meaning, tone, and emotion in his/her poem.  For instance, the meaning and significance can be conveyed through the form of a poem. Certainly, an ode or a sonnet is a more formal arrangement used more for a serious subject (unless the poet is being satirical).  Musical devices such as rhythm and rhyme are part of a poet's style.  Words, too, are often chosen for sound as well as for meaning.  An essential element is repetition which reinforces meaning while variation invites interest.  In fact, all things people enjoy have these two elements.

The arrangement of the words in a line, as well as the arrangement of lines in the entire poem both contribute to a poet's style.  Emily Dickinson, for instance, makes uses of dashes and capitalization as a stylistic device while e.e.cummings never capitalizes any word.  These devices are used because poets wish to bring a sense and a perception of life, widening peoples' contacts with existence.  And, since poets' concern are with experience, they choose certain stylistic devices to create significant and new experiences for their readers.  In poetry, experiences can be synthesized, analyzed, enjoyed simply, etc.  But, the way in which  poets present their poems is their style.

Other stylistic devices that poets use are connotation and denotation, the suggested as well as the literal meanings of words.  Figurative language such as metaphors and similies also add more meaning and picturesque language to a phrase or word as well as creating speed to the line, for example, as alliteration does. 

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Style can refer to a lot of things in poetry.  It can be referring to the meter (free verse, haiku, Damante, blank verse, etc.), it can be used to refer to the technique used in poetry (using oonomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, simile, metaphor, etc.) and it can be used to describe the general style a particular poet is known for. 

The style a poet is known for refers to the poet's typical use of meter and techique as well as subject matter.  It can also be used to refer to a particular era of poets where the poets all used a similiar style that was popular for their time period, such as The Romantic Age (William Wordsworth and William Blake) or the Beat Poets (Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg).

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